Monday, January 18, 2010

MEDC/MFTZ Trains for a Marathon Year of Economic Development

MEDC/MFTZ Trains for a Marathon Year of Economic Development

Friday, January 15th, 2010
By Keith Patridge, President/CEO of McAllen Economic Development Corporation

It seemed like a great idea back in November when staff decided to sign up for the Fiesta Marathon Relay in McAllen. Twenty employees from the McAllen Economic Development Corporation and Foreign Trade Zone formed four teams of five to conquer the 26.2-mile relay early on a Sunday morning in mid-December.

This race became the buzz in the office as several employees met on weekends to train and run laps around the trade zone after business hours. And on race day, we all gathered at the start line before sunrise to take on this marathon.

MEDC/MFTZ staff, joined with friends and family, stood along the race route to cheer on our teams and offer words of encouragement during that foggy, cold morning. Less than six hours later, we all completed the race and despite some soreness, it proved to be a great day. The mileage challenged us, but it drove home the importance of teamwork, efficiency and strategy. It also reminds us of the expression that sometimes in life -and business- it is a marathon, not a sprint. And while we sprint when we have to, this past year tested the endurance of everyone in business.

Economic development in 2009 was a long, grueling marathon. The slow economic conditions have caused some companies to be more cautious and hesitant, but it doesn’t mean we give up. This “marathon” challenges the MEDC team to be patient, more innovative and aggressive.

We have talked about the auto plant for some time, and it is still moving forward. McAllen continues to be in that race and hopefully we will have some positive news to report in 2010. And although the year has proved slower than usual, we have secured 18 new companies in Reynosa and McAllen, plus existing companies added 723,000-square feet of industrial space in the McAllen MSA and in Reynosa.

Also, we have seen an influx of companies transferring divisions and their corporate headquarters to McAllen. In part because of the region’s large local workforce, strategic location and low costs of doing business, Fujitsu-Ten, Panasonic, Hi-Tec and ALPS have located their North American corporate headquarters to McAllen. Bettcher has transferred all of its North American corporate and manufacturing operations to McAllen and Reynosa. Hutchinson Manufacturing has also started transferring several divisions to McAllen.

For more than 17 years, the MEDC team has worked with ALPS, a global leader and manufacturer of electronic and automotive components. Over time, we have helped the company relocate families, hire local students from South Texas College and University of Texas-Pan American and expand their McAllen/Reynosa operations.

Recently, MEDC, along with officials from STC, UTPA, Mission Economic Development Authority and Hunt Valley Development, traveled to ALPS’ headquarters in Japan to meet with Mr. Masataka Kataoka, president/CEO of ALPS and tour their advanced technology and manufacturing centers. Mr. Kataoka announced that ALPS will bring their North American headquarters to McAllen, along with an additional division and 40 more jobs.

This represents a great opportunity to strengthen the partnership we have forged with ALPS over the years. We will continue working with company officials to help them create a global headquarters in McAllen.

The management teams of ALPS and all of our companies have become more like family to us, as we have known many of them for almost 20 years. Like training for a marathon – or even a fun relay- economic development and partnerships take practice and commitment.

And the MEDC team is committed to creating economic opportunity in the Rio Grande Valley and Northern Mexico. If you know of a company that is interested in learning about the advanced manufacturing opportunities in McAllen/Reynosa, contact the MEDC team today at 956.682.2875 or

Keith Patridge is President and C. E. O. of McAllen Economic Development Corporation.

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission Metropolitan Area is Number One in the Nation in Positive Job Growth!

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission Metropolitan Area is Number One in the Nation in Positive Job Growth!

Friday, January 15th, 2010
Written by: Dr. Gilberto de los Santos
Professor Emeritus The University of Texas—Pan American

The prestigious Brookings Institution released in its 2009 third quarter MetroMonitor, a “quarterly, interactive barometer of the health of America’s 100 largest metropolitan economies.” In this report it cites the changes in employment of the 100 largest United States Standard Metropolitan Areas.

From the 2nd to the 3rd quarter of the year 2009, only 11 of the 100 metro areas experienced positive increase in jobs. The other 89 metro areas lost jobs during this time period. The McAllen—Edinburg—Mission metro area is the number one in the United States in job creation with an increase of 1.3% in one quarter! The 1.3%, if annualized, would be 5.2%! Below is a list of the top five metro areas with their percentage increases in jobs:

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX with a 1.3% growth

New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA = 0.6%

New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA = 0.5%

Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE, IA = 0.5%

Columbia, SC = 0.3%

The MetroMonitor also compared the largest 100 metro areas’ peak employment quarter to the most recent 3rd 2009 Quarter. Only one metro area in the United States, The McAllen—Edinburg—Mission metro area increased job placements with an increase of 1.4%! Since their peak employment, the 100 largest metro areas have decreased an average of -4.3%, compared to a -4.6% decrease in employment for the entire United States.

The McAllen—Edinburg—Mission metro area is the only metro area in Texas that achieved an employment growth rate from October 2008 to October 2009!!! (See Table 1)

There seems to be much healing to go—and the McAllen—Edinburg—Mission metro area is leading the way in the entire United States—and in Texas.

While most of the major metro areas in the United States are suffering loss of jobs, our metro area is number 1 in job growth. One can rightfully ask, what are the reasons for this unique growth in employment? Someone else might give a different answer, but this writer’s impression is that some of the reasons include that The Rio Grande Valley has wonderful people who have created a high quality standard of life which has attracted a higher than average increase in population growth.

We are blessed with great weather, a good school system from the K-12 grades levels to the post secondary education level, a family-oriented community, and a reasonably low cost of living. Although most local residents think the real estate prices have “sky rocked” we are considered a “bargain” compared to other metro areas.

The public schools, The University of Texas—Pan American, and South Texas College are among the fastest growing institutions in the country, and continue to increase programs and in number and quality.

Our excellent weather and shopping facilities encourage Mexican and Winter Texan tourists to continue coming. Our job growth is also fueled by the only three industries which experienced growth in Texas—Education and Health Services, Government, and Other Services.

Being adjacent to Mexico is an asset for our retail growth which also spurs jobs. The Maquiladora industry has promoted a huge increase in jobs in our sister cities near us in Mexico, and has also helped create jobs for us in the United States. Our agriculture market is strong, and we are attracting more manufacturing industries. We are also experiencing a huge increase in capitol influx from Mexican investors.

The fact that our metro area increased in jobs, does not mean that unemployment has decreased. Our metro area has been the first, second, or third fastest growing area in the United States for the past two decades, and we also have been the leaders in decreasing the unemployment rate. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s the unemployment rate was in the high “teens” and it was gradually lowered to less than 10%. At this time our metro unemployment rate is 11.2%, still among the highest unemployment rates in Texas. (See Table 1) So if the population growth rate is faster than the job creation rate, the unemployment will increase.

Nonetheless, we should definitely celebrate being number one in the United States and in Texas in job creation, and to hopefully be at the forefront of economic recovery!