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Valley firms say location gives big advantage

Improved and expanded infrastructure is just one of the many reasons cited by companies for doing business in the Rio Grande Valley. Not surprisingly, location is often touted as the biggest advantage.

From Rio Grande City to Brownsville, most produce companies agree that a having a presence in the Valley isn’t just a perk, it’s a must.

“It’s all about location, location, location for importers and packing houses,” said Cindy Schwing, senior marketing and business development manager for Pharr-based London Fruit, Inc. “We’re just a mile from the Pharr Bridge, and that makes us very accessible for truckers.”

The company, which imports mangoes, avocados, and limes as well as fruits, is headquartered in a 45,000-square-foot facility that has enough cold storage to accommodate daily deliveries. In addition, there is a large area for trucks to drive in and easily load and unload product. “Sometimes we sell to other shippers when they’re short on something,” Schwing said. “And being located in the Valley shows that you’re international.”

Yasmani Garcia, director of sales at Sweet Seasons, LLC in McAllen, agrees that being right on the border where loads cross back and forth every day offers a geographical advantage.

“Some people would argue that Nogales is also on the border, but I think the Texas border is where you want to be,” he said. “McAllen is a small city, but everybody seems to know about it.”

The reason McAllen is literally and figuratively on the map for dealing in perishables is all about freshness. “Distance makes a difference.”

Sweet Seasons, which imports and distributes peppers, dragon fruit, other tropical fruits, and vegetables from areas like Puebla, Veracruz, Chihuahua, and Michoacán as well as Ecuador, also has branches in Los Angeles and Maryland.

Tony Incaviglia, vice president of sales and marketing for GR Fresh, also favors the Valley over a location farther west. The McAllen-based grower, distributor, and importer has been doing business throughout the area for more than three decades, although its parent company, Grupo GR, has its headquarters south of the border in the state of Coahuila.

“Logistically, we have an advantage over the West Coast, especially if we’re shipping north or east,” Incaviglia said. And this will continue to have an impact on the bottom line if transportation fees continue their upward trend.

“Whatever happens with transportation, you’re going to find that three-quarters of the country will be looking harder at McAllen,” he said, noting less expensive shipping rates than other areas, especially for loads going to Midwest or East Coast retailers.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full supplement.