Economic Growth


Business at the Port of Brownsville is booming, so the Valley’s regional economy is also doing well.

Most of the more than 5,000 employees who work at the port are from the Rio Grande Valley, but it’s also fair to say that more people are coming to work there from areas outside the Valley.

Eduardo Campirano, director and CEO at the Port of Brownsville, said many new jobs have to do with larger projects requiring a different skill set.

Regardless, Campirano says there’s plenty of reason to optimistic about all the great things happening at the Port due in part to projects that are taking place–or soon will be.

“There’s going to be plenty to go around,” Campirano said. “What we are excited about is creating employment opportunities here at the port for the region. There will be jobs from outside the region. Still, I think everyone employer will tell you they would rather have local employees.”

So, which projects are spurring economic growth at the port?

Campirano said there are several in various phases, and many of those jobs right now are related to construction, such as the Rio Grande LNG project.

“The construction of this project isn’t going to be a short period of time and runs the gamut of about seven to eight years,” Campirano said.

The Rio Grande LNG Project is being spearheaded by NextDecade, an organization that is committed to creating clean energy solutions and reducing CO2 emissions. The Bechtel Corporation, which has worked on numerous other LNG projects in Texas and the world, is contracting to build Trains 1 and 2 of the Rio Grande LNG project.

Campirano said this project will have a minimum of 5,000 workers on site when the construction commences within the next 18 to 24 months.

According to NextDecade, the Rio Grande LNG will be capable of producing 27 million metric tonnes of low-carbon-intensive LNG for export to markets worldwide when it is finally completed and in operation.

“A project like this coming into South Texas is a great benefit to our community,” said Cleda Hernandez, Vice Chancellor and Chief External Relations Officer at Texas State Technical College. “This is just a great collaboration and a great benefit for South Texas.”

Other projects are also underway at the port.

On May 2, Mexico-based Forza Steel announced its investment of $60 million to build a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at the port.

The new 650,000-square-foot facility, located along State Highway 48, will manufacture steel pipes and tubes for the automotive, construction, and oil and gas industries.

“The Port of Brownsville is the perfect location for Forza Steel’s entry into the American market. The location from Monterrey to Brownsville is ideal,” Isidro Cantu, general manager for Forza Steel USA, said in a press release. “Forza Steel is very excited to be part of the Brownsville community and grow.”

Of course, the most valuable asset of any port is its depth. According to the port’s webpage, it plans to deepen the Brazos Inland Harbor Channel from 42 feet to 52 feet.

Deepening the channel enables larger ships to enter the port, which in the long run, helps to reduce shipping costs.

The port has been working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is projected to cost over $300 million, with dredging completed by 2026.

“This is a project that has been in the works a long time,” Campirano said. “Deepening channels is not easy — we are actually in the initial phase of that and have entered into a contract for the earthwork. This is a significant project. It’s a big deal, and we are very happy. This is very important to sustaining the future growth of the port.”

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Bryan Kirk