Saturday, November 14, 2009

Port increases appeal of Hidalgo County sites

Port increases appeal of Hidalgo County sites
November 13, 2009 10:30 PM
Jared Janes

The distance between downtown Houston and the Port of Houston is the same as the distance separating the Port of Brownsville and McAllen.

While Houston’s two assets are viewed as part and parcel of Greater Houston, the Rio Grande Valley has struggled to brand the Brownsville port as part of a larger metroplex, said Eduardo Campirano, the director of the Port of Brownsville. But when it comes to marketing Hidalgo County sites designated as “shovel-ready” for large-scale industrial development, the port can’t be left out of the plans.

“Without a doubt, you have to look at all the assets the Valley has,” Campirano said. “By positioning ourselves as a complimentary aspect, the region obviously benefits.”

The Rio South Texas Economic Council, a group formed last year to market the region, is certifying two Cameron County sites as shovel-ready — one in Brownsville and one in Harlingen.

Easy access to the port will be a selling point for all of the area’s shovel-ready locations, but the port may also have its own ready-to-go site soon, said Gilbert Salinas, vice president of the Brownsville Economic Development Corp. The city is looking to partner with the port to certify a mega-site, a tract of land 500 acres or larger that is used to attract heavy manufacturing that relies on immediate access to a deepwater port.

With the shovel-ready tag already in place for a 73-acre site in a city-owned industrial park, Salinas said, the city plans to apply the expertise accumulated during that process to the certification of the port mega-site.

“We’re already seeing the benefits,” he said of the designation, noting a food processing company from Monterrey, N.L., has already requested space at the industrial park. “From here, we’ll use this as our blueprint for the next site we want to certify at the Port of Brownsville.”

As a regional asset, the port helps all parts of the Valley compete globally by offering a way to export goods using all major transportation modes, Campirano said. Using all the available means of transport helps the area produce an inventory that says “there is nothing the region can’t handle,” he said.

“If we position ourselves, there’s no reason we can’t compete for manufacturing, industrial or any other kind of company that is looking to expand.”