Residents of the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) have faced some extraordinary challenges over the past two years.  The COVID pandemic,  19 months of border closures, tightening supply chains and growing inflation have had serious health, economic and social consequences for RGV communities.

Yet in spite of these challenges, the RGV has not only endured, it has thrived.  Our communities are growing, businesses are recovering and the culture and quality of life that make the RGV such a special place to live continue to flourish.

According to the latest RGV numbers from the U.S. Census, between 2010 and 2020, the population of Hidalgo County grew by 12 percent and Cameron County grew by 4 percent.  

But the overall population growth is only part of the story.  The RGV population is, on average, younger than the rest of the state and much younger than the rest of the country. 

A growing, young and talented workforce and the ability to conduct business on both sides of the border are all very attractive factors for companies  – both big and small – looking to move or expand.  

Since 2020, the RGV has also been the focus of national political and media attention.  The “discovery” that our  community has strong opinions about major issues is nothing new to RGV residents.  In the run-up to next November’s mid-term elections, we can expect to see more national figures and reporters coming to the RGV.

While they’re here, we hope they will take notice of the things that make the RGV a great place to live and work.  We have the amenities of a large metroplex but the neighborhood qualities  of a small community.   

In higher education, the opportunities offered by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), the UTRGV School of Medicine, Texas A&M and our community colleges are not only attracting new talent to the RGV but also providing new pathways to keep our best and brightest residents here.  In the area of health care, for example, UTRGV’s partnership with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will expand access to world-class services. 

In business, the pandemic has exposed the inherent risks in our existing supply chains. We need to mitigate these risks by moving production – and jobs – closer to home. Our region is the ideal location for new manufacturing businesses given our young and growing population, numerous ports of entry, natural resources and expertise in cross-border commerce. 

But what really makes the RGV such a great place is the special spirit and sense of community that brings people together to address the issues that are most important in our lives.  At no time has this been more evident than in the way our communities came together to address the challenges of the past two years.

As we enter 2022, there’s good reason to be optimistic about the RGV, not only because of all the significant developments that are occurring or that we seem to be in the right place at the right time, but primarily because of the people who live here and our dedication to getting things done.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned jointly by Al Villarreal and his twin brother Adrian Villarreal. Al Villarreal is CEO of IBC Bank Brownsville. Adrian Villarreal is CEO of IBC Bank McAllen. The guest column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the authors. They can be reached by email via: [email protected].

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