Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), economic growth and industrial expansion have made the border region one of the most attractive areas in the country, a group of panelists concurred Thursday, Aug. 23, during the U.S.-Mexico Border Summit at The University of Texas-Pan American.
"The passage of NAFTA has allowed a lot more capital flow in the U.S.-Mexico border," said Ross DeVol, director of Regional Studies for the Milken Institute. "The region reports a significant gain in growth. It has grown twice as fast as the rest of the United States."
As a direct result of the growth and expansion, the border region has outperformed the United States in almost every major industry, including agriculture, mining, construction and manufacturing.
The panelists said entrepreneurs have also had the opportunities to expand business and create jobs for area residents.
"Whether it's in Spanish, English or Tex-Mex, the words are very clear about the opportunities this area has for entrepreneurs," said Ed Munoz, chairman of the board and president of Ticona. "We need to tranform from the maquilla phase and move to the next phase, high-premiere competition."
Mike Allen, McAllen Economic Development Corporation president, gave a personal overview of the economic impact the region has experienced in the last few years.
"Those of us living in the Rio Grande Valley have to look at what is happening in our community, what is happening with NAFTA and what is happening with industry," Allen said. "The thing I believe is most important for us is that we are in the perfect position for manufacturing industries, and we must certainly invest our efforts in high quality education and work force."
Another important aspect panelists spoke about is population growth, which has expanded dramatically on the U.S. side of the border, and even moreso on the Mexican border.
"It is all about the people, not necessarily the numbers," said Samuel Marasco, president for LandGrant Development in San Diego. "We are all custodians for the next generations, and we are laying the foundation for a better place to live."