RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – The mayor of Rio Grande City says that by working together, communities in Starr County and their neighbors on the border in Mexico can start to land major manufacturing plants.

Joel Villarreal held his second Bi-National Roundtable Program at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Rio Grande City on Oct. 7. The event drew more regional leaders than the first.

Asked after the event had ended whether he is looking to land a major manufacturing plant, Villarreal said: “There are conversations. Nothing yet that is substantial. But I can say it is beneficial to be having these conversations. I can see it happening in the near future.”

The important thing, Villarreal said, is to start having key conversations with neighboring communities.

“We are moving towards a collaborative effort, as a binational region. And not just regionally in the U.S. but also involving our municipalities right across the border,” said Villarreal.

“If there is a maquiladora being built in Camargo it is going to benefit Rio Grande City. Same thing in Roma and La Grulla and Miguel Aleman. What benefits Miguel Aleman benefits Rio Grande City and vice versa. Let’s bring that silo system, where we are only interested in our own municipality, to an end.”

Villarreal made his remarks at the end of a roundtable discussion that ran for more than two hours. The keynote speaker was Andres Guerra, port director for the international bridges of Roma and Rio Grande City.

Among those who spoke at the event were Gricelda Guerra, representing the mayor of Camargo, Irasema Peña Gutierrez, the mayor of Guerrero, Nataly Garcia Díaz, the mayor of Díaz Ordaz, Patricia Solis, the mayor of La Grulla, Ramiro Cortez Barrera, the municipal president of Miguel Aleman, Starr County Judge Eloy Vera, Ivan Escobar, the mayor Escobares, and María de Jesús Pérez Palomares, representing the mayor of Ciudad Mier.

Asked about the big investment projects he is working on Villarreal said: “We are talking industry, manufacturing, hospitality, a multi-million dollar chain from Mexico that wants to invest out here. Multi-billion dollar companies.”

Villarreal said he plans to amplify the message that Rio Grande City and its neighbors are open for business. 

“I am making plans to go to Monterrey to talk to individuals. Some of those Korean companies in Mexico that are, right now, housed in Monterrey. All this is in the works. Which is why we are developing a campaign video and promotional literature of what we have to offer. But it starts with all these conversations.”

Asked why he was holding the Bi-National Roundtable discussions, Villarreal said: “Trade has been part of our communities for decades. Trade, commerce, tourism. Obviously, there have been some issues of late and Covid hit and what not. But, very soon our bridges will open once more and we will need to be ready with these collaborations, to make sure we have a unified message with our neighbors, with the mayors, the chambers of commerce, the economic development corporations.”

Villarreal said he was delighted that the second roundtable drew more attendees than the first. He said he was thrilled to have representatives from San Luis Potosi present, along with the regional chamber of commerce from Reynosa.

“The paradigm shift in thinking that I want to promote is, let’s go beyond our individuality. We need to think outside the boundaries of our own municipalities. That is the concept here today. We are going to continue to promote that.”

Every community has its own niche, Villarreal told the Rio Grande Guardian. He said it was important, for example, for the representatives from Ciudad Mier to know about the multi-million dollar investments being made in Rio Grande City. “And it is just as important for us to find out what is happening over there.”

Villarreal then gave some details on the big projects he is targeting. He said landing a major manufacturer was a top agenda item.

“Whether it is maquiladoras, whether it is the auto industry in Monterrey… in fact, we have met. Over the last several months I have met with multiple investors, international, corporate investors, that are wanting to invest outside of Mexico,” Villarreal revealed.

“So, we are meeting with them, having conversations, letting them know what we have to offer here in Rio Grande City. Part of that is promoting the whole area. We have several multi-million dollar developments happening right now, here in Rio Grande City. We have, of course, St. Ives (Reality). We have talked about that one before. We have a medical development project that is also in the works. That is going to be 40 acres of medical development, orthopedics, research, etc.”

Villarreal said it is important for Rio Grande City’s neighbors across the border to know what is in the works.

“But, also, we want to know what is happening with our neighbors too because if a maquiladora is created here in Camargo, it is going to create 20 or 30 good paying jobs here in Rio Grande City. That is the concept we really need to look at. That is why I am helping them, to have that support for a maquiladora in Camargo or Miguel Aleman because it will create jobs here in the U.S. as well.”

Villarreal said he was bullish about landing some major investments because the benefits of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement are only just beginning to be felt. 

“The fact that a certain percentage of the finished product has to made here in the USA will help us. These are the things we are looking at. We never know when we are going to need the help of our neighbors and vice versa. We need to look at this as a regional concept, a regional campaign. And if, at the end, a major corporation has landed, we are all going to benefit from that.”

Villarreal thanked the regional chamber of commerce and his city’s economic development corporation for the great strides being made.

“I like what I am seeing. That people are engaged and people are wanting to make this (regional collaborative approach) a reality. Word is getting out, the work we are doing here. And particularly all the million dollar developments that are happening here in Rio Grande City. It is excellent to see people engaged and wanting to work collaboratively so they can promote their municipality but also realizing that it benefits all of us to work as a collective. It gives us a much louder voice. We are energized about growing our entire region.”

Editor’s Note: The above news story is the second in a three-part series on Rio Grande City Mayor Joel Villarreal’s Bi-National Roundtable Program. Click here to read Part One. Part Three will be featured later this week.

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