|HARLINGEN, February 11 - Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez has praised his counterpart in Harlingen for bringing his city into the BiNational Border Economic Development Zone project.
Martinez was at Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell’s 2014 State of the City address, where the mayor focused on BiNED. Afterwards, Martinez told the Guardian he is encouraged by the spirit of regional cooperation Harlingen leaders are showing through their willingness to work with City of Brownsville on the BiNED project.
“I think it is a great idea for Harlingen to be involved in BiNED. It is time to start having some good conversations. Harlingen is a great town. We need to learn how to combine the assets of the entire communities and start doing what we should have been doing a long time ago,” Martinez said.
“Being in Harlingen, I think it is appropriate to let the Guardian know that working together with Harlingen is a real treat for me. It is a pleasure. I happen to have been born here so I have a lot of friends here and I want to make sure that friendship continues to grow and proposer for everybody.”
The concept for BiNED was brought to the Rio Grande Valley by Congressman Filemon Vela last December. In collaboration with the University of Texas at Brownsville, Texas Southmost College, Brownsville Economic Development Council, United Brownsville and Imagina Matamoros, Vela hosted a Border Security and Economic Development Summit at UTB that focused on BiNational Border Economic Development.
Mayor Boswell explained what the BiNED project was all about in his State of the City address. He said:
“We are beginning to discuss another new opportunity which Harlingen must be an integral part of in the future. In December, Congressman Filemon Vela hosted a BiNED Zone Summit. BiNED is an acronym which stands for BiNational Border Economic Development.
“The basic idea of BiNED is to create an innovative and competitive bi-national advanced manufacturing zone along the U.S.-Mexico border to capture a share of the resurgence of near shoring advanced manufacturing that is occurring in the interior of Mexico.
“The frictionless BiNED zone would allow the strongest competitive advantages of each respective country to emerge, such as low energy costs and greater financial lending and infrastructure/logistics capacity on the U.S. side and competitive labor markets and existing advanced manufacturing capacity on the Mexican side.
“Many believe that creating the conditions necessary to foster this type of integrated and collaborative bi-national economic development zone also will lead to a more secure and prosperous border region, which is something we all would like to see.
“BiNED zones have been created in the Netherlands. And they could be created here if all of the cities of Cameron County work together with Matamoros and Tamaulipas to create such a manufacturing Mecca. Harlingen can and should be an important part of this effort as it moves forward.”
Boswell spoke to the Guardian after his speech. Asked if one of the biggest difficulties to setting up a BiNED Zone is the security situation in Mexico, Boswell said: “Security is certainly going to be an issue. We had a breakout session on that very topic at the BiNED Zone Summit at UT-Brownsville. The mayors of Brownsville, Matamoros and Harlingen met specifically to talk about security issues. It is going to be one of many issues we are going to have to overcome to try to create something like this.”
Boswell said the City of Harlingen will be passing a resolution in support of BiNED in the coming weeks. “You can look to the City of Harlingen passing a resolution soon in support of moving that project forward. We want to be part of it. All of Cameron County needs to work together on this project.”
At the BiNED Zone Summit at UTB last December, Chris Wilson, an associate in the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, suggested the cities of Brownsville, Harlingen and Matamoros make a joint submission for their infrastructure projects to the federal register. He also suggested Brownsville, Harlingen, and Matamoros start cluster mapping to see what the region's strengths and weaknesses are. Wilson is one of the co-authors of a 174-page State of Border document published by the Woodrow Wilson Center last year.
Mike Gonzalez, executive director of United Brownsville, said BiNED is all about using local strengths to grow jobs driven by exporting industries, on advance manufacturing, on innovation.
“If we are going to reverse decades of high rates of poverty on the Border, the future of Brownsville jobs must be based on BiNED, Gonzalez wrote, on the United Brownsville website.
“It is an aggressive collaboration, but a needed one. Brownsville does have great strength being on the Border, but it is a strength that needs to be fed by a variety of different public entities. To properly grow, BiNED needs targeted workforce training, land use, infrastructure, and probably most importantly, a federal legal structure that builds a 21st century border that empowers not hinders trade. With this in place, attracting private sector investment (jobs) to Brownsville will be more successful.”