REYNOSA, Tamaulipas – The new mayor of Reynosa wants to raise average wage rates in his city by bringing in more high-tech jobs.
Carlos Víctor Peña Ortiz, who took office on Oct. 1, explained some of his initiatives during a lunch meeting with Pharr Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Victor Perez and a group of VIPs the EDC took to Reynosa to visit a maquiladora.
Peña Ortiz, of Morena party, explained he had a “big agenda” when he took office but that this was immediately undercut by the Tamaulipas state Congress.
“We had the a majority in Congress, four days ago, but the first day they took office, they changed parties. Now, they are backing the governor. We will see what happens,” Peña Ortiz explained.
The governor of Tamaulipas, Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca is a member of the PAN party.
“We still have our normal functions here, within our jurisdiction. But there were certain proposals we wanted to pass through Congress and probably they will not be able to pass now. That is how it works,” the mayor said.
Asked what his priorities are, Peña Ortiz said: “Reduce the payroll tax, for the city to be able to clean private property, and for the state to give us more police officers.”
Pharr EDC’s Perez then told Peña Ortiz of his efforts to land a major manufacturing plant, perhaps in the automotive sector.
“Your people would come and train our people,” Perez told the mayor. “I think it is very doable. We have the support of our congressman and our senator. We need more manufacturing, more industrial.”
Peña Ortiz responded that there would have to be a change in migration policy, so that Reynosa instructors and key workers could get work permits. “If they are willing to bring the investment, we are willing to work together,” Peña Ortiz told Perez.
A reporter noted that Tamaulipas leaders had visited the Far East with economic development leaders from the Rio Grande Valley in the past, in an effort to bring a major manufacturing plant to the region. Peña Ortiz seemed rather dismissive.
“That has been going on for years. Governors come and go, they keep doing that. It does not mean it is good for the city. Sometimes that might affect the living standards of the people here. We need higher salaries. With low wages like those (in some maquiladoras), what we really are doing is importing poverty from the southern states.”
Some workers in Reynosa maquiladoras can earn a basic $75 a week. And that is working the night shift.
Peña Ortiz said he was talking about some maquiladoras paying poor wages, not all. He said his goal is to attract businesses that offer more technological jobs, rather than the production line jobs offered by maquiladoras.
There are currently 157,000 maquiladora jobs in Reynosa, the mayor explained, out of a total population of 704,000. Peña Ortiz said he disputed the official figures put out by Mexico’s version of the Census Bureau. “In reality we are over a million people because we have 350,000 that are transient.”
One way to raise the wage rates in Reynosa is to bring in more trades unions, Peña Ortiz said. “We have got to increase the number of union workers. When you have union workers the minimum wage shoots up.”
The maquiladora that the Pharr EDC took its VIPs to was Emerson. Those on the tour, including representatives from South Texas College and UT-Rio Grande Valley, said it was a state-of-the-art facility with more than 1,400 workers. The facility sat on a 25 acre pad site and had 267,000 square feet of covered space.
Asked how productive the trip to Reynosa had been, Pharr EDC’s Perez said: “We want to focus more on the manufacturing and industrial side in south Pharr. In order to do this we need good relations with our friends and partners across the border. There are Fortune 500 companies in Reynosa that we do not have on our side. But, we can get them. We have the incentives, we have the land and we have the leadership. All things are possible.”
Asked how the meeting with Peña Ortiz went, Perez said: “It was a great meeting. He is a very young man, 27 years old, but he has worked for his mother, when she was mayor. He brings new ideas but has worked within the system.”
Peña Ortiz’s mother Maki Ortiz Dominguez was the previous mayor of Reynosa. She represented the PAN party while in office.
“The mayor wants to help the salaries and wages of his people. That is understandable,” Perez said. “But he also reached out to us and said, whatever Reynosa needs to do to help bring something (in the manufacturing sector) to the city of Pharr and the Valley, he is there to support us. We are going to work together.”
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