MCALLEN, RGV – In an effort to improve the perception of Reynosa among Rio Grande Valley residents, McAllen Economic Development Corporation is reignite its bus tours of maquila plants in the Mexican border city.

The new service will start March 4 with a 52-passenger bus leaving McAllen Convention Center in the morning. The bus will tour various industrial parks in Reynosa as well as one or two maquila plants. Lunch will be provided at one of Reynosa’s most famous restaurants, La Fogata.

The first bus will be filled with local dignitaries, including McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, and reporters. Subsequent tours will be for the general public. At this stage, there is no cost.

Keith Patridge
Keith Patridge

MEDC used to provide bus tours to maquila plants in Reynosa a few years back but this was discontinued when drug cartel violence flared up. Patridge spoke about resurrecting the tours at a recent MEDC board of directors meeting.

“We are continuing to see things settle down in Reynosa. One of the things we have talked about for a long time is our image and it is something we have got to address. If we cannot address it, we will continue to have difficulty recruiting companies,” Patridge told MEDC board members.

“When people ask, do you go to Reynosa, everyone says, oh no, it is too dangerous. If they are talking to somebody who is looking to bring his family down to run a plant with a couple of thousand employees in Reynosa we may have just killed the project.

“We really have to start focusing locally and so we have decided to start up the maquila tours again. We have talked to the maquila association. They are very supportive of our efforts and so on March 4 we will have a bus tour to Reynosa where we will tour all the (industrial) parks, we will visit a plant or two and we will have lunch over there at La Fogata.

“It will be open to everyone in the community. On the first trip we really want to have some of the community leaders. The mayor has agreed to go on the first bus tour. We are real excited about that. This is the only way we are going to get people to understand that it is not like the perception that they have.”

Patridge added that some MEDC board members have not visited Reynosa for six or seven-plus years. “We really want to get back on an even keel,” he said.

Patridge spoke about the bus tours when he appeared on News Talk 710 KURV’s “The Valley’s Morning News” show on Friday morning.

“Things are beginning to calm down pretty dramatically in Mexico. I am not saying there is nothing going on but I am not saying there is nothing going on in the U.S. either. As we saw in San Bernardino, you never know when violence can take place. It has been extremely calm (in Reynosa). Most of these (maquila) companies are global. They are dealing in areas that are much more dangerous than we would experience anywhere in Mexico. They are really looking at economic opportunity. Of course with the automotive (industry) coming into Mexico, that is driving a lot of the automotive-related companies to the area,” Patridge told KURV.

“You may remember, several years ago, we used to run the maquila buses, where we would go over and take tours of maquilas. We are going to start them up again. The first one will be held on March 4. We will be leaving from the convention center parking lot. We are going to go over, take a tour of the parks, take a tour of a maquila or two and then have lunch over there. We have had some local dignitaries that have signed up and said they want to go. We are looking forward to it.”

Sergio Sanchez, a presenter on KURV’s morning show, said he was glad to hear La Fogata is still open.

While on KURV, Patridge also spoke about economic activity in Reynosa. He said employment is at record levels in the city, with the number of people working in maquila plants now between 110,000 and 113,000. “That is a high water mark. Just in the last year we have added about 10,000 new jobs,” Patridge said.

Patridge said 2015 was a good year for attracting new manufacturers to Reynosa and the McAllen metro area. He said 65 percent of MEDC’s members have filed reports on job numbers and based on this an additional 4,500 jobs were added last year. Of these, 1,000 were in McAllen and the remainder in Reynosa. “We are seeing Mexico pick up pretty substantially. Last week, we committed an automotive supplier, another one, this is third we have committed this year. It is about 1,500 jobs in Reynosa. We are still competing with other locations on the U.S. side. It is about half a million feet of space. It is a large facility. I am hoping we should know within 30 days.”