Business View Magazine November-December 2018

114 115 THE MCALLEN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT 21 jet, and 13 helicopter. The McAllen International Airport is the busiest airport in the Rio Grande Valley and among the top ten busiest commercial airports in Texas. Its commercial airlines include Aeromar, with flights to Mexico City; Allegiant Air, with flights to Las Vegas and seasonal flights to Los Angeles and Orlando; American Airlines, with flights to Dal- las/Ft.Worth; and United Airlines, with flights to Houston Intercontinental. Its cargo airlines in- clude United Airlines Cargo, with flights to Hous- ton; and UPS, with flights to Little Rock, Arkansas and Louisville, Kentucky. The Airport receives approximately $6 million in annual revenue, and contributes approximately $250 million worth of economic activity to the region. Recently, Business View Magazine spoke with McAllen’s Director of Aviation, Liz Suarez, and Customer Service Coordinator, Gerry Rodriguez. The following is an edited transcript of that con- versation. BVM: Can you speak a little about the Airport’s history and its importance to the City of McAllen? Suarez: “The Airport has been around since the late 1930s, primarily serving what was original- ly a strong agricultural area. There were some longstanding families in this area that contribut- ed the land on which the Airport was developed. So, from the very get-go, there’s been a group of visionary families that have pushed aviation growth in our community. Its original focus was on small, general aviation. In the late 1960s, there was the introduction of some commercial service through our Airport. It’s still really instrumental in how our city continues to develop–the role that we have in our region, from an economic standpoint. “Within our city limits, we have a population of about 138,000; our county population is 860,661. But within a 60-mile radius, from McAllen down to Brownsville, at the very southern tip of Texas, we’ve got a little over 1.3 million people.When you consider that across the border, in Mexico, we’ve got two large sister cities – adjacent to McAllen is Reynosa, and adjacent to Brownsville is Matamoros - you can say that our region has a population closer to 2.7 million. Airports have been crucial to how our cities developed and which cities are the leading economic centers, and McAllen Airport has helped make McAllen one of the strong economic centers in our region. “In small communities like ours, connectivity is crucial. Our Interstate system access is limited, so airports are of the utmost importance. The prox- imity that we have to northern Mexico and the proximity that we have to other small cities that surround us, help to identify this Airport as key to the economic development in our area.We’re only nine miles away from Reynosa, Mexico, which means that there’s a lot of international business and also a lot of international general aviation passengers – they account for about 20 percent of our total general aviation operations. So, that continues to grow, as well. BVM: How does McAllen compete with other airports in the region? Suarez: “Within the 60-mile stretch, we have three Part 139 airports. In addition, there are a few other GA airports. But our main competitors are the commercial airports. Some of the things that set McAllen Airport apart are its central location in the region, where it serves as the geographic center in the Rio Grande Valley, its location in the more populated county, and its proximity to Northern Mexico. The McAllen/ Reynosa area has become a key industrial area with over 600 manufacturing companies, also known as maquiladoras. A strong population density, strong industrial growth, along with our close proximity to key Mexico economic centers like Monterrey, Mexico, have provided key busi-