MCALLEN, Texas – The new mayor of McAllen, Javier Villalobos, and his city commission colleagues are to be invited to visit state-of-the-art manufacturing plants currently operating in McAllen and Reynosa.

The tour is being organized by McAllen Economic Development Corporation. MEDC’s board of directors are also being invited.

“I think it would be beneficial for us to take the board and the commission and the mayor to look at the manufacturing plants in McAllen and Reynosa, so they can see how the two sides fit together and what opportunities exist,” said MEDC President Keith Patridge.

“I think it will help us as we get into our strategic planning, to really understand the opportunities that we have here.”

Patridge made his remarks in his president’s report at this month’s MEDC board meeting.

Keith Patridge

“I would like to see if we could schedule a tour, both on the McAllen side and Reynosa, probably a long half-day tour where we could go in and actually visit some of these plants, because as we meet with these companies in Reynosa, every one of them so far has major expansion plans.”

The newest manufacturing plants in Reynosa are very high-tech, using automation, artificial intelligence and robots, Patridge reported. 

“For our educators here this morning, I really would like to see if we could sit down with you to see how we can start supporting these companies, especially in the technology area,” Patridge said.

“They are very quickly moving into automation, artificial intelligence, robots, in their plants. I would really like to see if we can get a relationship built between our universities and community colleges and our companies over there.”

In his report, Patridge said MEDC is currently working with 27 potential clients. Nine of these 27 have come about in the last month. “We just started working with them in the last 30 days. It shows that things are beginning to open up,” Patridge said.

Indeed, Patridge corrected the printed activity report given out to MEDC board members. He said there were actually ten new companies that have contacted he and his leadership team over the past month.

“We had a company that contacted me yesterday. What is interesting is that of those ten, I know that at least three companies are expansions from our maquilas in Reynosa. They are looking at setting up operations on the U.S. side,” Patridge reported.

“The one yesterday, for example, is a 450,000 square foot plant that is tied to one of our companies in Reynosa. That is encouraging, to see that our plants are growing.”

Patridge said MEDC did not lose any projects during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everything is moving along well. If you look at the plants, the breakdown, we have seven that are involved in food processing, cold storage or the food sector. But, we also have several technology companies.”

One of the technology companies makes a new type of identification tag, Patridge said, that is virtually impossible to counterfeit. He said it is designed for high-end products. Another new client wants to build a data center.

Because the threat of contracting COVID is receding, the MEDC leadership team is starting to visit existing clients in person, Patridge reported. 

“Because things are starting to open up we are meeting with all of our companies to do a reset, to find out how they are doing, if they have any issues, to see if they need anything,” Patridge said.

“We have been doing this on the U.S. side and the Mexican side. We went to Reynosa yesterday, for example. The plant we visited… you talk about next generation, this is where manufacturing is going.”

Patridge said that when he and his leadership team visits with existing clients in Reynosa, almost every one is talking about expanding. 

“Several of them are looking at doubling. One of them just started construction on a plant that will basically double their capacity. They are automotive and medical-related. It was interesting because they said if it was not for MEDC’s help, and I am going to pat my team on the back for this, they would probably have moved this division to Monterrey or some place else because of technology.”

However, because MEDC worked so well with the client, Patridge reported, the company went out and bought the land for its next plant in Reynosa. 

“The plan is that this year they will build 100,000 square feet. In 2022 they will add a substantial addition to that plant. And, in 2024 they build the next facility. We are talking about thousands of jobs. These are very high paying jobs in Mexico but they are well paid jobs in the U.S,” Patridge said.

On top of this, Patridge said, the company is set to open a product development center. 

A fascinating aspect, Patridge said, is that the new plant is being built for millennials to work in. “If you go into it it is something you would see in Silicon Valley. It is a phenomenal plant.”

Trade shows

MEDC officials plan to do more traveling in 2021/2022, Patridge told his board of directors. For this reason, he was budgeting an additional $47,000 for travel. He noted that all traveling was stopped last year because of COVID-19. 

“We do anticipate traveling so we can crank up some of these projects that we have been keeping going via zoom and conference calls for the last year. We are scheduling one more Asian trip and a few more domestic trips.”

Index Reynosa

Maquila plant manager Enrique Castro was not present for the MEDC board meeting so Patridge gave the monthly report for Index Reynosa, the trade association for maquiladoras. 

Castro told Patridge that a million doses of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine have been earmarked for the Mexican border region. Four communities along the country’s northern border have been targeted for help – Tijuana, Mexicali, Juarez and Reynosa. 

“Reynosa has the vaccines,” Patridge said, on behalf of Castro. He said these will be available to any Reynosa resident aged 18 or over.

Castro, via Patridge, also reported that Reynosa will soon have a new mayor. Although there have been some allegations of voting irregularities, Castro via Patridge said he expects Carlos Peña Ortiz to be sworn in as the new mayor. 

Peña Ortiz is the son of the outgoing mayor of Reynosa, Maki Ortiz Dominguez. However, while Ortiz Dominguez represents the PAN political party, Peña Ortiz is with MORENA, which was started by Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador.

“There are some concerns about what approach he (Peña Ortiz) will take but according to Enrique they have met with him and they think everything will be okay. We will have to wait and see. There is some speculation that the MORENA party will take Tamaulipas in the next gubernatorial election,” Patridge said, on behalf of Castro.

Patridge said Castro is reporting that all the manufacturing plants in Reynosa are doing well and that most have growth plans. 

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows the new mayor of McAllen, Javier Villalobos (center), participating in his first McAllen Economic Development Corporation board meeting on June 17, 2021. The mayor is invited to give a report each month.

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