Economic development initiatives discussed at the Cornyn round table

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BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A number of Rio Grande Valley leaders attended a recent panel discussion hosted at the Port of Brownsville by US Senator John Cornyn and the Rio Grande Valley Partnerships.

Some of the VIPs had new developments to share. Here is an example :

Dr Janna Arney, Executive Vice President and Dean, UT-Rio Grande Valley


Dr. Janna Arney, Executive Vice President and Provost, UT-Rio Grande Valley, provided two brief updates on the economic development front.

“Our Entrepreneurship and Marketing Center will open in Brownsville. It is currently under construction. Our goal is (to open) December or January. This group does an incredible job bringing in existing start-ups, as well as businesses that need this support and incubation to take it to the next level. They’ll be called the E-Bridge, it’s in downtown Brownsville, we’re really excited about it.

“We also have the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center which is also investing more in building a workforce. We have trained over 300 small businesses.

Arney thanked Senator Cornyn for helping the UTRGV start up. She said it now has over 32,000 students.

“I remember you (Senator Cornyn) visiting us as we opened our doors. It’s been a journey and it’s only been six years. It was truly remarkable and we had the support of all the members here and our entire community. We are a regional university and we serve the entire Rio Grande Valley. Our name indicates where we see ourselves and what we see ourselves doing and doing well. “

McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos


McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos said the Town of McAllen is working with the City of Hidalgo and the County of Hidalgo to provide Covid-19 vaccines to maquiladoras workers in Nuevo Leon.

“This had already been done with workers from the Reynosa maquila. We do this because we know that if these people get sick, they are the ones who make the parts for products sold in the United States. So it’s very important for us, ”said Villalobos.

“We have to think regionally, we work together, McAllen, Brownsville and other cities. But that must also include Tamaulipas, Reynosa, Nuevo Leon. It’s amazing what these regions are doing for our community. We are about to hopefully start training workers in Reynosa. This is a project that we are reviewing. It all comes down to commerce.

Villalobos asked Senator Cornyn for an update on when land ports of entry will be reopened to Mexican visa holders.

Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell


Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell pointed out that his town is home to the United Launch Alliance, which manufactures components for the Atlas 5 rocket. Boswell said there was no reason the Valley couldn’t attract more manufacturers in the aerospace industry.

“We have proven for a long time that we can do advanced manufacturing. We could consider more aerospace companies. I see a lot of opportunities. With your support (Senator Cornyn), I know we can bring more of these jobs to our area.

Patrick McNulty, Mayor of South Padre Island


South Padre Island Mayor Patrick McNulty said the big issue for his town right now is transportation. However, in his remarks he did not ask for the construction of a second causeway.

“What we are encountering now are our transportation problems. We are stranded on the bridge on the weekends. We can’t bring service workers to the island to work because they can work in other cities and not spend an hour and a half to two hours in traffic on a Saturday night to get home. . So we absolutely have to find a way to move the employees to the mainland where their home is in Hidalgo County or Cameron County. It’s a big deal for us, ”McNulty said.

SPI Mayor Patrick McNulty

McNulty said that SPI management supports all of the economic development initiatives outlined at the roundtable.

“As the Rio Grande Valley develops, we will (have) more vacationers coming to South Padre Island, maybe on weekends or during the week and we become an all round community. ‘year. So that helps us a lot and I agree with all the workforce (the leaders). As the Rio Grande Valley develops, we need to have a good, stable and educated workforce and we fully support it.

McNulty said SPI city leaders appreciate the UTRGV for setting up a hotel / restaurant management training program. “I think it’s very important for us. Find the employees and be able to service this vacation destination.

McNulty said SPI also appreciates the work of the Port of Brownsville.

“As the port grows, we get the beneficial use of the sand. Without the sand on the beach, we don’t exist. So we have to have this sand. We need to grow the port and we are looking forward to the next decade (a liquefied natural gas company) because there could be a new dredge and we will get a more beneficial use of the sand. “

McNulty added, “Thanks for all your help in making sure we have sand on the beach. It’s a big deal. It’s my only problem. No one else has that. We look forward to the growth of the Rio Grande Valley, as it is a huge economic driver for South Padre Island. So thank you. “

Ramiro Gonzalez, Director of Government and Community Affairs for the Town of Brownsville


Ramiro Gonzalez, director of government and community affairs for the city of Brownsville, spoke about Brownsville’s efforts to bridge the so-called digital divide. He said the city had requested a big grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“When Mayor (Trey) Mendez was elected, Brownsville was considered the least connected city in the country. And so he really made it his goal to tackle this problem head-on. We’re actually pretty far from what I think of as any other city, ”Gonzalez said.

“We have plans. We’ve allocated $ 19.5 million in ARP funding for the middle mile. We applied for a grant from the NTIA. I understand there were about $ 2.2 billion in claims. I like to say that if the NTIA isn’t funding the least connected city in the country, it shouldn’t be funding anyone else, right? “

Gonzalez, pictured above, said Brownsville requested $ 27 million from NTIA.

“It’s a really focused demand to provide connectivity to the less connected areas of our city. It doesn’t cover the whole city but it is last mile connectivity for the less connected people in the town of Brownsville.

Gonzalez also mentioned SpaceX’s impact on Brownsville’s economy. The company is developing a rocket launch facility near Boca Chica.

“People mention SpaceX. We are aggressively trying to nurture the NewSpace ecosystem here in Brownsville and we look forward to continuing to do so. We’re getting a lot of attention from vendors and startups and everything that comes with being the home of SpaceX. “


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