Weslaco often touts itself as a strategic mid-point in the Rio Grande Valley. Here, goods and services can move quickly and efficiently to all points in the region.
The marketing pitch rang true to Robinson Fresh, one of the largest produce companies nationally. It is making a move to utilize a 46,000-square-foot facility at the Mid-Valley Industrial Park which will serve as a storage and distribution point for fresh produce coming from Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador and other Latin American countries.
For Weslaco, landing such a major client represents a major step forward in the city becoming more of a player in the cold storage industry. Its presence in Weslaco may be modest at this point. Robinson Fresh is the third fresh product tenant at the industrial park but city officials see more on the way.
Coming Bridge Improvements Spark Hopes
The Progreso International Bridge is making modifications at its port of entry to its customs capabilities. Leadership in Weslaco hopes this will lead to others following the path of Robinson Fresh to the city’s industrial park.
“The biggest issue is distance from the border,” said Steven Valdez, the interim executive director of the Weslaco Economic Development Corporation, in noting the city’s approximate 10-mile distance to the Progreso bridge. “We have quick access to the expressway, so given that and what will happen in Progreso, we hope to become an alternative to other locations.”
At a recent event announcing Robinson Fresh’s move, Terry Finch, the company’s operations manager for South Texas, highlighted the fresh produce products making their way through Weslaco en route to H-E-B, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Whole Foods and other major grocers. Products include limes, pineapples, mango, papayas, green bananas and avocados. Robinson Fresh promotes its 45-minute load-and-unload times for truckers moving its fresh produce items. It’s estimated that on a daily basis, an average of 65 truckloads of produce will leave the cold storage warehouse.
Connecting Businesses & Partnerships
One of the city’s biggest boosters is Joaquin Spamer, the president of Commodities Integrated Logistics. CiL’s companies run significant cotton warehousing and distribution operations at the Weslaco industrial park.
Spamer’s company is partnering with Robinson Fresh in both the packing and logistics of moving the loads of fresh produce arriving from Latin America. He sees Robinson Fresh’s move to Weslaco as another indication of the Mid-Valley city’s favorable image among businesses and entrepreneurs.
“Why are we choosing Weslaco?” Spamer asked at the recent event. “It has proven time and time again that it’s a great place to do business. With what will happen at the Progreso bridge, it’s going to make a lot of sense to cross and ship your produce from Weslaco.”
Juan “JJ” Serrano Jr., a Weslaco EDC board member, knows well the need to quickly and efficiently move fresh produce. Serrano also directs H-E-B.’s retail support center in Weslaco, which stocks all of the company’s Valley and Laredo stores.
“This is really going to increase our footprint in the farm to table and cold storage industry,” Serrano said of Robinson Fresh’s move to Weslaco. “It says a lot that we’re able to attract a company of their stature in the industry to our city.”
The company’s cold storage warehouse in Weslaco created 60 new jobs. Valdez, the EDC’s interim executive director, had more news at the recent event. The city is growing its industrial park. Even before its expansion is complete, the EDC already has five letters of intent for new tenants.