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The Pharr EDC board of directors met May 16, 2016. The board discussed a number of items, including hiring of a consultant to help with Pharr's efforts to secure a Foreign Trade Zone next to the Pharr International Bridge.

PHARR, RGV – The secretary of economic development in Reynosa is predicting that at least five more maquilas will open in his city this year, creating 7,000 more manufacturing jobs.

Vicente Valdez said one of the five new maquilas will be hiring 1,500 workers alone.

“We are very proud of our achievement in growing our maquila industry. It is very important for Reynosa and for our state,” Valdez said. “Last year we grew about 11,000 jobs in the maquila industry, so we now have 105,000 people working directly in this sector in Reynosa. This year we will have five more maquilas, mostly in the auto industry, with one of them creating 1,500 jobs. This year we are forecasting 7,000 more jobs.”

Valdez spoke about his department’s efforts to improve economic development in Reynosa while on a recent visit to the Pharr Economic Development Corporation offices. Accompanying Valdez on the visit was Myrtha Tijerina, director of international affairs and external commerce for Reynosa. They met with Pharr EDC Executive Director Sergio Contreras, Ezequiel Ordoñez Animas, Pharr International Bridge’s liaison in Mexico, and Pharr EDC board member Mario Lizcano.

Valdez said the latest company to set up a manufacturing plant in Reynosa would be Haemotronic, an Italian firm that makes products for the healthcare industry. Haemotronic will employee about 500 workers at its Reynosa plant.

Another key project for Valdez is recapturing tourism dollars that were lost when U.S. visitors felt Reynosa was not a safe city to visit. “I encourage visitors from the Rio Grande Valley to return to Reynosa. We have very good restaurants, our main plaza is very nice and we have a nice theater in our Parque Cultural.” Asked how the Lago Escondido project was progressing, Valdez said: “It is beautiful. At certain times of year, you can see flamingos, pelicans and lots of exotic birds.”

Tourism dollars can also be secured for Reynosa if more Americans visit the city to see a doctor or dentist. “Medical tourism is very big for us. We offer free transportation to the surgeries of our doctors and dentists for those who cross at the Reynosa-Hidalgo International Bridge,” Valdez said.

Asked what the population of Reynosa is right now, Valdez said: “Officially, we are told it is 750,000 people but we think it is much closer to one million, when you include those that stay for part of the year. And, there are about 300,000 vehicles on our roads.”

Asked what else he would like to tell the people of the Rio Grande Valley, Valdez said: “We all know Reynosa is growing fast so it always needs more infrastructure. Mayor José Elías Leal is working on this with the federal government and the state government. Also, we want more people to visit Reynosa. What is good for Reynosa is good for the Valley and vice versa.”

Pharr courts Reynosa

Contreras, executive director of Pharr EDC, said the point he wanted to get across to Valdez and Tijerina is that Pharr is open for business, both in regard to retail shopping, particularly apparel, and purchasing a house.

“We want to cultivate our relationship, particularly as we develop our retail sector, especially our apparel. We want to share this news with our friends in Reynosa and Mexico generally. We want them to know we have stories such as Academy, Bealls, T.J.Maxx and that other big stores are coming,” Contreras said. “We want to provide a great shopping experience for our visitors from Mexico.”

Asked if a bus service might be added to take shoppers from the Pharr International Bridge to Pharr’s retail malls, Contreras said: “This is a possibility. We want to replicate the success some of our neighbors have had. First, we needed the stores in place to attract visitors. We have that now.”

With regard to residential development, Contreras said: “We want Reynosa leaders to know we plan to increase residential development. We are working with UTRGV on a fiscal and economic study. We want to develop smart incentives programs for residential developers if they meet certain criteria, so they can see Pharr as a viable community for new subdivisions.”

Asked what price range homes in these new subdivisions would fetch, Contreras said: “Our target is homes valued at $170,000 and above.  We want to be able to bring new families into town.  We want to support these investors, but we want to make a smart decision on how, which is why we are asking UTRGV to help with this study.”

Asked where the new subdivisions would go, Contreras said: “We are targeting multiple parts of Pharr. We will provide developers with tracts of land that are not ours, ten acres or more.”

Asked how quickly the homes might be developed, Contreras said: “We hope to have the study back from UTRGV inside 30 days and then in about 30 to 45 days have a program in place. We would like to see residential development happening by the fall because we believe the market is there. It is needed.”

Contreras added: “We want to diversify the Pharr economy. We are doing well with retail development – it is up 11 percent. Our international bridge is doing well, very well. We have seen an increase in the number of passenger vehicles crossing our bridge. Now we want to increase our property taxes. We are working very well with our school districts, making sure they are aware of this. We need to make sure we can deliver on these services.”

At a Pharr EDC board meeting, Contreras elaborated on plans to hire UT-Rio Grande Valley to conduct a study to help determine what incentives to provide residential developers. He said the study would look at the fiscal cost of providing water, utilities and law enforcement to the new subdivisions and measure the economic impact of residents paying property taxes and shopping and eating out in the city.

Contreras told the Pharr EDC board of directors that the cost of the study would be $1,750. Of this, $1,000 would be a one-time expense to cover the cost of new software. “We are targeting residential development with homes valued at $170,000 or more. What impact will that have on our community? Additional property taxes and spending in the community versus utilities, etc.,” Contreras told the board.

Other Pharr EDC News

In other developments, Pharr EDC has agreed to provide $1,500 for UTRGV Day in Austin. This event will take place at the state Capitol in February or March of next year.

The EDC also gave Contreras approval to look into the hiring of a consultant to help Pharr’s application to secure a foreign trade zone next to its international bridge. The expense of this consultant will be shared with the Pharr Bridge Board.

Pharr EDC also wants to hire a media production company so Pharr EDC can produce a series of short videos that we can be used to show companies that are considering relocating to Pharr. Contreras said these videos could also be shared with local TV stations. The board agreed that this expenditure would come out of hotel and motel tax revenues. “There is strong interest in Pharr advertising in Mexico. This would be part of our strategy,” said Pharr City Manager Juan Guerra.