Rick Laurel, candidate for City Council District VI, said that when he thinks of moving Laredo forward, he thinks of his four children and what Laredo will offer them when they finish college.
The licensed U.S. Customs broker, a 1994 United High School graduate, earned a Bachelor of Arts in international trade from the University of Texas at El Paso and has worked in transportation, logistics, and brokerage for the last two decades.
He is the son of Zeke and Margarita Laurel and the father of Sabrina, Richard, Sebastian, and Anna Karen Laurel. His wife Elsa is the treasurer of his campaign.
Laurel said his work experience in logistics and the import/export industry gives him a clear understanding of the commerce that drives Laredo’s economy and the need to expedite products moving across the border.
If elected, he said, he would be the first member of the International Trade Council to be part of the decision making of City Council. Laurel said he has the backing of the Laredo Motor Carriers Association, the first and largest non-profit trucking association.
He said that the infrastructure leading to Bridge III has improved, but he looks ahead for far more efficiency moving traffic and goods. “Connectors at Mile 13 on the Mines Road will make a significant difference as will expansion of the road to Eagle Pass,” he said.
Laurel weighed in on the proposed 4/5 bridge in southern Webb County. “That bridge will need an outer loop and connectors to Loop 20. We can look forward to its construction and its use, but we can’t lose sight of Bridge III. It’s our bread and butter,” he said.
Laurel called North Central Park “the gem of District VI” and said the valuable green space needed protection.
According to Laurel, the expansion of Springfield Road to San Isidro and Loop 20 will provide a much needed north to south artery. “Our planning will have to take into careful account the environmental impact the roadway will have on the Shiloh Trail and other sensitive areas,” he said.
Of the District VI race in a field of 10 other candidates and no incumbent, Laurel said he will focus on his own issues and continue to walk the community and meet more constituents and get his name out.
“District VI is not cañonero country. It is largely middle class with a wide range of incomes. It is home to many educators, federal employees, and those who work in international trade,” he said of the district’s constituency of about 25,000.
Laurel said it is time the City’s decision makers re-prioritize “heads in beds,” the battle cry of the hotel-motel tax. “The focus needs to be on incentivizing companies and light manufacturing to locate in Laredo, like the Black and Decker plant that now operates in McAllen. The incentive there was a three-year tax abatement. We are fortunate that Medline chose to locate in Laredo with a 250,000 square foot production and distribution facility, and that one of its suppliers followed,” he said.
The candidate noted that Laredo has a warehouse deficit, a reflection on the superlative bounty of international trade numbers.
He said he sees many possibilities for the revival of downtown, largely vacant now but once the hub of the City’s commercial district. He cited El Paso’s now thriving downtown with property owners who have reinvested and with public/private projects coming to life.
“Millennials leave Laredo for the lack of jobs. They want meaningful work in architecture, the law, development, and design. That’s a huge drain of young talent,” he said.
Laurel said that the City Council that convenes at the end of 2018 will bear the burden of a large agenda for the years ahead. “Generally speaking, there are many infrastructure projects to see to completion and many to plan and find funding for. There are also many quality of life issues that need to come to life — alleviating congestion on our roads and making them safer, ensuring that developing neighborhoods do their part to create and protect green spaces and park land, and incentivizing new job-creating businesses to locate here. I’m ready to take on that agenda,” he said.
(Rick Laurel can be reached at (956) 615-2888 or at [email protected])