RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – There is going to be so much more international trade – caused by the trend of near-shoring – that the Texas-Mexico border region is going to need more international bridges.
This is the view of Joel Villarreal. The Rio Grande City mayor said as much in his 2023 State of the City address on Thursday evening. He also said his city is growing so fast it will be unrecognizable in the next four years.
“The reality is that with this whole concept of near-shoring… where we’re not going to invest as much in China… the reality is that more of this traffic will be coming through our ports of entry. And we’re not going to have enough bridges for what’s coming… our bridges will be saturated with so much truck traffic that will be coming through our ports of entry,” Villarreal said.
Villarreal interspersed his remarks with short videos. One of the videos showed plans for more warehousing near the Starr-Camargo International Bridge, including cold storage facilities for frozen foods coming north from Mexico.
This is a good time to start investing, to make sure Rio Grande City has the infrastructure to cope with that additional trade, the mayor said. “So that is the reality and our friends in Mexico are going benefit from that.”
In a powerpoint presentation, Villarreal showed an image of numerous Mexican officials he had met with. Some were in the audience.
“So to our friends from Mexico, again, know that we are there and what’s coming… Mexico will be instrumental. We will not have enough bridges for what’s coming as far as commerce and trade (is concerned),” Villarreal said.
Some of the discussions with Mexican officials have centered on beefing up security along Ruta 54, which is the highway between Monterrey and Starr County.
“What they’re trying to do as a Mexican military is build some forts throughout Tamaulipas and Nuevo León. The idea is to have more Mexican military to produce safety and security throughout Route 54, which is from Monterrey to Starr County, Roma and Rio Grande City. And, of course, we’re supporting that. Why? Because it benefits us.”
In his remarks, Villarreal suggested Rio Grande City’s airport be expanded.
“Our airport… it has untapped potential… and by the way we have an airport advisory board and their job, their task, is to help us with recommendations as to how we can improve our airport,” Villarreal said.
“Innovative things is what can we do with our airport for the future of the city and that’s going to be huge by the way. So, we are going to invest in that as well.”
Villarreal also spoke about developing a new international rail line that would cross at the Starr-Camargo International Bridge.
“We had a couple of meetings recently about expanding or actually having an international railway from Camargo to Rio Grande City. I know they’re still in the nascent stage, in their infancy. But we need to have those conversations now because who knows (what is going to happen) down the road. But, we did meet with some companies from Canada, as well as some representatives from the rest of the Rio Grande Valley and, of course, the idea is, what can we do to bring a railway through Camargo to Rio Grande City?”
A booming city
In an overview of the state of the local economy, Villarreal said his city is booming.
“Rio Grande City, our economic forecast radiates brighter every day. And in spite of inflation, our economy is booming. We have created hundreds of jobs, millions of dollars in salaries, sales and revenues are at unprecedented historical highs. Our fund balance is the best in the history of Rio Grande City,” Villarreal reported.
“We’re not going to recognize Rio Grande City in the next four years. It is incredible, the growth and where we are headed. We are a rocket ship, just incredible.”
Villarreal said sales tax revenues have increased by 38% over the past five years. “Thirty eight percent? That is huge. And we’ve not even started yet, when you look at what’s coming.”
The mayor pointed to a poster on display as those attending the State of the City walked into the Versailles Event center. It showed sales tax revenues for the month at $597,000.
“That’s the highest total in the history of Rio Grande City. There was a time when we could not even fathom the idea of reaching $600,000. And believe me, very soon we’ll be at $600,000, in the next this coming year, as a matter of fact. So, hopefully in the next State of the City, we’ll be reporting about breaking the $600,000 barrier.”
Villarreal said credit must go to many entities. “It is a collective effort, by the way. It is all of us being a part of this, the city, the county, the school district, the hospital, South Texas College.”
Villarreal added: “Rio Grande City is a great place to live, to work, to forge the American Dream. Our cost of living is below the national average. Our economy is booming. Our medical community is expanding. We have a bicultural, binational, bilingual identity that serves as our strength. We have a strong and young workforce. We have an international land port of entry, billions of dollars in trade. We have an airport with untapped potential. Safety is priority one, and our educational system is strong.”
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Yes, Joel Villarreal is absolutely correct. The Rio Grande Valley has long needed more bridges for commerce, tourism, and better ties with Mexico. Long overdue. The RGV should work to receive its fair share of the infrastructure money the Biden administration is now providing. Better to build bridges than walls . . .