People who know the real Rio Grande Valley, such as Winter Texans, Spring Breakers and others who have visited the area, keep coming back, and for good reason. They know the reality of the area: fair climate, low crime, low cost of living, natural wonders that might not be found elsewhere, and friendly residents make for a positive experience.
Those who only know the area through news reports, however, might be convinced to stay away.
This makes it important for local civic, business and educational entities to make a concerted effort to get the word out about this area.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle frequently come to use the Valley as a backdrop for their statements regarding border security, immigration and social programs. To make their point, they exaggerate or focus on specific issues that have the effect of casting a negative light on the area.
Conservatives describe a region that’s overrun by lawless illegal aliens coming to steal Americans’ jobs and social services. Some suggest it’s a military zone teeming with armed troops facing constant human encroachment and drug smugglers, all in the shadow of violent drug cartels that could invade the area at any moment. Liberals highlight the detained migrants enduring harsh conditions and the high-poverty neighborhoods in the cities surrounding them.
Nuggets of truth exist on those portrayals, but they are small parts of the region and should not define it. Such skewed images help push the story they’re trying to sell.
We have to do a better job of selling the area.
Negative portrayals can hurt the Valley if they convince people this isn’t a good place to live or do business. And they often overshadow more positive news. For example, Expetise.com recently issued a report that ranks Brownsville as one of the safest mid-sized cities in the country. Both Brownsville and McAllen are listed in the top 10 of the nation’s most-affordable cities as determined by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. Harlingen also frequently ranks high on several affordability lists.
Travel agencies routinely list South Padre Island high among the world’s best beach destinations, and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley also is listed as one of the country’s best values for higher education.
Our area’s renown for accomplishments in the cerebral realm of chess is global. UTRGV has dominated collegiate tournament competition, and its reputation has reached the far reaches of the globe. Russia has long prided itself as the home of chess champions, and many of the country’s next generation of potential chess masters have come to our university to develop their skills.
Basic necessities and services are of utmost importance in any area. In the Rio Grande Valley, however, an investment in promoting the area, whether by an individual city, county or college or a regional effort by economic development groups, could help counter the negative descriptions and pay off in better attention to the area that could convince more business investment in the area.
The Rio Grande Valley has a great story to tell. We just need more people to tell it.