Patridge: The RGV’s international bridges are not in competition with each other

MCALLEN, Texas – Keith Patridge, president of McAllen Economic Development Corporation, was one of the guest speakers at a recent webinar hosted by the Greater McAllen Area Chapter of the Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos.

Francisco J. Peña-Valdés, president of AEM’s McAllen chapter, moderated the discussion, which focused on near-shoring.

Other speakers were Raudel Garza, executive director of Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, and Teclo Garcia, CEO of Mission Economic Development Corporation. 

Here are some of the highlights from Patridge’s remarks:

Valley bridges are not in competition with each other

“I would I would like to just point out one thing, Francisco. and that is we are not competing. We have got to get over that. Because we will have two bridges (Pharr and Anzalduas). And then, if Donna comes online, we’ll have three. How many does Laredo have? And by the time we get those (Anzalduas and Donna) up, they (Laredo) will probably have two more. And so to think that we are competing, that’s that Friday night football mentality that I was talking about earlier. Get over it. We need to be working together. All the bridges need to be working together to start bringing some of that traffic, just a little bit of that traffic, that’s currently using Laredo to our bridges. For example, if you look at where the new Tesla plant is, it’s actually closer to our metro area than it is to Laredo.”

Friday Night Football mentality

“You mentioned regionalism, Francisco. One of the big things that has held back the (Rio Grande) Valley, in my opinion, is the Friday night football mentality. One of the drags that we have is that we have a lot of little municipalities or a lot of municipalities that work together when they can, but we aren’t really working together for the benefit of the whole. And so I think we really need to move forward on that. I think we’re doing it thanks to the leadership of the Valley Partnership, CoStep. AEM, I think, can be a major player in that. We can start developing our area and start realizing that we are one region. When you look at the Mexico cities of Matamoros, Rio Bravo, Reynosa, and then the cities in the three county or four county (Valley) area of the US side, we’re what, three and a half, four million people. We’re almost the size of Dallas, okay. And so we need to be acting like that. How do we work together to use all the assets that we have? Because we have got a lot of assets to make that happen. The creation of the UTRGV was one of the great things that happened. Another one that was a great thing that happened, and I give credit to the political leadership in the Valley, is the whole idea of merging the MPOs into one MPO. We’ve seen a lot more money coming to the Valley because of that, and I think we need to build on those things to continue to grow our area.”

Perception problem

“I hate to bring it up but it’s the reputation that we deal with every day. The whole issue of immigration. What happens is companies look at that and they say, well, that’s a mess down there, or that’s very dangerous down there. And so the first questions we have to respond to is, is it safe. And, of course, McAllen is one of the top… are our metro area, is one of the safest in the country. So, we have to deal with that. That doesn’t mean… if you look at the statistics in Mexico, there are a lot of other states that are much more dangerous from a violence issue than Tamaulipas. But, I don’t think we have made a concerted effort to address that politically. On either side of the border, really. 

“And the other thing that we have to deal with, being on the border, and, again, getting into the nitty gritty of it. We have press on the U.S. side. Mexico has press on the Mexico side. The problem is the press on the Mexico side, if they say the wrong thing, they could end up disappearing. On the U.S. side they don’t. So, what ends up happening is all the information is being reported by U.S. media, with very little coming out of Mexico. And where is that (in the U.S.)? It’s from the area that they know, which is on the border. And so what happens is, from a media standpoint, everyone thinks that the border is very, very dangerous, but the rest of Mexico is okay because you never hear anything coming out of (the rest of ) Mexico. Okay. 

“But when you look at the statistics, there are some other states in Mexico that are a lot more dangerous than we (Tamaulipas) are. So I think that’s something that we have to figure out how to address and work together on. That means we have to work with the new administration in Victoria. That means we have to work with the state of Texas, because, let’s face it, our state, what are we doing now? We’re talking about how we have to send DPS troops down here. We have to send National Guard down here. To protect the people who live on the border? What (message) does that send to someone that doesn’t know the border? That is in Germany, or Japan or China? What do they think?

“Another thing that is a little bit more mischievous is that a lot of our competitors in other parts of Mexico, they are using that against us. They’re saying, oh, you don’t want to go the border, it’s really dangerous. What we have is a perception problem. When you look at the quality of the (manufacturing) plants that we have here, when you look at the quality of the workforce that we have here, when you look at the infrastructure that we have here, we are just as competitive as anyplace else. And I think that shows by what you just said, most of the growth that’s taking place is growth in existing companies that continue to grow here. We have one that was actually looking at other parts of Mexico, that decided to to stay in Mexico. You know (Francisco) which one I’m talking about. They just bought 32 acres land and they are going to end up building 750,000 square feet of space. And they’re starting on the first phase of that right now. So when we start looking at that, it says what we have is good because the companies that are here are saying I’m staying. But then we have got this perception problem that we need to overcome. And I think all of us recognize it. It’s just a question of how do we overcome it.”

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