Pharr, International Produce Hub In The Making

“We’re the next natural progression,” said Fred Sandoval in regards to the Rio Grande Valley region and the Pharr-Reynosa bridge. “That’s all there is to it.”

Sandoval, City Manager and Economic Development Director in Pharr, confidently announced his expectations for the future of South Texas.

More international commercial trucks laden with fresh produce enter through Texas than any other border state port. Yet, the current rate traffic is trifling compared to the amount officials are anticipating with the new superhighway through Mexico, which will effectively link fertile agricultural markets in the western parts of the country to the Rio Grande Valley.

“From an overall industry-wide perspective, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 20 to 30 percent increase each year for the next several years,” said Bret Erickson, CEO of the Texas International Produce Association.

According to a Bloomberg analysis, a government news source, the United States-Mexico truck trade is expected to rise 44 percent, or to $463 billion, by the end of the decade.

In preparation for the influx of traffic and increased business opportunities, Pharr economic development officials will travel to Nogales to recruit transportation businesses. Officials believe Nogales may lose up 30 percent of its commercial traffic market, most of which will likely head for Midwest and East Coast markets via Texas ports to save money.

Local Competition

While most commercial truck traffic is handled by the Pharr-Reynosa and the Progreso-Nuevo Progreso International Bridge, two neighboring ports exist in the Rio Grande Valley border region – the Alliance International Bridge and the Anzalduas International Bridge.

In an attempt to cash in on the economic potential as a result of the produce industry, Donna invested in the Alliance International Bridge. After three years, the port has yet to provide a steady traffic flow and has accumulated a $30 million debt in construction. In 2009, McAllen, Mission, Hidalgo, and Granjero launched the Anzalduas International Bridge. Although the port has handled well, relying on incoming traffic from maquilas and warehousing, it lacks an inspection facility for commercial traffic. City officials from the partnership are awaiting a presidential permit scheduled for 2015, which would allow for the construction of an inspection facility. Both cases highlight the intrinsic drawbacks behind perusing such a project.

Overcoming Obstacles

Despite a period of rapid economic growth and increased foreign trade, immigration reform policies are continuously trumping setbacks at the bridge. Of a $46 billion bill, the Senate plans to dispense $38 billion to hire around 20,000 federal agents and erect 350 miles worth of border fencing, giving no weight to port concerns.

With Congress keeping focus on illegal immigration and security, skimping on a federal investment to local ports of nearly $6 billion, border regions have undertaken the task to meet needs. Aside from constructing bridges, local communities have engaged in solidifying public-private partnerships to take advantage of the trade industry. Limitations on federal investment and increased competition do not guarantee more traffic or even the resources to cope with the traffic across multiple bridges.

“It doesn’t matter how many bridges you have, you’ve got to have people with all the bells and whistles and technology,” said Sam Vale, president of the Rio Grande City-based Starr-Camargo Bridge Co., in regards to the Anzaldua Bridge plans for expansion.

Only Congress can determine the amount of funding that can be provided to federal agencies at ports of entry. The three most southern borders in Texas will release plans for development at the end of July. But, without sufficient funding, not much can be done about higher priority issues.

“The conversation about the U.S.-Mexico border shouldn’t just get pulled to security and immigration,” said Christopher Wilson, an associate with the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute and co-author of its State of the Border Report. “It’s important have voices saying it’s also about trade and the benefits the border can bring the U.S. economy.”

Every day, more than $1 billion in goods are traded across the international border. Yet common holdups and long wait times set back around $8 billion annually from the nation’s economy. Analysts believe border regions require a reasonable investment to improve efficient and security. Any monies would work to fully staff port locations, update infrastructure, and expand traveler and shipper programs.

Contact Us

Learn why Pharr is quickly becoming the South Texas produce and foreign trade hub. Contact the Pharr produce experts from the Pharr EDC at 956.402.4EDC to find about the opportunities available in the local trade industry.