WESLACO, RGV – The Bi-National Economic Development Zone project spearheaded by Brownsville businessman Carlos Marin and UT-Rio Grande Valley Dean of Business and Entrepreneurship Mark Kroll is connecting with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council.

At a board meeting last week, LRGVDC agreed to oversee the administrative needs of BiNED. LRGVDC directors unanimously voted to set up an official BiNED advisory committee and select its members.

“This is as major step forward for BiNED. Being a formal committee of the LRGVDC provides the BiNED initiative with a sustainable administrative framework together with a representative political platform for the region,” Marin told the Rio Grande Guardian, in an exclusive interview.

Marin, president of the Ambiotec Group, added: “Since RSTEC and the State of Tamaulipas’ economic development group will be co-located with BiNED in the LRGVDC’s Weslaco offices, this step provides added synergy and support for the binational economic development effort.”

The connection between LRGVDC and BiNED seems certain to please U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela. The Brownsville congressman secured the first federal funds to develop BiNED and has a district office in the LRGVDC offices in Weslaco.

LRGVDC Executive Director Ron Garza

Ron Garza, executive director of LRGVDC, explained how his group and BiNED would work together.

“BiNED is looking to the Council of Government to formalize their structure. We may not serve as hosts for their advisory committee in the long term. They may develop that structure to where they become self-sufficient and that is fine, that is something we may want to see. But, right now, we give it a lot of structure and more importantly a lot of support,” Garza said.

Garza said the 27-member LRGVDC board of directors will have the final decision on who serves on the BiNED advisory committee.

“There will be four voting regions, Cameron County, Hidalgo County, Matamoros and Reynosa. Each region can have between two and six members per region. It is technically four votes,” Garza said.

“With NAFTA being in the forefront of our minds, we are going to accelerate things pretty quickly, to try to get them to meet formally within a month or so. After that it is going to be at least quarterly, or as needed. What is great about us hosting it is bringing that value, of all these resources, all the board of directors of the local elected officials, so that someone can see the value of serving on that board, in an advisory committee. It is a perfect connection to putting all these resources together.”

The BiNED concept is to eliminate physical and policy barriers associated with a defined border area so that, to the greatest practical and effective extent, border economies can act as single, integrated markets.

Asked what he thought of the concept of BiNED, Garza said:

“The end vision, it is basically a shared resource across the border, that has throughput on both sides, with all the security screening, in order to make trade much more efficient. It is literally a free-standing facility that intersects both sides of the border.”

“It is a process. It does not happen overnight. But it does lend to our scope of work, the human capital dynamic. We know we have to put more strategy, more structure, more resources, into developing human capital and the workforce locally. The workforce will make the other projects happen. We have a lot of opportunity in the Valley right now but if we don’t have the workforce to sustain it, that will stunt our growth.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Carlos Marin, co-founder of BiNED, and Matt Ruszczak, executive director of Rio South Texas Economic Council.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read a feature on BiNED by Rio Grande Guardian writer Patricia Fogarty.