MCALLEN, RGV – Click on McAllen Economic Development Corporation’s new website and the motto, “Two Cities – One Community” pops up.
The two cities are McAllen and Reynosa and as far as MEDC President Keith Patridge is concerned they are inextricably linked.
Patridge recently appeared on News Talk 710 KURV’s morning show and he was asked by presenter Sergio Sanchez if MEDC would focus more on bringing more economic development to McAllen now that President Trump is moving forward with building a border wall and renegotiating NAFTA.
Patridge responded that MEDC does focus on bringing jobs to McAllen. But, at the same time, he said, the corporation will not lose sight of the importance of its sister city, Reynosa.
“You got a chance to sell the U.S. side like never before,” Sanchez said. “Maybe transfer some of the Mexican operations north of the river because they already have warehouse space over here. How is that going along?”
Patridge responded: “It is a little bit scary. Within the last month, we have been approached by 11 companies that are looking at establishing the next manufacturing plant on the U.S. side. They are in Mexico. These are substantial.”
Sanchez asked Patridge if the companies are saying, “We want out of Mexico, set us up in deep South Texas with you, on Military Drive, let’s go.’
Patridge responded: “Not exactly. They did not say they want to be out of Mexico. They want to be in Mexico but they are also looking at being in the United States, just because of the politics and the potential for the renegotiation of NAFTA and things. It goes back to the old twin plant concept, where you have a plant on the Mexican side and a plant on the U.S. side. That is what they are looking at now.”
Patridge said this is what MEDC is all about, creating jobs and more jobs. He often cites statistics from Roberto Coronado, an El Paso-based economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, which show that a ten percent increase in maquiladora output in Reynosa leads to a 6.6 percent increase in total employment in McAllen. No other U.S. border city benefits as much from maquila activity than McAllen, Coronado has reported.
“As soon as the NAFTA deal is renegotiated, I can see a bunch of leaders in South Texas and business folks asking for waivers or exemptions on this or that and it is those exemptions that we might manufacture on the U.S. side,” Sanchez said.
Patridge said no one knows for sure how the renegotiation of NAFTA will go.
“What we think will be the focus of the renegotiation will be regional valued content and potentially country content requirements under NAFTA, because that is what will really spread the jobs out and create jobs in all three of the countries,” Patridge said, referring to the three nations covered by NAFTA – Canada, United States and Mexico.
“That is what we think will happen. What makes the border attractive is the ability to have a plant on the Mexican side to serve Mexico and the rest of the global market, or Mexico’s other free trade agreement partners, and then a plant on the U.S. side to supply the U.S. market under the new NAFTA agreement.”
Urged by Sanchez to “go sell McAllen and the Valley,” Patridge said: “We are, we just had three projects that just started in Reynosa this month and we expect one or two in the U.S. in a short period of time.”
Patridge’s comments on KURV reflected those he made at a recent MEDC meeting. “We are seeing a lot of company activity. The existing companies continue to grow,” Patridge said, in his president’s report. He also pointed out that employment at Reynosa maquila plants is now up to 121,000. “There are plans for several thousand more before the end of the year,” Patridge said.
Ralph Garcia is the MEDC vice president who focuses on Reynosa. Garcia said he had five prospect visits last month, some of which were in the automotive sector. “Some are looking at McAllen manufacturing also, being strategic,” Garcia said.
Janie Cavazos is the MEDC vice president who focuses on McAllen. Cavazos said companies in the automotive, plastic injection, and produce sectors are looking at investing in the McAllen area. She said MEDC believes some of these prospects could materialize in the coming weeks.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows McAllen Economic Development Corporation President Keith Patridge and Reynosa Mayor Maki Esther Ortíz Domínguez.