WESLACO, RGV – New bylaws establishing the Bi-National Economic Development Zone (BiNED) brings the region ever closer to becoming a true destination for advanced manufacturers, according to organization leaders.

For the most part, BiNED has been quiet since the announcement of their partnership with cities in the upper Rio Grande Valley last August.

Dr. Mark Kroll
Dr. Mark Kroll

However, since that time, a BiNED working group has held a number of meetings to move the initiative forward including the preparation of a white paper that outlines “the justification, policy objectives and implementation for the region”, according to BiNED leadership.

“I think what we want to ultimately do is make the Valley a destination for advanced manufacturers, where it becomes a preferred destination to establish advanced manufacturing activity,” said Dr. Mark Kroll, Dean of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley College of Business and Entrepreneurship based in Brownsville.

“To that end, there are a lot of components. There is a human capital component, and there are elements with regards to dealing with Customs, tariffs and border issues,” Kroll said. “There are issues with regard to being able to move people, human capital across the border more efficiently. So, there are a number of components that will be involved in creating that ultimate destination for the advanced manufacturers.”

Last year, the cities of McAllen and Edinburg, as well as Hidalgo County and the Mexican City of Reynosa all signed a Memorandum of Understanding to join BiNED.

The organization had previously been a Cameron County institution, starting in 2014 when the cities of Brownsville, Harlingen, and Matamoros signed a historic proclamation endorsing the creation of BiNED to foster economic collaboration between the three communities.

The objective is to develop a competitive, innovation driven, advanced manufacturing area spanning and operating seamlessly across the U.S.-Mexico border, according the organization’s website.

The organization is also currently drafting the BINED coordinating board’s bylaws, mission statement, governing structure, budgetary framework, and corporate structure.

In the months following the MOU, BiNED has also been conducting outreach with other border regions to explore the potential for cooperation for a border- wide policy initiative.

“Since that time, we have been working with the various parties to establish bylaws for the organization, of the BiNED effort,” Kroll said. “We have pretty much finalized those bylaws, and most of the stakeholders on both sides of the river have signed off on them.

“We are in the process of establishing a 501c3 that would oversee the development effort of the BiNED project, and matter of fact we should have some word in the not distant future about who is going to be the head of that effort,” Kroll said.

In the interim, members of the BiNED committee working group have conducted a number of formal and informal outreach effects that has included contact with various entities including the San Diego/Tijuana mega region, the Border Trade Alliance, and other potential regional public and private sector members.

The organization’s current objective is to complete the operating budget, membership fees, corporate structures and operation framework in the coming months, and then present them to the core members for consideration and adoption.

“If you study what has happened in Ciudad Juarez and San Diego, we find there has been a combination of efforts that make things better over there,” said Congressman Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville. “One, we know of a very well orchestrated effort by business people on both sides of the border to really engage in the process. We have a lot of businesspeople on both sides of the border who want to engage, and in their own small way are engaging but we have got to figure out how we mobilize the efforts of businesspeople from Matamoros to Reynosa; from Brownsville to McAllen.

“I think this partnership, BiNED, will provide us with the framework to deliver that consensus effort,” Vela said.

Vela briefly discussed the BiNED project in remarks given at a Valley Partnership board of directors meeting in Weslaco last week. Professor Kroll, a member of the regional chamber of commerce, was present.

One of the next steps for BiNED, according to the working group, is to meet with other Valley cities that have shown interest in joining the group, such as Pharr, Weslaco, San Juan, Donna, San Benito and South Padre Island.

State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Harlingen, has agreed to finalize, on a pro bono basis, the bylaws and creation of the 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(6) entities.

Once the bylaws, operating budget and corporate structures are finalized, a formal invitation will be presented to core members including a request to submit the representative member nominations in accordance with the bylaws.

“Remember, BiNED got an EDA grant, and the purpose of that grant was so that they could combine their collective resources and give us an idea of what is the state of things with respect to manufacturing on both sides of the border,” Vela said. “So, they are still working through that. Once they have that, at least we will have the data that we need to figure out where we need to go next.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Congressman Filemon Vela speaking at a recent Rio Grande Valley Partnership board meeting in Weslaco, Texas. Reporter Steve Taylor contributed to this story from Weslaco.