BY JOHN REED, CHAIRMAN, BROWNSVILLE NAVIGATION DISTRICT
April 5th marks the fifth annual Western Hemisphere Ports Day, which recognizes the port industry’s key role in creating logistics and manufacturing jobs and propelling the economy in nations they serve across the Americas. Usually, this date marks celebrations across a number of coastlines showcasing all the great work people in our industry are doing, but we are well aware these are not normal times. Rather than stopping to celebrate, the Port of Brownsville is working hard to maintain safe and responsible essential operations. This work supports local, regional and national priorities while ensuring we continue to be an economic engine for the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), helping provide essential goods and services to power our local economy.
While the current crisis is unprecedented, challenging situations are not. Over the last several years, the Port of Brownsville has made strategic investments to diversify its cargo matrix to withstand geopolitical influences and the ebbs and flows of the global economy to best help drive growth, spur job creation and remain a strong community partner.
For example, while steel and petroleum products have been a port mainstay, we’ve also built out our business in other industries. In 2019, we grew imports and exports of dry bulk cargo, which includes aggregates, sugar, salt, sand, clay and cement by 61 percent. Since we are the only deepwater seaport on the U.S. – Mexico border, we’ve been able to secure a key role between both nations while offering an unrivaled logistics platform. We’ve also had great news supporting the energy industry. In November 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorized three liquid natural gas export facilities to move forward with an estimated investment of $38.75 billion. These projects are expected to create more than 7,000 construction jobs in the next ten years along with 600 high-paying fulltime jobs long-term.
Looking beyond our borders, we’ve also navigated several behind-the-scenes trade challenges, ranging from the closure of Mexico’s cross-border pipelines to trade wars and tariff uncertainties. While those trade challenges were fierce, the diversification of our business allowed us to set record revenue results of $25 million in Fiscal Year 2019, which empowers us to not only be a strong community partner, but allows us to reinvest in our facilities and continue generating real regional economic growth.
These actions are paying off. A 2019 economic impact study by Martin Associates – the nation’s leading maritime economist – found that the Port of Brownsville now generates $3 billion in annual economic activity, produces $201 million in annual tax revenues and supports more than 51,000 jobs across Texas, including 8,500 right here in the RGV. These results are from the collective efforts of the businesses at the port – along with the Brownsville Navigation District Commission and port staff – all focused on doing things right and doing the right things.
When the national economy regains momentum following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Port of Brownsville will remain steadfast in pursuit of our mission to be the region’s leading economic engine – spurring job creation, creating new opportunities and supporting our communities. We need each other more than ever these days, and you can count on the Port of Brownsville, the port that works.