Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Peña: Santana Textiles manufacturing plant propels Edinburg into the global marketplace

Peña: Santana Textiles manufacturing plant propels Edinburg into the global marketplace

Picture: State Representative Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg. (File photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)

EDINBURG, Nov. 25 - When state Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, was growing up he used to sell copies of the Edinburg Review on street corners.

Remembering back to those days he always thought of his hometown as a sleepy little college town, totally divorced from the hustle and bustle of big cities like Houston and Monterrey.

He now believes all that has changed and the realization that Edinburg is very much part of the global economy was reinforced this week when he participated in high level discussions in the Governor’s Office in Austin over plans to bring a state-of-the-art denim manufacturing plant owned by Brazil-based Santana Textiles to his city.

“We had an amazing series of meetings in Austin. The meetings were complex and sometimes technical and I came to realize just how much my community is affected by the global marketplace,” Peña said.

“The number of countries affected by this single enterprise is truly global. We will be using cotton from Texas. We will be exporting to markets all over the globe. We talked about China, Europe, Argentina. It really struck me that Edinburg is now in a global economy and we are no longer some provincial little town in deep South Texas.”

Gov. Rick Perry visited the University of Texas-Pan American in July 2008 to announce the state of Texas would be investing $1.65 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund to lure Santana Textiles to Edinburg. He said the $180 million manufacturing plant would employ 800 people when fully operational.

Many Edinburg residents have questioned whether the project would go ahead because since Perry’s announcement things appear to have gone cold, with little sign of construction.

Peña assured the Guardian that things are very much on track and that the series of meetings in the Governor’s Office on Monday were designed to put the finishing touches to the financial part of the project.

“The Santana project is on target. You have to remember that the world has changed since July 2008. So many of the variables have changed - the economy has changed, the markets have changed. And so, the general financing mix has had to be changed. All sides are making the necessary adjustments to bring this to fruition,” Peña said.

Peña said the Santana Textiles plant in Edinburg would change the complexion of the denim manufacturing market because of the revolutionary technology being installed by the company.

“They have a unique niche in the global marketplace because of the specialized technology they have,” Peña said. “But there is more to the story than just that. There is the aspect that this plant is being built in Texas using Texas cotton. We are affording them national security. It was mentioned in the meeting that we are in effect creating a reverse-maquila.”

Among those in the series of meetings were Santana representatives, Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia, newly-appointed Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza, Texas Economic Development Bank CFO Michael Chrobak, Michael Bryant, an assistant general counsel in the Governor’s Office, and Jerry Haddican, from state Sen. Juan Hinojosa’s Austin office.

“I have to acknowledge the depth of knowledge Ramiro Garza has for this project,” Peña said. “I was very impressed with his presentation. He knows the project and all the financial aspects. This confirms to me that he was a great pick for city manager.”

Garza was heavily involved in bringing Santana to Edinburg in his previous capacity as executive director of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

Peña acknowledged the meetings in the Governor’s Office were complex and technical at times. “We discussed production details, global economics, market share, labor costs, transportation costs, economic stability. It was really absorbing,” he said.

The City of Edinburg now has a population of 71,520, a 48 percent increase on the 2000 Census count. If current trends continue and an accurate count is taken in the 2010 Census, Edinburg could have a population of 78,000 in 2010. If the same growth pattern continues, the city could have a population of 100,000 by 2015.

These statistics reinforce Peña’s observation that the Edinburg of old has gone forever.

“I come from a little town where I used to sell newspapers on the streets. Back then we really were incubated from Houston and Monterrey. I realize we are now in the thick of it. It is amazing,” he said. He said a major reason things have changed is the growth in trade between Texas and Mexico.

“This is the unique thing about South Texas. We are like the finger that dips deep into Mexico. We are bicultural. We are bilingual. The discussions we had in the Governor’s Office were in Spanish and in English and many of the many Anglos in the room spoke Spanish,” Peña said.

“It was very apparent to me that we...

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