BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez has outlined a way in which the Rio Grande Valley can benefit from the bottleneck faced by dozens of containers ships waiting to unload their cargo at Long Beach, California. 

Cortez has suggested the ships dock at Mexico’s west coast ports and transport shipments destined for the east coast of the United States via truck through the Valley.

Cortez explained his idea during a recent roundtable discussion hosted by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and the Rio Grande Valley Partnership and held at the Port of Brownsville.

“Right now I learn that one third of all the imports coming in from the west side, from Asia, are coming in through Los Angeles and the Long Beach corridor,” Cortez said.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez

“Today, if you read the news there are going to be 57 container ships out in the ocean that have been there for five days because they can’t come in – either because of lack of personnel or other problems that they have.”

Cortez said the Port of Brownsville cannot compete for container ships headed to California for the Far East. But, he said, the Valley can, via land crossings.

“We are not going to compete with those ports on the Pacific Ocean because we are on the wrong side. How can we do it? Well, we have a neighbor called Mexico that does have a Pacific side port. If we were able to work with them and be able to bring product from them to us, now we are in the middle of the United States. We can now distribute everything, I think more efficiently and effectively through our area. Especially when you know and these demographers are telling me, that the majority of the people are going to be east of the middle of the United States.”

Cortez told Cornyn that the Valley has to have a regional plan for economic development. He said it also has to fight “negative perceptions” of the region.

“Do you know that the Rio Grande Valley graduates more high school students than 15 other states combined together? That’s the Rio Grande Valley. The other sad thing is that 40 percent of the people that live in my county are impoverished. Thirty-two percent of them do not have insurance. Thirty-seven percent – it went from 27 percent to 37 percent – of our young people are food insecure,” Cortez told the senator.

“You don’t solve those problems by giving people money. You solve the problem by creating opportunities for them. So, how do we take advantage of our geography?”

Being on the main route for shipments from the Far East was one way to take advantage of the region’s geography, he said.

“That gives us great opportunity. What are we missing? We have to create investment to our area as we did with SpaceX. So, how do we bring investment to our area?” Cortez asked.

“We have to provide them with what they are looking for. Well, one of the things that is critical that we have – our median age is 29 years – is we have people that other parts don’t have. But we need to create that human capital, all of you educators here. We need to create human capital because we are not going to solve all of the issues by simply giving money to people. We have to give them opportunity.”

Cortez concluded his remarks to Cornyn by saying: “So, on behalf of Hidalgo County, we want to join you. We want to join you in solving these problems together. So we will all benefit. Because I am all about raising people up not pushing down. I want to eliminate any negative perception that we have here today. And I thank the Senator for always helping us in those endeavors.”

Editor’s Note: Here is a podcast from the Sen. Cornyn/RGV Partnership roundtable discussion:

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story and podcast shows an image from a recent roundtable discussion hosted at the Port of Brownsville by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

Editor’s Note: The above news story and podcast is the third in a three part series on the recent roundtable discussion hosted by U.s. Sen. John Cornyn and the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. Click here to read and listen to Part One. Click here to read Part Two.