Pharr, Texas, plans to build a produce park to accommodate increased business generated by new warehouses set up by Nogales, Ariz.-based shippers.

In early November, Jimmy Garza, director of operations for Pharr-based Bebo Distributing Inc. and a city of Pharr commissioner, said bidding should take place within a month or so and construction could start by the end of the year.

Engineering was about done, he said. Construction should take about six months, and the facility should be operational by next season.

The site encompasses about 90 acres and will be broken into about 27 lots of 2-3 acres apiece.

Cost of developing land is skyrocketing, so the city took the initiative to start the project rather than wait for a private developer so that the facility will be in place as the new Durango-Mazatlan highway becomes fully functional, he said.

“If we were reactive rather than proactive, it would have taken longer to get it in place,” Garza said.

“The city’s main concern was to have it up when this (highway) opens out of Mexico so that we’ll be in the forefront.”

The city also is banking on southbound traffic.

With new warehouses and infrastructure in place near the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, the likelihood of the empty trucks crossing back into Mexico over the bridge is very high, he said. That means the city will benefit from the added tolls.

If the city loses the Nogales companies, and they build warehouses around another bridge east or west of Pharr, the city would lose out on significant revenue from tolls.

“(The Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge) is a big revenue generator for us,” Garza said.

“We wanted to make sure that it stays viable.”

Two other bridges have been built in the region, but they will not be commercially operational until 2015, he said.

“2015 is right around the corner, and we wanted to make sure we have enough infrastructure in place to accommodate these folks out of Nogales,” Garza said.

The new produce park could generate 300-400 jobs, he said. More trucks would be buying fuel in the area.

“It will spur the economy of south Texas,” Garza said.

Garza thinks the new highway will help make Texas a viable shipping point once again as Northern buyers who used to source from Florida, Arizona or California look to Texas for their produce.

“Now Texas will have a lot more (vegetables) in the winter, and you combine that with the Texas citrus deal and the lemons and limes out of Mexico, and you kind of have a full range of commodities available in south Texas,” he said.

The location is appealing, as well.

“It’s right, smack in the middle of the country,” Garza said. “It’s a viable shipping point. It was just a matter of pulling some of that west Mexico veg into the area.”