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A A maquiladora “campus” in Matamoros tune 500 club. More big names \(Du Pont; a wire-harness division the late seventies, Matamoros landed the biggest fish of all: General Motors, the world’s largest, richest corporation. Rhodes served as tour guide for GM officials, but the company’s most ardent pursuer was Sergio Arguelles Gutierrez, patriarch of one of Matamoros’ prominent families. Arguelles had large agribusiness holdings in the region and throughout the country; at one time he was Mexico’s largest popcorn-seed supplier. Arguelles had watched idly in 1970 as another group of local entrepreneurs acquired a thousand acres to build the city’s first industrial park, in the northeast corner of the city near the International Bridge to Brownsville, the site to which Zenith migrated. The success of that park and another built in 1975 in southeast Matamoros prompted Arguelles to buy up five hundred acres of farmland some eight miles southwest of the bridge. With no track record as a maquila facilitator, and nothing to show but the real estate “nothing,” as Lindsey Rhodes recalls, “but barren land with a big Caterpillar tractor sitting out there in the middle of one sweep” Arguelles boldly went after GM. “He took them out there in a pickup truck on a muddy day and said, `Here is a good site for you,'” says Hector Romeu. The sixteen months it took to negotiate the deal was time well spent: in 1979 Arguelles opened his Finsa park with a bumpermaking division of GM as his anchor tenant. Soon another GM unit, Delco, the car-radio manufacturer, followed, and then another, and within a decade Finsa would become the secondlargest maquila park in Mexico and among the largest on the entire border. As Rhodes explains it, the same herding instinct that caused companies to follow the high-profile Zenith a decade earlier was in full force from the late seventies on. “The thinking went, If doing business with Sergio Arguelles was good for GM, it must be good for us.” And what was good for GM was good for the country, at least as the Reagan administration saw it. In the MarchApril 1986 edition of Boletin Comercial, the newsletter of the U.S. Commerce Department’s outpost in Mexico City, the de Alan Pogue partment announced its sponsorship of a Mexican business exposition called “Expo Maquila ’86.” The expo was to be held during the first week of December at the Hyatt Regency hotel in the resort town of Acapulco, and would feature Commerce Department representatives and others advising U.S. companies about the “extraordinary business opportunities” and “benefits” of the maquiladora program. In a brochure sent to 39,000 firms across America, the Commerce Department touted Expo Maquila for “the entrepreneur. The financial visionary. The forward-thinking businessman. In short, anyone who has a need for more cost-effective, more lucrative manufacturing arrangements.” But what about Americans who had a need for a paycheck the people who punched the clock for those 39,000 firms their government was inviting to export their jobs? Why are you moving our jobs to Mexico? the United Auto Workers asked President Reagan in full-page ads placed in Midwestern newspapers in late October. It was a question to which outraged members of Congress from Rust Belt states and from both sides of the aisle demanded an answer. At the end of November, one week before the scheduled Expo in Acapulco, a subcommittee of the House Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs Committee summoned a Commerce Department official to provide one. Alexander Good, director general of the United States Foreign and Commercial Service, told members of Congress the administration supported the maquila industry because it “certainly improves U.S. competitiveness in world markets. It certainly improves profitability in U.S. firms. It maintains employment that would go to other parts of the world, primarily into the Pacific Rim, and therefore encourages maintaining employment levels in the United States.” Representative John LaFalce, the western New York Democrat who chaired the Subcommittee on Economic Stabilization, was unimpressed. LaFalce’s Buffalo-area district was crippled by plant closings and corporate defections to Mexico; its largest manufacturing employer, Trico Products Corporation, which had made windshield wipers in Buffalo since 1917, had announced only months prior to the hearing that it was relocating most of its operations to the Finsa park in Matamoros. “The fact of the matter is if we left U.S. interests to so-called U.S. companies, we would be in THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11 JUNE 9, 2000