Infrastructure is in place and concrete roads were being built this fall at the new Pharr, Texas, produce park, said city commissioner Jimmy Garza, who also is director of operations for Pharr-based Bebo Distributing Inc.
“It’s moving forward,” Garza said, estimating the 90-acre project could be completed early next year.
The city committed to the produce park to help accommodate increased business generated by Nogales, Ariz.-based distributors that are opening branches in South Texas.
The city wanted to make sure the new businesses have a place to build their own warehouses, cold storage rooms, cross docks and other facilities, Garza said.
If the city had not acted in time, and Nogales firms went elsewhere to build their Texas warehouses, the city would lose out on significant revenue, Garza said.
Once the Durango-Mazatlan highway is fully operational, it’s expected that some product previously unloaded in Nogales will instead be dropped off in Pharr, which is closer to East Coast destinations.
Target date for completion originally was late this year, but weather delays pushed the opening into next year.
The Pharr produce park will be comprised of about 27 2- to 3-acre lots, many of which already have been spoken for, Garza said.
“Definitely, there’s a big demand,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of companies looking into setting up shop here in Pharr.”
The city proactively commissioned the project rather than wait for a private developer to step in to lock in a price before land costs go even higher and to ensure that the facility is in place when the new highway becomes fully functional.
The city also wanted to provide a facility close to the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, which is one of the most important points of entries for produce from Mexico, Garza said.
The park is about a half mile from the bridge.
“That’s the strategy behind (the park),” he said. “It’s right next to our bridge.”
The city also hopes to pick up revenue by collecting tolls on empty southbound trucks returning to Mexico.
Including land acquisition and infrastructure, the park cost about $11 million, Garza said.
After checking out several other possible sites, Joaquin Spamer, owner of Ci Logistics in Mexico City and several South Texas locations, chose the Pharr produce park to build a 60,000-square-foot warehouse.
“We decided that the city that offered the best deal and that was really catering to companies like mine was the city of Pharr,” Spamer said.
Pharr city officials are easy to reach, and they understand the produce industry, he said.
He also was impressed with the “overweight corridor” for trucks.
The state legislature has designated a corridor that connects the bridge to various warehouse sites and allows trucks to cross that weigh in excess of the 80,000-pound weight limit if they pay a fee of up to $80.
“That’s been a big plus,” Garza said. “It’s an added incentive for Mexican trucks to cross at our port of entry.”
There are two other bridges in the region, however, they are not yet commercially operational, Garza said.
But the city isn’t worried about the competition.
“If there’s an increase in traffic, there will be enough revenue to go around for all the bridges,” he said.
With the slow pace of federal funding coming for those projects and with needed infrastructure still to be built, 2015 is the earliest date the other bridges will be commercially operational, he said.
The regional economy also should get a boost from the 300 to 400 jobs the produce park project is expected to generate and from fuel purchases for additional trucks, Garza said.