MCALLEN, RGV – The recent visit to China by McAllen Economic Development Corporation leaders will lead to major investments in the South Texas border region.

This is the view of Laura Warren, chair of MEDC. At this month’s MEDC board meetings, Warren spoke about the July 13-22 trade mission to Shanghai and Shenzhen.

In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian after the MEDC meeting, Warren said the companies coming to the McAllen-Reynosa area would be paying high wages.  

“These are not the lower-paying jobs anymore. We are talking about wages starting at $45,000 and $55,000. These are great opportunities for us. We are excited,” Warren said. 

Laura Warren, chair of McAllen EDC
Laura Warren, chair of McAllen EDC

It will not be any old company from China that starts to establish operations in McAllen-Reynosa, Warren predicted.

“Not only are companies coming, big companies are coming. To me, it is going to turn around things in a different way. We are doing really well but I think it is going to go from well to outstanding. Higher paying jobs, high technology,” Warren explained.

“As you hear in our education reports, we are having students graduating from multiple engineering programs and science programs. We now can say, we are going to have opportunities for them to stay home and make better salaries and keep them here. It is time for the Valley to keep its best talent.”

Asked how the China trip went, Warren said:

“It went very well. We visited with top companies, one of them is the leader in manufacturing batteries worldwide. Some of them are in IT systems, 5G, etc. We also met with top leaders in the logistics industry worldwide. We met with Build Your Dreams, the maker of the bullet train and electric motors, among others.”

McAllen EDC President Keith Patridge led the trip to China. Also on the trip were MEDC Vice President Janie Cavazos and McAllen Mayor Jim Darling. Carlos Margo represented South Texas College on the trip. Local business and legal experts Jorge Torres, Luis Cantu and Daniel Cavazos were present also.

Warren said she was impressed with how in-depth the workshops were. 

“Some of the meetings turned from casual, introductory meetings to full-blown workshops. We had vice presidents of global development in these companies asking questions and bringing their entire teams. These teams not only listened and took notes, they were video-graphing and photographing every note that was written. The team from McAllen Economic Development did an outstanding job.”

Because of the terms of the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, Chinese companies are particularly interested in the U.S.-Mexico border region, Warren explained. USMCA is the potential successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement. It has been ratified by Mexico but not, yet, the United States and Canada.

“A bi-national region like ours is of special interest to Chinese companies because of our infrastructure, because of our well-established leadership and friendships and working relationships with Mexico,” Warren said. 

“The USMCA, when it gets ratified by the United States and Canada, is of great interest to them (the Chinese companies). Being on the border, successfully working with Mexico is crucial because they can come and invest on both sides of the border. That cannot happen in any other state because they do not have what we have, infrastructure-wide, relationship-wise. We are in the right place at the right time.”

Warren said it paid dividends to bring legal and logistics experts on the trip.

“We took very good experts like Jorge Torres and Luis Cantu and Daniel Cavazos who were instrumental in guiding the companies on all the legal solutions and possibilities and how they could deal with the tariffs and taxations that are being imposed on companies from China,” Warren said. 

Asked how soon the Valley could benefit from the MEDC visit to China, Warren said it is already happening.

“Great things are happening. We have a lot of interest already. We have been working with them (the Chinese companies) since the day we came back. There are a lot of pre-commitments already. They are already making plans. Good things are coming.”

Asked if the China visit was the most productive foreign trade mission MEDC has ever mounted, Warren said:

“I have been involved with McAllen EDC since I moved to the Valley in 1995. This has to be one of the most successful.”

Warren paid tribute to the MEDC leadership team.

“Some of the things we may see as problems, McAllen EDC sees as opportunities. It is evident every month at our meetings before the board of advisers. A lot of meetings happen before we meet here. The reports that Janie and Ralph present to us are only a glimpse of what is going on. Because of the confidential nature of some of our work, we cannot open up until they are a reality.”

As mentioned previously, Janie Cavazos is a vice president of MEDC. She specializes in bringing companies to McAllen. Ralph Garcia is also a vice president of MEDC. He specializes in bringing companies to Reynosa.

Warren ended her interview by stressing the importance of USMCA being ratified by Congress.

“Right now they are looking at some of the labor concerns they have when it comes to how Mexico runs things and how they enforce it. I know our mayor is working really closely with Washington, D.C. and our lobbyist to see what we can do to make sure USMCA gets ratified soon. Otherwise it will be a big loss in opportunities. I know right now we are working with several companies that are interested, a big wave is coming. It is only waiting on the ratification of USMCA.”

Warren added that is not just companies from China that are interested in the McAllen-Reynosa area.

“India, Singapore, our excitement is the quality of jobs that are coming.”