Pharr bridge helps educate next trade generation

PHARR — Students from South Texas College and Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas in Reynosa interested in joining the trade industry drove to the Pharr Development and Research Center on Thursday.

In order to do that, one student asked, what classes should they be taking, and what should they be looking for to get jobs in the trade world?

“The thing is just to pay attention to what companies seem to be growing in your communities,” said Ken Roberts, a trade analyst who works with the Pharr bridge and who is on the Federal Reserve’s trade and transportation advisory board. “Anything automotive, produce is going to be good for many years to come. Anything medical. And, again, it doesn’t have to be directly in that field. You could become a lawyer and do Customs work. You could work for Customs and Border Protection.”

Roberts was in town from his home in South Florida to speak on Thursday to the students and to stakeholders in the trade industry in south Pharr, just a few miles from the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, the largest produce port of entry in the country, where hundreds of commercial trucks carrying fruits and vegetables from Mexico cross into the United States through Pharr every day.

To that end, more than $65 million worth of trade crosses the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge daily. With the large volume of trade crossing through the port, the bridge has hired Roberts to analyze the numbers.

“What makes Pharr unique with Freddy and Luis and his whole team there,” Roberts said of Freddy Flores and Luis Bazan of the Pharr bridge. “Every year, they’re coming to me with new ideas.”

For their part, the first analysis put together in both English and Spanish was done for the Pharr bridge, Roberts said, which he has now been spun off with other clients.

Despite the bridge’s focus on produce, there is another top import. Televisions and computer monitors were the top imports over the last year, totaling $2.7 billion, Roberts analysis found. There was $1.3 billion in produce imports that crossed through Pharr, and $1.1 billion in insulated wires and cables.

Possibly, Roberts said, the students in attendance could be the next generation to help facilitate all of that trade.

“There are many, many jobs in trade,” Roberts said. “You just got to find out what you like.”