MISSION, RGV – Two prominent business leaders in the Rio Grande Valley have thrown their weight behind Leticia Van de Putte for lieutenant governor.

The business leaders are Joe Phillips, principal of Phillips Properties LLP, and Sam Vale, CEO of the Starr-Camargo Bridge Company.

“I’m supporting Senator Leticia Van de Putte for Lieutenant Governor because Texas needs a strong alternative to a Tea Party extremist with a checkered business past,” Phillips said, in a news release.

“Leticia Van de Putte is a successful businesswoman who, as a practicing pharmacist, sees firsthand Texans’ health needs. Furthermore, as a mother of six, she also understands the importance of supporting neighborhood schools, as well as the necessity of providing infrastructure for future generations.”

Phillips, a Valley native who has supported Democrats and Republicans in the past, is a businessman with operations in McAllen and San Antonio.

Businessman Sam Vale speaks at a news conference at the Anzalduas International Bridge in January, 2014.
Businessman Sam Vale speaks at a news conference at the Anzalduas International Bridge in January, 2014.

Vale lives in Rio Grande City. He, too, has supported Republicans and Democrats in the past. Vale has seen traffic on the Starr-Camargo International Bridge double since 2009. He points out that more than $270 million in trade passes between the Valley and Mexico every day. He also pointed out that South Texas is the third busiest region for Customs.

“Business leaders like myself know that Texas’ economy relies on good border relations and international trade. Unlike Dan Patrick, Leticia Van de Putte recognizes that Mexico, our number one trading partner, is not our enemy,” Vale said. “Leticia would work to enhance and refine that relationship, not cut it off entirely, like her opponent would try to do. That is why I am fully supporting Leticia Van de Putte for Lieutenant Governor this November.”

Van de Putte met with business and transportation leaders at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge in March. She spoke enthusiastically about the new superhighway that has just opened between Matamoros and Mazatlán. It is otherwise known as the Corredor Económico del Norte.

“Texas ought to be jumping summersaults to be partnering with our local communities here to make a reality of that superhighway that is coming from Mazatlán,” Van de Putte told reporters at the news conference.

Shippers are expected to save six to eight hours traveling from Mazatlán to Pharr, as compared to traveling from Mazatlán to Nogales in Arizona. Cost savings can be as much as $500 to $600 per truck on the Mexican side if originating from Sinaloa, and $2,500 or more per truck depending on their final U.S. destination round trip. Sinaloa is considered the bread basket of Mexico.

Bret Erickson, president and CEO for Texas International Produce Association (TIPA), told the Guardian recently that the Corredor Económico del Norte will mean a huge increase in imported fruit and vegetables at the Pharr Bridge, probably at the expense of Nogales. Erickson said TIPA has seen a 67 percent increase in produce volume over the last five to six years, and double digit growth four of the last five years. Texas has surpassed Arizona in volume in three of the last four years, so, as a result, Arizona businesses have been setting up shop in Texas, and that trend is increasing, Erickson said.

Van de Putte was given a power point presentation on the likely impact of the Corredor Económico del Norte, by Pharr Bridge Director Juan Guerra and Josue Reyes, vice chairman of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority.

Van de Putte had nothing but praise for Valley and Mexico leaders for putting the emphasis on border trade and commerce. “I am here to support the economic impact of this bridge, and the economic powerhouse that is the border.” She said that as a sixth generation Texan with two grandmothers from Mexico, she could not be more proud than to be standing at the Texas-Mexico border. “We are at a crossroads,” Van de Putte said.

Van de Putte’s opponent in the November general election for lieutenant governor is state Sen. Dan Patrick, a Republican from Houston. Patrick easily defeated Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP primary runoff on Tuesday.

Valley Republicans have not seen much of Patrick during the primary season. This is expected to change as the general election race heats up. Patrick did make a speech on South Padre Island in February, where he picked up the endorsement of the Border Sheriffs Coalition. In the speech, Patrick focused on human rights and border security and did not touch on border trade.

Patrick acknowledged illegal immigration cannot be totally stopped. He did not mention the word “invasion” when talking about illegal immigration, as he has done at other times on the campaign trail but he did say that if elected lieutenant governor he plans to get the ratio of those apprehended for crossing the border illegally improved from 20 to 25 percent to 65 to 75 percent. He said he would do this by listening to all interested parties and crafting a “coordinated plan” that will include input from border sheriffs. He said border sheriffs are on the front lines and deserve respect.

“I am very serious, as the next lieutenant governor, to get this done once and for all. We are never going to close it 100 percent but you know we can do a far superior job of closing the border than we have done so far,” Patrick told the border sheriffs. “I have always believed that you are on the front lines and you are taking on a very dangerous assignment. I have heard the horror stories. I know the threats you have received. I know the intimidation. Quite frankly, I thank God you are here. You are out-gunned, you are out-manned; you are out-spent. Quite frankly, I am amazed that you keep signing up to do it again.”