PHARR — The future of Pharr is bright, Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez declared Thursday, as exhibited by the Pharr-branded sunglasses left at every seat in the audience at Pharr’s annual State of the City address.
There were reasons the future is bright, Hernandez said: The city’s economy is strong, cross-border trade is booming at the bridge, more parks and buildings have opened and transportation has expanded throughout Pharr.
And on the same day the Senate overwhelmingly approved the revised NAFTA, called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Hernandez touted the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge’s bustling commercial traffic: “In 2019, trade in Pharr exceeded $35 billion,” he said, adding: “We have grown by $1 billion in trade every year.”
Perhaps most proudly, Hernandez praised the three South Texas metropolitan planning organizations merging in 2019 to form the Rio Grande Valley MPO, of which Hernandez is the inaugural chairman: “Both Pharr and the entire Rio Grande Valley will definitely have a seat at the table when it comes to transportation planning and funding,” he said.
Pharr’s fourth State of the City address was emceed by actor Valente Rodriguez, who now lives in Los Angeles but is from South Texas. Rodriguez encouraged the audience to widely push out Thursday’s report on the city on social media and through a special Snapchat filter that featured sunglasses and the city’s logo.
The event, held at the Pharr Event Center, had around 1,000 attendees and featured produce from several sponsors that those in attendance were free to snag. Hernandez said the city’s international bridge is the No. 1 produce port of entry in the country, with a majority of produce that crosses from Mexico to the United States going through the Pharr bridge.
On hand at the address were officials from across the region, including local and state officeholders, government employees and others. Hernandez, wearing a suit and tie as opposed to his day-to-day attire of scrubs, sought to update them all.
“I’m happy to report that the state of the city of Pharr is the best it’s ever been and it’s only getting better,” Hernandez said.
He began with the economy, touting $1 billion in total sales last year, which Hernandez said was approximately a $140 million increase from the year before.
“To our governor, our federal, state and local leaders, on behalf of the city of Pharr and its residents: You’re welcome,” Hernandez said.
He added that the unemployment rate sits at 6.2%; the statewide unemployment rate is 3.4%.
In hopes of expanding jobs, Hernandez in his address announced that the vacuum cleaner company Bissell, which has operated in South Texas for 20 years, would be relocating its manufacturing operations to Pharr, which Hernandez said was a $50 million investment in the city.
The company has easy access, if need be, to the city’s bridge, which continues to grow its truck traffic.
“In Pharr, we don’t just strategize,” he said of the bridge. “We execute.”