PHARR, Texas – According to the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation’s website, there are a total of 247 maquiladoras located in Matamoros and Reynosa, employing 174,000 workers.

The employers include TRW Automotive, LG, Jabil Circuit, Bissell, Maytag, Nokia Panasonic, Delphi, Brunswick, Emerson and Black & Decker.

Meanwhile in Rio Bravo, a small city located on the highway that connects these giant border cities, there are only five—Concretos Rio Bravo, Duro de Rio Bravo, Ensambles Generales del Norte, Motamux, and Resortes KL Mexico.

Some area residents say that including smaller entities the number possibly climbs to 15, and logically the number of jobs is fractional compared to what the neighbor to the west, Reynosa and the neighbor to the east, Matamoros, provide.

Jesus Treviño

Thus, Rio Bravo with a population of 95,457 according to the census of 2010, is more of a bedroom community that sends commuting workers to Reynosa and Matamoros to earn their bread.

That could and should change says, Jesus Treviño, economic development director for the Municipality of Rio Bravo.

“If we try to create industrial parks in Rio Bravo the only thing we are going to do is to affect what is already established in Reynosa and Matamoros,” said the director, at a recent meeting of the United States-Mexico BiNational Bridges and Border Crossings Group East Region, which took place at the Pharr Events Center.

Treviño said his municipal government has other ideas.

“What we are currently trying to promote in Rio Bravo are the service and agro-industrial sectors. We don’t want to get into a competition,” Treviño said.

“Instead we are trying to find other options, well-paid jobs”, he added, going on to say that Rio Bravo was sending its best workers to its neighbors to toil in maquiladora jobs that pay little more than minimum wage.

“If we industrialize our basic agricultural products-corn, sorghum and okra-and produce instead say meal or fish food, we increase the aggregate value of the base products as they make their way up the chain of outlets,” thus creating better-paying jobs at the production level and in the stores that retail them directly to the consumer.

“If we can convert okra into flour, you’re going to have a lot of products with a lot of nutrition. That is what we are looking to accomplish,’’ Treviño concluded.