The Panama Canal Visit: An Open Eye for Future Opportunities for Our Region
By Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal
Last November, I was part of a delegation of 17 people representing the Port of Corpus Christi (Port), Coastal Bend-area governments, and the Port of San Antonio that visited the Panamá Canal to reassure the Memorandum of
Understanding signed by the Port of Corpus Christi and the Panamá Canal Authority back on Sept. 14, 2011, when a delegation from the Panamá Canal Authority, headed by its CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta, visited Corpus Christi honoring the Port’s 85th anniversary.
The visit was eye opening for all of us. During the three days in Panama, we had the opportunity to see how Panamá is developing the military bases left by the United States when the canal returned to the Panamanians on Dec. 31, 1999 – something similar to what we have in our region with the departing of the Navy from the U.S. Naval Station Ingleside. We visited two former U.S. military bases that are now larger developments related to business development, education and research. Panamá Pacifico is being developed as an international business park to attract new businesses. It is a mixed-use property with residential, and all amenities and services related to living, working, and enjoying life in one place. It also offers K-12 bilingual schools in different languages.
Ciudad del Saber, or City of Knowledge, is similar with a residential component, but focused on student education and research. The city also is attracting companies and worldwide universities to offer research programs on diverse fields such as science, technology, logistics and tourism. Florida State University, University of Virginia, and Georgia Tech have facilities inside the City of Knowledge and offer undergraduate and graduate programs fully creditable here in the United States.
The visit to the Panamá Canal expansion and the Miraflores Locks provided us with a vision of the future for our region. One of the region’s priorities should be to continue the efforts to deepen La Quinta Channel. There is no doubt in the delegation’s minds that it will position our Port and the region to be the top competitor among the ports in the Gulf of Mexico to take advantage of the new opportunities the expansion of the Panamá Canal will bring.
The official visit ended with the ratification of the Memorandum of
Understanding among the Port and the Canal Authority at a private luncheon offered by Alberto Alemán Zubieta, CEO of the Panamá Canal Authority, and his wife at their home. The delegation had the opportunity to hear about the canal’s position and possibilities regarding shifting the international trade routes directly from the Canal Authority CEO.
Nueces County is pleased to be a partner with all the entities in this region to continue to develop opportunities for new investments and job creation. The Port of Corpus Christi and its petrochemical industries continue to be the economic engine for this region.