Economics in Del Rio, TX

By John McBryde on April 30, 2013 at 10:00 am EST
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It’s been called a well-kept secret, but the burgeoning partnership between Del Rio and the Mexican city of Acuña is getting increased attention as more and more companies and manufacturers learn of its advantages.

And its advantages are plentiful, according to Al Arreola Jr., executive director of the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce.

“Our history shows that we were ahead of the curve when it came down to creating a business-friendly environment for manufacturing on the border,” Arreola says. “Looking to the future, especially as it relates to the exponential growth of manufacturing in Mexico, we have set ourselves up for continued success along our immediate corridor.”

‘Simple’ Border Crossings

Some 56 companies from the U.S. have established manufacturing plants in Ciudad Acuña through the years, particularly since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Many are high-profile, including Alcoa, Oster, General Electric, Bridgestone/Firestone and San Antonio Shoe Co. Recent additions are Caterpillar, which is opening a plant in Acuña that will add 1,500 jobs; and Emerson, which produces polymer storage and technology products sold under the Metro brand.

Among the factors that make Del Rio’s connection to Acuña so attractive are short border crossing times, strong work ethic, a minimum of union activity, cheaper labor costs, and the ability to use U.S. trucks and drivers to deliver to Mexican facilities.

“The nice thing about Acuña is that they are isolated from most of the main traffic going across the border, so border crossing activities are very simple,” says Ken Smith, who lives in Del Rio and oversees Mexican operations for Alcoa. “I can have a truck leave my dock from Acuña and have it at the dock in Del Rio in about two hours. That’s a major advantage to any other port of entry, where you’re talking five to eight hours to cross the border.

“The work ethic in Acuña is also solid,” he adds. “Turnover (at the Alcoa plant there) is about two percent, which is phenomenal compared to other Mexican operations and even good compared to Alcoa operations in the U.S.” 

Key Components

Amistad Industrial Developers began as an idea, and by 1978 it had taken form and become operational in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila. Now, less than 30 years later, the company has constructed more than 15 million square feet of industrial space for a client family that includes over 100 world class companies who have generated, both directly and indirectly, a total of 255,000 jobs.

Mexico's manufacturing industry has changed during that time and Amistad has changed, accordingly. Amistad has grown to enjoy a presence throughout much of Mexico and is poised for futher expansion, nationally and internationally.

The chamber’s Arreola says another main component for Del Rio’s relevance in the global marketplace is the Ports-to-Plains Alliance, which involves officials from nine states along a 2,300-mile corridor from Del Rio to Alberta, Canada. The project includes State Loop 79 around Del Rio, and there are notable improvements on the Mexican infrastructure from the sea ports to and through Acuña.

Find more on Del Rio, TX's economy.

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Dr. Carolyn Boyd, executive director of the Shumla School