|WESLACO, November 21 - A groundbreaking ceremony for the much anticipated Center for International Economic Development Opportunities is likely to be held next March.
The Center will be built next to the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council’s offices on W. Railroad in Weslaco.
“We are very excited. I consider this a shot in the arm for the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council. We are expanding our horizons,” said Norma G. Garcia, president of the LRGVDC. “Traditionally, we have served the local tri-county area, Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy, but with this new Center we will become more international-looking.”
LRGVDC directors are excited about the timing of CIEDO because it will broadly coincide with the formation of a new UT university in the Valley. They see opportunities for collaboration on international trade issues. “UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa has talked about the new university looking south and being connected with Latin America. I hope we can collaborate on developing international economic development,” said LRGVDC board member Armando “Mando” Garza.
Creation of a center focusing on international trade has been made possible thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Terrie Salinas, director of economic development at the LRGVDC, said Pedro R. Garza, regional director for the EDA, will most likely attend the groundbreaking ceremony. Pedro Garza looks after Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas for the EDA.
“We are currently finalizing the drawings for the new building and then we will submit the paperwork to EDA next month. Once they approve it we will put out the contract for bid to start construction next year,” Salinas said.
Asked what Center would be used for, Salinas said: “We will have our technical economic development meetings there, we want to set up a committee on international economic development and we want to work with the local EB-5 Visa entities. We want to get more involved with Mexico and China. It really is exciting. We are in the perfect location. I hope we have a lot of activity.”
The LRGVDC had to put up a local match to secure the $1.6 million grant from the EDA. This was made possible thanks to the generosity of Weslaco Economic Development Corporation, which worked out an owner-finance deal on the buildings the LRGVDC now occupies.
In an interview with the Guardian in September, 2012, Salinas said she hoped the new Center would become “one stop shop” for potential investors from other countries, particularly Mexico, that seek to expand into the Rio Grande Valley.
“The Center for International Economic Development Opportunities will focus on marketing and increasing business opportunities and trade with Mexico and other countries,” Salinas said.
Salinas said her department will be responsible for helping potential investors from abroad learn about doing business in the Valley. “We see the Center as being of benefit for people - especially from Mexico, our second largest trading partner – that wish to come to the United States to set up businesses. It is the reverse of outsourcing,” she said.
In her Sept. 2012 interview with the Guardian, Salinas said she plans to lean heavily on the work already being done on international trade by other entities in the Valley.
“It is going to happen in my department but mostly what we are planning to do is have this building, this program, and coordinate and unite with all of the existing services that are out there, working even more closely with our economic development corporations and our chambers of commerce and the universities and their small business development centers,” Salinas said.
“It needs to be a regional program so it is not only going to be staffed just by the Development Council. It is going to be an opportunity for everybody to use the facility as a hub for international economic development.”
The idea for the Center was conceived when the LRGVDC started looking for additional office space. The City of McAllen asked the group to leave its rented accommodation in downtown McAllen in the summer of 2011. McAllen leaders said they needed the building for their city workers. A number of Valley cities were interested in housing the LRGVDC once it left McAllen. Its board of directors settled on Weslaco, in part because of its Mid Valley location. The LRGVDC moved into the newly refurbished facility next to Business 83 and Texas Boulevard that was previously home to Weslaco Economic Development Corporation. However, the three buildings next to the railroad tracks were not really big enough. Hence, Salinas’ discussions with EDA about a new facility.