Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales met with Alice and Jim Wells County officials Thursday to discuss the possibility of working together to create economic opportunities for the area.

In the meeting set up by the Alice Echo-News Journal and Nueces County Record-Star, the judge spoke about the Port of Corpus Christi and possible interlocal agreements which would benefit not only Nueces but Jim Wells County and it’s workforce. Jim Wells County judge Juan Rodriguez, Alice City Manager Michael Esparza and council members attended the gathering. Other city and county officials were also at the meeting.

Canales, who was voted into office in November, said Alice and the surrounding area are dear to her since she has family which lived in Alice and family that still ranches in neighboring Duval County.

She said while the counties are different, she called Nueces and Jim Wells “backdoor neighbors,” and described the relationship as one which could benefit both.

“I have a vision for our county,” she said. “There are opportunities, and we’re backdoor neighbors. We can all benefit by working together.”

Canales the Eagle Ford Shale. The prosperity that seemingly all of South Texas was enjoying was suddenly gone, and every community — Corpus Christi and Alice included — felt it.

“Communities like Jim Wells County, in particular, Alice, got hit really hard, in my opinion, because the area wasn’t diversified enough. It was oil service dominated,” she said.

Almost at the same time, the Obama administration lifted an export ban. The move would allow for the export of crude oil to foreign counties. That was big news for the Port of Corpus Christi and the region.

“So you had two things happening at the same time — one negative and one positive,” Canales said. “It was like two worlds colliding, and unbeknownst to everyone, it would all end up creating an opportunity for our area.”

Canales, a former Port of Corpus Christi commissioner, said that the post is now poised to take full advantage of the opportunities created by the lifting of the export ban. Since it was lifted, the port has become of the national leaders in exports. She said Jim Wells County can benefit with its skilled-workforce and its infrastructure.

“It’s like the perfect storm brewing for our area, and I need your help,” Canales told those at the meeting. “I think we can create some really neat projects in a multi-county way which will lead to tremendous dollars for our communities.”