MISSION, TEXAS – Big retail and restaurant chains considering building in the Rio Grande Valley must consider the Mexican component of the region’s spending power.

This is the view of Daniel Silva, CEO of Mission Economic Development Corporation. Silva recently gave a talk about economic development activity in Mission, including the much anticipated Killam Development 3,400-acre, mixed use project on the Shary Plantation. The event, which took place at the Center for Education and Economic Development, was hosted by the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce.

Daniel Silva
Daniel Silva, CEO of Mission Economic Development Corporation.

In his commentary, Silva said that when real estate departments of big retail and restaurant chains look at the Valley, they may not impressed with the statistics. Those statistics do not include the impact of Mexican shoppers.

“The problem is our demographics, or what we have on paper as far as our education, and number of cars per household is concerned,” Silva said.

“All of our demographics, we don’t fit a lot of what they (the big chains) want. We don’t fit their profile. They want an average household income of $125,000. They look at ours and we are at $53,000. Our per capita income is about $19,000 per person. It is a minimum wage job.”

Because of this, Mission EDC does not just focus on bringing big retail stores in, Silva explained.

“What we are trying to do here at the EDC, is not only develop the retail and the restaurant side but also develop a workforce so we can start to attract the higher paying, the technological type of jobs.”

Silva predicted more economic development on the western side of Mission once the Killam Development project gets underway and when Anzalduas International Bridge is fully developed. He noted that there is potential for an interstate quality spur on the road between I-2 and Anzalduas bridge.

Asked if it is difficult to explain to the big retail and restaurant chains that they must also take into consideration the impact of Mexican shoppers, Silva answered affirmatively.

“It is difficult. It is really odd that one of the lowest counties in the nation has the highest dollar per square foot sales. If you go to La Plaza Mall you are talking about a $1,000 per square foot. We have a lot of cash-based transactions. We have done credit card studies and looked at homes and telephone communications and where they originate. The dollars spent is just phenomenal. It really baffles people.”

By way of example, Silva cited the local P.F. Chang’s restaurant.

“When that first opened you had two hour waits. You go over there now and it is still a 30-minute wait. They started out with and outside seating area. They closed it within two months because they needed more indoor sitting space,” Silva said.

Silva noted that Pappadeaux in Pharr is the second top performing restaurant in the chain.

“It is really hard for us to explain to them (the real estate departments of big retail and restaurant chains). If you drive a GM and I come in and try to explain Volvo you do not understand it. You do not care because you have been driving GM for so long. That is the same mentality the real estate department for the restaurants and retailers have. It is tough for us. We have to find creative ways to show the number of Mexican shoppers we attract.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story show participants at a recent discussion on economic development in Mission, Texas.