|PHARR, February 20 - U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa says Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Walter Bastian is keen to help McAllen’s advanced manufacturing and rapid response center get off the ground.
Bastian visited the Rio Grande Valley on Wednesday, touring the Pharr, Donna, Los Indios and Brownsville international bridges. He was accompanied at various stages by Hinojosa and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela.
Hinojosa said that while Bastian did not have a chance to visit the McAllen’s planned research and education industrial park he is keen to learn more and help find additional federal dollars for the project.
“What we have learned from today’s trip is that Deputy Assistant Secretary Bastian and his staff would like to come back and look at the advanced manufacturing and rapid response program that Mr. Keith Patridge and others have put together,” Hinojosa said.
Keith Patridge is president and CEO of McAllen Economic Development Corporation. Working with numerous partners from Laredo to Brownsville, Patridge has helped form the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative (NAAMREI). Partners in the project include South Texas College, UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville and Texas A&M International University in Laredo. A component of NAAMREI is a 400-acre research and education park being developed at the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone.
Speaking at the Pharr International Bridge, Hinojosa said McAllen EDC has raised approximately $40 million for the new park. “The park is going to allow entrepreneurs to bring their ideas on items that can be manufactured and sold in the United States and exported to other countries, including the Western Hemisphere,” Hinojosa said. “Secretary Bastian did not know about this park and how it had already been started by a coalition of universities, including Tecnológico de Monterrey and with private investment by Mr. Ray Hunt of Dallas. We are positioned to get the program started but we need that amount of money ($40 million) leveraged with federal money and state money so that we can increase manufacturing in the Valley, creating lots of good paying jobs. Secretary Bastian is prepared to do it.”
Hinojosa said the next step will be for Bastian to talk to the “key players.” He said these would include Patridge, UT-Pan American President Robert Nelsen and UT-Brownsville President Juliet Garcia. “Secretary Bastian wants to see if a delegation from the Valley can visit Atlanta, Georgia to see a similar operation. In fact, there are two or three projects in the southeast where contracts have been won to build auto assembly plants and other types of manufacturing. They have been able to create excellent paying jobs. I think we are now positioned to be able to launch into this world of advanced manufacturing and rapid response. We want to make it happen.”
According to the UTPA website, the Rapid Response Manufacturing Center is “critical to economic development for the Rio South Texas and all of North America.” It says the center “integrates technologies, management, and systems that significantly improve the speed to market of new and refreshed products, speed in response to customer needs, and demand for customized products at mass produced prices and quick delivery time.” It adds that in order to win the battle of global competitiveness, “the North American product design and manufacturing sector must enable rapid response to customer desires and needs.”
Secretary Bastian works with the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration. He is responsible for developing programs, policies and strategies designed to strengthen the United States' commercial position in the Western Hemisphere. Congressman Vela expressed his thanks for Bastian’s visit.
“It is an honor to bring Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Walter Bastian to South Texas to see first-hand our ports of entry and the huge volume of trade that flows between the U.S. and Mexico through South Texas,” Vela told reporters.
“Mr. Bastian brings a wealth of international trade experience and I look forward to the insight he can share with local stakeholders. U.S. trade with Mexico is approximately $500 billion per year and supports six million jobs here in the U.S. Rather than militarize our border, our country should invest to improve and modernize our ports of entry. This is particularly important given a recent study which concluded that delays on the Southern border could cost the U.S. economy $14.7 billion a year by 2020.”
Hinojosa said he was particularly pleased to be touring the Pharr-Reynosa and the Donna International Bridges with Bastian because it afforded an opportunity to discuss the progress made in international trade. “It will also allow for talks on the future of the Pharr-Donna Commercial Bridge system which once realized will increase our international trade. Once we have the necessary equipment and manpower at our international bridges, the flow of international trade and commerce will increase and our ports of entry will be an economic boon to not only our region but to the rest of the country as well. This will mean billions of dollars in revenue and it will create millions of jobs here in the Rio Grande Valley, in the state of Texas and across the USA. I am looking forward to Mr. Bastian's experienced input.”
Pharr Bridge Director Juan G. Guerra accompanied Bastian on the tour of the Pharr and Donna international bridges. “We are excited to have Mr. Bastian visit the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge and see first-hand how South Texas International Trade becomes more attractive with the regional Pharr-Donna Commercial Bridge System in-place,” Guerra said.