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BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Brownsville is about to land a $400 million foundry-machining operation that will employ 300 people in the short term and thousands more in the long term, according to Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez.

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez
Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez

In the long term, 3,000 workers will be needed for the project, says Brownsville Economic Development Corporation President & CEO Jason Hilts. He said Brownsville has not got that many skilled workers right now so the EDC, working with higher education institutions, is going to develop a Heavy Manufacturing Campus on a 350-acre development along the SH 550 Corridor.

Hilts said the Heavy Manufacturing Campus will support the foundry and its suppliers and will include a distribution component as well as an apprenticeship training center, with an emphasis on machinists.

“The Heavy Manufacturing Campus will exceed 3,000 jobs in a ten-year period and Project Sizzle is a vital link in how Brownsville is set to revolutionize the foundry industry in North America as we know it today,” Hilts told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Brownsville was thought to be in the running with Monterrey to land the plant, a foundry-machining operation. During negotiations it was known as Project Sizzle. State incentive funds were utilized to ensure Brownsville won out, Mayor Martinez said.

Brownsville EDC President Jason Hilts
Brownsville EDC President Jason Hilts

The manufacturing firm is family-owned and is based in Italy. It has three plants in Italy, one in China and one in Brazil, Martinez said.

Brownsville EDC Vice President Gilberto Salinas was less bullish than Martinez, cautioning that any deal may not be complete for a couple more months. “It’s not a done deal. We are still in competition. We are two months from a final decision.”

Hilts agreed. “Hopefully, in the next few weeks, all proposed incentives programs will be finalized and will result with the announcement of the project. Until then, Brownsville can’t say it beat its competition, which is Monterrey, Mexico.”

This is what Martinez told the Rio Grande Guardian:

“It’s a high-end company and the project is known as Project Sizzle. It is a manufacturing company that will bring 300 jobs at approximately $40,000-plus a job. It is a family-owned company, over 100 years old. It has got three plants in Italy, one in China, and one in Brazil. We are currently working on the paperwork. We have got all the incentives together.”

Martinez gave his interview while attending a recent luncheon hosted by the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce. He said Brownsville’s economic development corporation leaders could not attend the luncheon because they were up in Michigan working on some other potentially exciting leads for Brownsville.

“The economic development group is working like a Trojan, on Project Sizzle and other projects. The project that we are talking about, the one that is imminent, we are in the throws of completing the paperwork. Company representatives were actually in town two or three weeks ago and I met with them and we are just working out the final details.”

The last time the Rio Grande Guardian wrote about this major manufacturing project, Brownsville EDC was waiting for assurances that the State of Texas would kick in financial incentives. Without these the company could be lost to Monterrey, Hilts told the Rio Grande Guardian and KURV Radio back in December. There was concern that with Gov. Rick Perry leaving office the Texas Enterprise Fund, through which the incentive money would come, might be scrapped or downsized.

Martinez said Brownsville has not got a commitment from state leaders that incentive monies will be available. “We got the help, thanks to Senator Lucio and our state representatives. We got that commitment a couple of weeks ago. We are clicking along like we should. We are doing good,” Martinez said. “It is Brownsville subject to the paperwork, we are very happy with what we have put together for them. They (the manufacturing company owners) are an excellent family. I have enjoyed them tremendously.”

Asked how much media publicity there had been surrounding this major manufacturing project, Martinez said: “If there is anything we have got to work on more it is the ability to really market some of the projects we have going because I think we are in negotiations a lot and a lot of these negotiations have to be confidential; we have to be a little careful we do not overstep our bounds. But, as we go along I feel very comfortable that we will be able to get a little bit better a grip on the communications aspect of some of these great projects that we are working on.”

Asked if these were boom times for Brownsville, Martinez said: “It is a booming time but it takes a lot of work, a lot of groundwork, but, I tell you what, we have a wonderful Brownsville team, working together and working all the time. It pleases me to no end.”

Brownsville EDC Vice President Gilberto Salinas
Brownsville EDC Vice President Gilberto Salinas

Hilts provided this information on Project Sizzle:

“The concept behind Project Sizzle is it will be a combination of a foundry-machining operation, which would be the first vertically-integrated foundry facility in North America. Overall investment is expected to be more than $400 million and will generate upwards of 3,000 jobs in the Brownsville MSA.

“Now, as the project will be developed in phases, the first component of the project will be a machining center, which itself will create 300 jobs. Brownsville would not be able to absorb a 3,000-job project in a short period of time. Before construction is completed on the company’s facility they will begin the process of developing a labor force of 300, then other components, such as the foundry, forging and aluminum die casting and injection molding operations will be added over a ten-year period. The project ramp up schedule allows the region to develop its human capital-talent supply chain for the project.

“In support of Project Sizzle, Brownsville is now developing a Heavy Manufacturing Campus. It’s a 350-acre development along the SH 550 Corridor which will support the foundry with its suppliers and will include a distribution component as well as an apprenticeship training center, with an emphasis on machinists.

“The Heavy Manufacturing Campus will exceed 3,000 jobs in a 10-year period and Project Sizzle is a vital link in how Brownsville is set to revolutionize the foundry industry in North America as we know it today.”

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