AUSTIN, Texas – In remarks at a luncheon held for RGV Day at the state Capitol, Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell made a strong case for Rio Grande Valley cities to work together for the good of the region.
More than 100 Valley leaders had traveled to Austin for RGV Day. Boswell started his remarks by saying it was a great day for the Valley.
“This is a great day for the Rio Grande Valley to have all of us working together to advance the issues that our communities have,” Boswell said. “The business people in this room understand that our market, our issues, go beyond the city limits, go beyond county and border lines. They are all-important to all of our citizens because our citizens do not work just in Harlingen or in Brownsville. People from Brownsville work in Harlingen, people in Harlingen work in McAllen, people in Mission work in Harlingen. They do not pay much attention to city limit signs or county limit signs.”
Boswell said regional cooperation is necessary because Valley cities are no longer competing against each other but against other regions of the state, other states and even other countries.
“We are not competing against one another anymore. We are competing against other regions of the state and so when we go to ask for $40 million for the medical school we are asking for money and we have got eight other medical schools around the state that are asking for that same money for their medical school,” Boswell said.
“So, we have to pull together on that. We have to work together on that. We are not competing just against other regions of the state. We are competing against other states. If we don’t work together we are going to have missed opportunities because those opportunities are going to go to Alabama or to Nebraska or Kentucky or someplace else that are working together as large regions to land large economic development projects.”
Boswell did not mention but could have that he and other Valley leaders are working with the state leadership to secure a new rocket engine project for United Launch Alliance in Harlingen, rather than see the project go to Alabama.
Boswell said the Valley is also competing against different nations.
“We are competing against other countries, including the interior of Mexico where we would like to see more advanced manufacturing come to the border region as opposed to the interior of Mexico. So, we really do have a vested interest to work together, to be strong as a region to bring more economic opportunity, more educational opportunity to our region,” Boswell said.
“And, because of what we are doing here today, I think we are going to get better at working together. We haven’t had a lot of practice, as Juliet Garcia said. But, we are going to get better at it and we are going to be successful at it and it is because you are participating in this event today. We are going to continue to collaborate.”
Juliet Garcia is a former president of UT Brownsville.
The luncheon was held at the Sheraton Hotel, just a few blocks from the state Capitol. The day had started with resolutions honoring RGV Day being adopted by the House and Senate. After the luncheon, the hundred-plus participants in RGV Day split into small groups and took presents and the RGV legislative agenda to the offices of all 181 state legislators. The legislative agenda focuses on border security and immigration, infrastructure, workforce development, and higher education.
Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza helped organize RGV Day. He said the idea of a Valley regional effort at the state Capitol was long overdue.
“It is exciting. It has been a long time coming. You can feel the energy in the room. From Brownsville to Starr County, all four counties are represented here,” Garza told the Rio Grande Guardian. “We have been working in unison already but it is good to bring it to Austin, to show legislators we are working as a region. We all know that is the way of the future.”
Some Valley cities did not participate in RGV Day because, when it was first suggested, their leaders were already preparing their own event at the state Capitol. For example, this year there has been a Brownsville Day and a Palmview Day. This week there is a Mid Valley Day. Garza said he hopes that in future legislative session the entire Valley participates in RGV Day.
“This is a fantastic start. We will build on this. It is only going to help us grow and maximize all the opportunities that are out there for the Valley. It is critical we work together. Look at all these teams working together. It is the very first time they done so on a regional basis,” Garza said.
Asked if he could have ever envisaged such a large turnout of Valley leaders at the state Capitol, Garza said: “I knew people wanted to do this but it took people like Steve Ahlenius at the McAllen Chamber, Julian Alvarez with the Valley Partnership, Mayor Boswell, our Mayor, Richard Garcia. It was just a situation where we had to bring it all together. I was not surprised. There was an outpouring of support. We need to continue the dialogue, and the communication with each other. It is only going to grow and get better from here.”
McAllen Chamber President Ahlenius said having an RGV Day does not preclude cities from doing their own thing also.
“I think we have recognized that acting as a region and representing ourselves as a region is very important. It still gives room for communities, if they want to come up, to do things with a smaller version, things they want to work on specifically. We are trying to keep it flexible for folks but also recognize we have a much bigger impact when it is an entire region and they (legislators) hear that it is Edinburg, McAllen, Mission, Pharr, Harlingen, Brownsville versus here’s Brownsville Day, here’s Harlingen Day, here’s McAllen Day.”
Ahlenius added that state legislators should want to learn more about the Valley because its demographics reflect where Texas will be in the coming decades.
“I hope we convey to the legislators that this is a very dynamic region and that there are some absolutely fascinating things that are happening that are critical for the state, such as SpaceX. If we look at what is happening in Mexico, there are opportunities. It is always a double-edged sword but there are opportunities. And, you look at our population base. It is young, it is Hispanic and it is really what Texas is going to be over the next 15 to 20 years. So, what we are dealing with now, the rest of the state will deal with in the next ten years.”