Pharr EDC resurrects plans to create a new Foreign Trade Zone

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PHARR, TEXAS – Pharr Economic Development Corporation and Hidalgo County are working to bring a new foreign trade zone to the Rio Grande Valley.

There are currently two FTZs in the RGV, one in McAllen and the other at the Port of Brownsville. The one in McAllen is nearly full.

Pharr EDC President Victor Perez said he and his team are resurrecting a plan that was first discussed back in 2015. At the time, McAllen EDC was opposed to the idea.

“This was started years back, I think before COVID. The cities of Weslaco, Donna, Edinburg and Pharr had talked about it. Now, with all the new business we are seeing at the Pharr International Bridge, we feel it is time to resurrect those talks,” Perez said.

Foreign-Trade Zones (FTZ) are secure areas under U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) supervision that are generally considered outside CBP territory upon activation. Located in or near CBP ports of entry, they are the United States’ version of what are known internationally as free-trade zones.

“A new foreign trade zone is very much needed because we see all the growth that’s coming. Some of these companies are looking for incentives and they’re looking for tax breaks that they can apply to their investments,” Perez said.

“So, I met with the judge’s office, one representative from the judge’s office, last week. And we’re going to start hopefully moving on this very soon. I think we just need the judge’s signature. I think it is something he’s looking at. But once we do it, we’re going to announce it.”

The Hidalgo County judge is Richard Cortez.

Perez said he did not know at this stage how many acres the FTZ would cover or whether it would be located entirely within Pharr’s city limits or extra-territorial jurisdiction.

“The first step is, we need to sign the agreement. Once we do that, then we can work out the all the details,” Perez said.

“This is not just a City of Pharr project. We are talking with Donna and Weslaco and Edinburg. And the County. It will be a regional project.”

Juan Gonzalez

The official within Hidalgo County that Perez met with was Juan Gonzalez, the county’s economic development director. Gonzalez confirmed discussions about a new FTZ were taking place.

“The project has been dormant for a while, but we’ve finally started to talk so we can revamp it and see what we can do. And, of course, the glue is going to be the county judge wanting to do this, to bring several communities together so they can have a foreign trade zone,” Gonzalez said.

Asked if the FTZ requires the approval of the federal government, Gonzalez said: “Yes, it does. It has to get clearance from Homeland Security for the obvious reasons.”

Asked if he knows how big the FTZ will be, Gonzalez said: “We don’t know yet. But I know that Victor had mentioned they have land that they could probably use. We’re at the early stages. We’re just talking about it and working towards that. We really don’t have the specifics yet. But hopefully, in the near future, we will have more specifics on it.”

Asked which communities will be helping to make the new FTZ a reality, Gonzalez said: “Initially, when they got this started, Pharr had spoken with Weslaco, Donna, Edinburg. Maybe even Sun Juan and Alamo.”

Asked if Hidalgo County or Pharr had given themselves a timeframe, Gonzalez said: “No, it’s very early days at the moment. Once we know the specifics of who’s going to get involved, we will have a better idea.”

Gonzalez added: “Judge Cortez is looking forward to working with the communities to bring more economic development to our county. The important thing is for our communities to work together as a unit. The idea of starting a new foreign trade zone is to bring more jobs, bring more investment to our county.”

Editor’s Note: Click here to read about McAllen Foreign Trade Zone’s 50th Anniversary in 2020.

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