The Laredo Chamber of Commerce is urging state and federal government representatives to relax restrictions that limit non-essential travelers from crossing the U.S./Mexico border. In letters to Congressman Henry Cuellar and U.S. senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both Chairman of the Board Parker Neel and President Miguel Conchas specifically ask their intercession in requesting the Department of Homeland Security to gradually soften the current regulations, and particularly not to extend the current deadline set for June 21.
“The retail industry in town is heavily dependent on Mexican shoppers,” states Neel. “Local businesses have been closed for over 60 days. Now they begin a recovery process, but they depend to a great extent on those visitors from Mexico as part of their market.”
“By the time June 21 rolls around, the bridges will have been closed 90 days to tourists. Another 30 days added will be devastating, not only to retailers, but to local hotels, restaurants and other venues,” adds Conchas.
In the letter to the Washington legislators, the Chamber leadership explains how retail is one of Laredo’s strongest contributors to the local economy and certainly one of the largest generators of jobs. A survey conducted by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas at El Paso in 2006 revealed that of all the Texas border communities, Laredo was the city most impacted by sales to Mexican shoppers – with 51% attributed to Mexican nationals. Conchas explains that while the trend may have shifted over the years, one thing is clear, Mexican shoppers are vitally important to Laredo’s retail industry.
Restrictions on border crossings to non-essential traffic were initially placed as an agreement between the U.S. and Mexican governments on March 21 of this year. The original plan was to institute these regulations for a 30-day period. The deadline was then extended in April and currently has been set for June 21.
The initial restriction pretty much coincided with the local mandate that required all non-essential businesses to close due to the pandemic. A large majority of local retail stores remained closed, or partially closed, up to the arrival of Governor Abbott’s Open Texas plan on May 1. A large majority of them have then gradually begun to operate, but are not yet at full capacity. Sectors of the city, such as downtown, in particular, have been more damaged by the bridge “closure” given their dependence on pedestrian traffic from the Mexican side and their proximity to the bridge
About the Chamber
Founded in 1915, the Laredo Chamber of Commerce is Laredo’s and Webb County’s longest-running business organization. Headquartered at 2310 San Bernardo Ave. since 1974, the Laredo Chamber has been an advocate for the local business community for over a century. With 650 members representative of every industry in the community, the Laredo Chamber is accredited with 5 stars by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Only 200 chambers out of 7000 across the country are accredited by this organization.