PHARR, Texas – Texas Secretary of State Ruth Ruggero Hughs recently gave a major speech about international trade at a meeting of the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The meeting was held at the Pharr Events Center.
In her remarks, Secretary Hughs pointed out that the total assessment of trade transported between the Texas-Mexico border is valued at $615 billion and accounts for 68 percent of all U.S.-Mexico trade.
This relationship is also directly tied to more than one million trade-dependent jobs in Texas with an economic impact of $260 billion, Hughs pointed out. In addition, the movement of goods that crosses through the RGV contributes $40 billion to the GDP of the U.S.
“As we Texans know, there’s no better place to do business than in the Lone Star State,” Hughs said.
“This week’s trip to the Rio Grande Valley was an incredible opportunity to engage with and learn from community stakeholders on the various issues and challenges they face, as well as avenues for growth. I also appreciated the continued partnership that we have with our Mexican counterparts as we work collaboratively to grow the Texas-Mexico relationship. I remain committed both now and in the future to working alongside leaders from the Valley to foster opportunities for economic growth and prosperity to ensure that we forge a brighter future for all.”
One of the key items Hughs brought up in her speech was the Texas-Mexico Border Transportation Master Plan. The plan addresses the needs, challenges, opportunities, and funding strategies, such as public-private partnerships, to move people and goods more quickly and efficiently across Texas’ 28 border crossings.
Hughs pointed out that the BTMP is the result of joint efforts between the Texas Department of Transportation and the Border Trade Advisory Committee, which she chairs in her capacity as Texas’ Border Commerce Coordinator.
In December, Hughs presented the 400-page BTMP to the Texas Transportation Commission. In March, the TTC approved the plan. It now awaits its adoption by the board into the Unified Transportation Program, the state’s 10-year transportation plan.
As a result of the plan, it is estimated that the Rio Grande Valley will receive more than $11 billion to address the needs of the region.
Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez chairs the RGVMPO. He said the City of Pharr was proud to welcome Secretary Hughs and his RGVMPO colleagues “as we work on implementing the Border Transportation Master Plan.”
Hernandez added: “The RGVMPO has been proactive in collaborating with TxDOT, Secretary Hughs, our binational partners, and all our regional stakeholders throughout the entire BTMP process. This plan will allow us to seek additional federal and state funding for improvements for our bridges and transportation projects.”
RGVMPO Executive Director Andrew Canon said there are some “very vital regional projects” that his organization is working on to both improve infrastructure throughout the region and enhance trading capacity.
“Projects we have identified include the International Trade Corridor which will provide a new truck route between Pharr and Donna international bridges, the East Loop Projects in Brownsville, and the Madero International Bridge Project in Mission,” Canon said.
During her remarks, Secretary Hughs announced that this was her first post-COVID trip outside of Austin in her official capacity. In addition to speaking at the RGVMPO board meeting, Secretary Hughs participated in a “fireside chat” with the Secretary of Economic Development of Tamaulipas, Carlos Garcia.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, Secretary Hughs and Secretary Garcia “highlighted the mutually beneficial and interdependent trade relationship between Texas and Mexico and expressed their desire to strengthen it further.”
Secretary Hughs also visited the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge and met with the Rio Grande Valley Partnership at the McAllen Convention Center.
“We hosted Secretary Hughs to showcase the strengths of the RGV and highlight the growing economic development opportunities of our region,” said RGVP President Sergio Contreras.
“Our business roundtable conversation focused on transportation and infrastructure projects, the $13.7B economic impact of healthcare/bioscience in our region, our close ties with Tamaulipas which are strengthened with the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.”
Contreras pointed out that goods that cross through the RGV from Mexico contribute $40 billion to the gross domestic product of the U.S. He said another area of discussion with Hughs was the “tremendous opportunity” to expand the aerospace industry in Cameron County.
After the discussion at the Pharr Events Center, Secretary Hughs and the board had an internal briefing at the Pharr International Bridge where they received a tour and overview of the City of Pharr’s bridge projects.
“As Secretary Hughs was able to witness during our luncheon, we have made tremendous strides at the Pharr International Bridge in terms of expansion and bridge improvements,” Mayor Hernandez said. “Our ports of entry and bridges are critical to the lifeline of our economy not only in the City of Pharr but throughout the entire Rio Grande Valley region, and we hope the BTMP will allow us to finally receive the funding we need to plan for a better future.”
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