The Rio Grande Valley’s economic fortunes have always been tied to Mexico, and it’s never been more true than now: For better or worse, the Valley probably stands to gain economically from the disintegration of order and security south of the border.
Violence in Mexico has already driven many Mexican nationals to open businesses in Brownsville or elsewhere around the Valley. Many more would like to follow suit but don’t understand all the rules and requirements, said Jose Luis Garcia, an agent for BizMatch Inc., a Corpus Christi-based brokerage firm that helps Mexican nationals find business opportunities in the United States.
A free public seminar scheduled for April 4, on South Padre Island is designed to make potential investors from Mexico aware of important issues that should be considered in deciding whether to invest on this side of the border, said Garcia, who is also an attorney in Mexico and one of the seminar’s scheduled panelists.
"You could be someone who knows how to do business in Mexico, but when you come here you’re dealing with a different type of structure," he said.
While the Valley has long been a destination for well-heeled Mexican nationals who come to do business, shop, visit family or vacation, now it’s a refuge as well in the literal sense of the word, Garcia said.
"Here there’s an opportunity for this area to bring from Mexico a different kind of immigration," he said. "They’re coming here to look for a second opportunity."
Also on the seminar panel will be Ramona Kantack Alcantara, a board-certified commercial and residential real estate lawyer, and Gregg McCumber, a certified public account and managing partner of Burton, McCumber & Cortez, a CPA firm with offices on both sides of the border. McCumber will address tax, accounting and other financial aspects of foreign investment in the United States.
Heather Moretzsohn and Debra Rodriguez of Rodriguez & Moretzsohn, a law firm specializing in immigration issues, will discuss the various types of visas available to investors. Also on the panel will be Jose R. Velez, an international financial advisor with Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management.
Garcia said the reason for bringing in experts from so many fields is so attendees will get the whole picture when it comes to investing. Easing the way for Mexican nationals to invest in Brownsville, South Padre Island, Harlingen, McAllen and elsewhere around the Valley can only benefit the regional economy, he said.
"Investment coming here will create jobs here in this region," Garcia said.
McAllen has historically been the main U.S. entry point for business travelers from Monterrey and Saltillo. But the route has become dangerous and as a result less feasible. Garcia said the safer option now is to fly into Brownsville — possible since AeroMexico inaugurated Brownsville-Monterrey non-stop passenger service last July. AeroMexico service helps make the Valley a logical place to invest, he said.
"For the first time we have a flight that’s coming from Monterrey through AeroMexico," Garcia said. "This is a classic game-changer. The reason why a lot of Mexican nationals went to San Antonio or went to Houston was because it was easy to commute from Monterrey. These days safety is the number one concern."
The Port of Brownsville is also a plus in terms of attracting investment to the area, he said. Another development with a potentially huge impact is an agreement signed Feb. 20 by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mexican foreign minister Patricia Espinosa in Los Cabos, Mexico.
The agreement essentially removes the moratorium on offshore oil exploration and production in the "Western Gap," a part of the Gulf that straddles Mexico and the United States. The agreement’s legal framework makes it possible, for the first time, for U.S. energy companies to work together with Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, in developing oil and gas resources.
The upshot is that Brownsville could find itself servicing the oil and gas exploration and production industry, Garcia said. The Western Gap is roughly the size of Delaware.
"This region is going to become an oil and gas corridor," he said. "The window of opportunity is opening."
Free Investment Seminar for Mexican Nationals
—Wednesday, April 4, 9 a.m. to noon
—South Padre Island Birding Center auditorium, 6801 Padre Island Blvd.
—No registration necessary
—For more information call (956) 755-9445 or (956) 943-5100, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.