Lower Valley groups working together for prosperity

Economic development strategic plans seem to be proliferating this year

Economic development strategic plans seem to be proliferating this year

Gilberto Salinas, interim executive director for the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corp., is personally involved in four of them, including one the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council announced in October. RGV2020, as it’s been dubbed, involves economic development groups and other entities from Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties.

What’s different about this strategic plan is its regional scope, said Salinas, who sits on the RGV2020 Executive Steering Committee along with Eddie Campirano, director and CEO of the Port of Brownsville.

Also on the steering committee are representatives from the cities of Pharr and Weslaco, Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, Lower RGV Development Council, McAllen Economic Development Corp., Rio South Texas Economic Council, RGV Partnership, University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, WillacyCounty, WorkforceSolutionsCameronCounty and WorkforceSolutionsLowerRio GrandeValley.

Putting together the RGV2020 comprehensive economic development strategy will entail a series of surveys and summits to start in 2018 in order to gather input from various community stakeholders and leadership. The process will analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each segment of the LowerValley, with the aim of identifying key projects to be implemented by 2020.

“The hardest first step is getting everybody at the table to have a meaningful discussion,” Salinas said. “That’s been done already.”

The current phase is getting together and tossing out ideas to “see what sticks to the wall,” he said. Then comes prioritizing, data collection and actual implementation, said Salinas, who’s also working on a GBIC strategic plan as well as helping out on planning efforts by Texas Southmost College and the Aerospace, Aviation and Defense division of the governor’s economic development office.

The fact that so many different entities are working toward a common goal — generating more prosperity for the LowerValley — means “we’re now moving into a new era,” he said.

GBIC will be very focused on workforce development during the planning process, Salinas said. What companies require to do business here, and what the Valley lacks in adequate numbers, are workers with mid-range skills, he said.

“The common denominator in economic development in the last three years has been workforce,” Salinas said. “It used to be where it was about how much money can you put on the table and is real estate available? Now it’s all about do you have the people and the skill set that we need to be successful? Otherwise we won’t touch you with a 10-foot pole.”

Campirano said he’s pleased that the port has been included in the RGV2020 planning process, which he believes is geared toward producing real economic outcomes as opposed to an economic development document that will end up gathering dust.

“If we’re going to talk about regional economic development strategy the port needs to be at the table,” he said. “We know it here in our own backyard: It isn’t just a Brownsville thing. We play a significant role.”

 

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com