Whatever is good for Del Rio is good for Acuna, and whatever is good for Acuna is good for Del Rio.
That is the unofficial slogan highlighting the economic relationship between Del Rio and Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, with leaders from both cities working together to create a better business environment. Ryan Rapelye, assistant city manager for Del Rio, says the mayors of both cities cooperate with each other, and nearly 3,000 Del Rio residents cross the international bridge each day to work in Acuna.
“Much manufacturing is done in Acuna, with about 50 maquilas (company factories) doing thriving businesses,” Rapelye says. “In fact, many companies operate a twin plant model, with most of the manufacturing occurring in Acuna while management and shipping facilities are in Del Rio.”
Companies operating maquilas include Alcoa (aerospace and auto parts), Bendix (brake and hydraulic parts), Caterpillar (mining vehicles), Kimberly Clark (household products), Toter Inc. (waste receptacles) and W.E.T Automotive (seat heaters).
“Acuna is the fastest growing city in Mexico, and their expanding economy greatly affects Del Rio,” Rapelye says. “For example, a Japanese company named Higucci Manufacturing is building an auto parts plant in Acuna and will ship from Del Rio, and Higucci officials are so impressed with this region that they’ve told another Japanese company about us, and that company is close to settling in Del Rio.”
A Second International Bridge
Del Rio and Acuna officials are also backing an effort to get a second international bridge constructed over the Rio Grande River to connect both cities. The current existing bridge was built 20 years ago and passes through downtown Acuna, which wasn’t meant to handle the heavy truck traffic that exists today.
“Besides a second international bridge, we are in meetings with Union Pacific railroad to see if we can develop a rail spur in Del Rio because the maquilas have a growing need to ship products by rail,” says Silvia Owens, chairperson of the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce's Economic Development Task Force. “Plans are also to eventually span a rail bridge over the river alongside the second international bridge, but that's in the long term. Short term, we hope the Union Pacific rail spur will occur within the next couple of years.”
Field of Dreams
Besides providing jobs, Del Rio-Acuna companies are adding to the quality of life, with Alcoa being a good example. Alcoa provides grants and foundations for the upgrade of Acuna schools and medical facilities, and the company has begun a project to construct a sports practice facility in the north part of Del Rio.
“I had a vision in 2013 to build a facility with all practice fields. We already have good facilities in Del Rio for games, but need practice sites,” says Ken Smith, general manager for Alcoa Del Rio-Acuna. “So we've started a Del Rio Field of Dreams project for little league practice fields as well as soccer, softball and football. It’s all about being good citizens and corporate partners, which is what life in Del Rio-Acuna is all about.”