Future projects like the reconstruction of Frontera Lane, advertising for American Airlines and a new master plan for development were among the topics discussed by members of the city council and the city’s economic development corporation during a recent joint meeting.
After discussing the proposed expansion of commercial lanes between the international bridge and the Del Rio Port of Entry, Economic Development Corporation Chair Leonel Martinez said another project the Economic Development Corporation is considering supporting is the reconstruction of Garza/Frontera Lane.
“This is an area that houses a lot of warehouses for the maquilas and a lot of the local freight companies,” Martinez said.
Martinez said the project would be coordinated between the city, the county and the Economic Development Corporation.
“The county has bid this project and it came in way over their funding, the bid was $7,427,000 ... The funds that are available from TxDOT, there’s $3,151,000, and the county has budgeted $1,232,000. That’s $4,659,000 against a $7 million bid, so they’re way short,” Economic Development Corporation vice chair Jerry Simpton said.
“The dilemma they’re going to have if they can’t get this done is that that road is going to become impassable and then (vehicles) are going to have to circle up into the city limits and go back up Leo Martinez Road to go into the Industrial Park, so the city is going to be impacted in some fashion if the county can’t get this done,” he added.
“Maybe they should have started doing something out there and not letting it get to the point where it’s at,” Councilwoman Diana Bejarano Salgado said.
Simpton said the Economic Development Corporation is proposing to allocate $300,000 to the road reconstruction project.
“I think it’s a moot point, because it sounds like they’re not even going to come close,” Councilman Jim De Reus said.
Salgado said her priority was taking care of projects inside the city limits before contributing to projects in the county.
Economic Development Corporation member Mark Brown expressed similar concerns and wondered aloud if the city would see a return on the Economic Development Corporation’s investment.
Simpton pointed out each of the commercial trucks crossing the bridge and moving between the Industrial Park and the maquilas in Ciudad Acuña pays $18-$20 to cross the international bridge, money that goes directly into city coffers.
“If you want to see a direct return, the city gets it,” Simpton said.
The Economic Development Corporation also discussed funding advertising for American Airlines.
“We think it’s beneficial to the community to keep the airline going, and in our discussion, we talked about in the 2019-2020 budget year, putting $100,000 towards advertisement for that effort,” Martinez said.
Salgado said she hopes “at some point very soon” the airline can make it on its own.
De Reus pointed out the airline itself estimated it would take about 18 months “to reach profitability.”
“I am hopeful, and we’ll see what the holidays do,” he said.
Another project discussed was jointly funding with the county a new master plan to create infrastructure growth for city expansion.
“The county and the city have no plans for economic growth on the edges of the city,” Simpton said, adding the last round of city planning was done in 2004.
Another item discussed was the creation of a new Del Rio industrial park and extension of the runways at the city airport.
Near the end of the meeting, Mayor Bruno “Ralphy” Lozano asked Economic Development Corporation members to think creatively about projects that would bring new jobs to Del Rio.
“I’m trying to think of innovative ways that we can create jobs and how can the economic development corporation assist the city council to be that olive branch of creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship here in our community? That’s kind of what I’d like to see us move as a body,” Lozano asked.
Further, the mayor asked, “What entrepreneur, in Del Rio or in Ciudad Acuña, can we support to establish their footprint here in Del Rio? ... There is so much opportunity out there. I just don’t want us to cut ourselves short.”
Martinez agreed the Economic Development Corporation has not yet had that first company looking for incentive assistance.