Rio Grande Region Attracts New Investment and Jobs
Investors and industries are flocking to the two-state, two-nation Rio Grande Region, where growth in the defense, manufacturing, biomedical and renewable energy sectors are fueling the economy and paving the way for a prosperous future.
Critical competitive advantages, including location, land, labor and low costs, have drawn hundreds of new companies to the Borderplex – which encompasses El Paso, Texas, Las Cruces, N.M. and Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua, Mexico – and more are on the way.
Regional leaders have identified industry trends, created a targeted marketing approach and fostered a collaborative work environment with resources and partners in the area, including Fort Bliss, says Davin Lopez, president and CEO of New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance.
"We spend quite a bit of our time building upon the economic anchors that make our region unique,” Lopez says.
These anchors encompass everything from the commercial port of entry with Mexico under construction in Santa Teresa to Spaceport America and shared airspace, the region’s agricultural base and its natural assets of sun and land.
"As a result, target markets include border manufacturing and logistics, aerospace, food processing and renewable energy," Lopez continues. "Building a business proposition around these anchors allows us to compete for business based on infrastructure and assets.”
Few areas can boast the strong core of economic development partners that share such aligned interests. In the last 18 months, industry has committed thousands of new jobs and capital investments approaching $1 billion.
"We are one of the largest international border communities in the world,” says Bob Cook, president of the El Paso Regional Economic Development Corporation, noting the region’s metropolitan population of 3 million. “We have a very manufacturing-oriented economy, with more than 225,000 people employed in the manufacturing sector, making us one of the top 10 manufacturing centers in North America.”
Borderplex Powers Local Economy
Automotive and high-tech manufacturing in the Borderplex power the local economy, and production and employment at Juarez maquiladoras and their El Paso suppliers are on the rise. Production sharing across the border is an attractive option for global companies, like Delphi, Lear and Bosch, that want to maximize labor and profit, and more opportunities are being created. U.S. merchandise exports passing through El Paso ports last year totaled $29.2 billion.
In 2011, El Paso and Juarez officials signed a letter of intent with Freight Shuttle Partners to build the world’s first monorail for shipping cargo across an international border. The project will encompass an estimated 15-mile stretch of bi-directional “guideway,” elevated 16 to 20 feet above existing roadways, and connecting secure customs facilities in both El Paso and Juarez. The project will be financed by the private sector, minimally costing an estimated $140 million.
The labor market is young and educated, with a high percentage of bilingual workers, and the region consistently appears on coveted Top 10 lists, ranging from the nation's safest large city (El Paso) to Best Performing Cities (Las Cruces). El Paso also topped Newsweek’s list of Can-Do Capitals, and was one of four U.S. communities presented with the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement by the EPA in 2011.