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Alejandro 'Alex' Avila says UT Rio Grande Valley is to become an associate member of INDEX Reynosa.

REYNOSA, Mexico – Security concerns surrounding Reynosa’s huge maquila plants have eased to such an extent that potential manufacturers no longer ask if there is a risk, says the president of INDEX Reynosa.

Alejandro ‘Alex’ Avila spoke to reporters about the state of the maquiladora industry in the border city at the downtown Holiday Inn while unveiling INDEX Reynosa’s board of directors for 2015.

“I was a member of INDEX Reynosa for a number of years but I was not fully participating. In 2013 I decided I can either whine about things or I can be part of the solution. So, I became vice president last year and president this year. The title does not really matter. It is what you can do for the community,” Avila said.

“With regard to security, something needed to happen.  So, we worked with the federal government, the state government and the municipal government to change things. I have asked our members to tell me how they are feeling because for me things feel different. People no longer ask me about violence anymore. Even potential investors, they are not asking me. You do not see the violence.”

When a reporter pointed out that there are news reports seemingly every couple of weeks about people being killed on the streets of Reynosa as a result of drug cartel or gang activity, Avila responded: “Do you hear about how many killings there are in Chicago? Do you hear how many killings there are in New York? Everything is relative to what the news the media wants to say to the people. How can you help me out so we can turn around this situation with good news, good stories?

“That is why I am inviting people. Come to our factories, you will see what we do. What we do is combine the best of two countries and we ship our products to everywhere in the world, together. The people we have are amazing and it is a mix of all Mexico. We compete everywhere in the world.”

INDEX Reynosa is one of the strongest regional groups in the national INDEX chain. Otherwise known as the Asociación de Maquiladoras y Manufactureras, INDEX is a powerful trade association for maquila operators. Indeed, when the Peña Nieto government announced plans to raise taxes on manufacturing plants there were howls of protest from industrymaquila leaders and a compromise was reached. Avila said that on that subject a senior member of the Peña Nieto administration who works in the fiscal arena will be visiting Reynosa on Friday. He said he was not permitted to give out the Cabinet member’s name.

In both a power point presentation and through a new INDEX video with English audio and Spanish subtitles, Avila gave an optimistic account of the state of the maquila industry in Reynosa. He and the video said INDEX Reynosa has 150 maquila plants spread across 11 different sectors, including healthcare and the auto industry. The 150 plants employ 98,000 workers directly and 368,000 indirectly. Those workers help produce goodworth $7 billion U.S. dollars in exports a year.

“If you think about it, you could multiply those 98,000 direct employees by four to see the direct impact we have on families throughout Reynosa. Probably, manufacturing contributes between half and three quarters of the economic activity in Reynosa.” Avila said.

“You hear about Austin, Texas, growing really fast. They are going to need manufacturing and low cost labor. The good thing about low cost labor in Mexico is that it is stable. It is not like China, which has been going up, up, up. The main message we want to send out is let us help be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Tell the good stories that are happening in Reynosa.”

Asked about the new video, Avila said it has been shown to McAllen Economic Development Corporation and some of the mayors in the Rio Grande Valley. He said it is ready to be shown across the world. “We did it in English with Spanish subtitles because the main language of the world is English. Our thought was, let us target the entire world and put it on You Tube, put it everywhere. We are in a media world now and everything is about perception and what people see. We are going to utilize the video a lot and make more videos. Why? Because we have to tell our story, a successful story.”

In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Avila also spoke about his support for the creation of an international metropolitan statistical area (IMSA), an idea pushed in recent years by McAllen Economic Development Corporation President Keith Patridge.

“I have known Keith for 14 years. I agree with him on the proposal of an international MSA. It has to be a combined effort. The challenge is for all of us to get everyone together and leave our egos at the door. I think we can do it,” Avila said.

Avila also spoke with pride about a new collaboration between INDEX Reynosa and UT Rio Grande Valley.

“The great thing is UT Rio Grande Valley wants to be affiliated with us. It is a great opportunity for collaboration. I think this is the time. We can have real synergies. When I was little, the dream was NAFTA. Now, we have NAFTA and the goal is to work regionally. Imagine the power of this region if we combine our statistics. With Sigma Six, data kills emotion. Imagine what we can do with this data.”

The president of INDEX Reynosa serves for one year with the possibility of an additional year being added. Then, the responsibility rotates to another maquila leader. In addition to his duties with INDEX, Avila is vice president and general manager of Sanmina Corporation’s contract manufacturing plant in Reynosa. It hires 1,500 workers. Avila said Sanmina also has huge plants in Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Juarez.

Asked about his presidency of INDEX Reynosa in the coming year, Avila, a keen flier of Russian MiG 23s, said: “I live my life in a positive way. If you mention something negative to me, I view it as a challenge and we turn it into an opportunity. I am looking forward to a positive year.”

Editor’s Note: Alejandro “Alex” Avila told the Rio Grande Guardian he would be making the same presentation at the McAllen Convention Center soon, in conjunction with McAllen Economic Development Corporation. We will bring readers news from that news conference as soon as it is held.