BROWNSVILLE, RGV – United Brownsville has announced that the U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for economic development will be in its city on Thursday.

Jay Williams will participate in a roundtable discussion with United Brownsville Executive Director Mike Gonzalez and other regional business and community leaders at the offices of Carling Technologies, which is located at 3734 International Boulevard, Brownsville. The event starts at 2 p.m.

Jay Williams
Jay Williams

Gonzalez said Williams will highlight a $300,000 investment made by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to United Brownsville last August and how it is helping the region become more competitive. Gonzalez said Williams is also slated to discuss the trade priorities announced in President Obama in his State of the Union address on Tuesday and their relevance to the U.S.-Mexico border region.

“With the right strategy, the U.S.-Mexico Border region can become a manufacturing powerhouse with unique competitive advantages found nowhere else in the world,” said Gonzalez, in a news release. “This investment by EDA will allow us to uncover manufacturing opportunities by better understanding regional supply chains.”

Williams also spoke in advance of his visit to Brownsville. “Just this week, President Obama in his State of the Union address, laid out a strong path to move our country forward and continue to strengthen the middle-class and our nation’s workforce. The President stressed the importance of modernized trade authority to support American jobs, boost U.S. exports, and promote economic growth and stability.”

Williams said the EDA is “committed to supporting U.S. manufacturing companies to help them grow and succeed in the global marketplace, and our investment in United Brownsville strengthens its supply chain strategy to meet global demand and spur economic growth in the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Gonzalez said EDA’s $300,000 investment will help develop the foundation to create a competitive bi-national advanced manufacturing cluster that can create higher wage jobs. The project will include a backward integration supply chain analysis of the greater Brownsville-Matamoros region.

“This analysis will identify opportunities and challenges in creating the clusters as well as develop strategies to use supply chains with products manufactured locally in the project region as opposed to importing them. According to the grantee, this project will ultimately encourage trade and export in the U.S. border region, which will help make the region more competitive,” the United Brownsville news release stated.

Gonzalez said his group is building a regional, binational partnership (Bi-National Economic Development Zone – “BiNED”) to transform the border economy by developing a collaborative, cross-border advanced manufacturing strategy.

He said the basic idea of BiNED is to create an integrated innovative and competitive binational advanced manufacturing zone along the U.S.-Mexico border to capture a share of the economic development resurgence of near shoring advanced manufacturing that is occurring in the interior of Mexico.

Gonzalez spoke about the BiNED project at an regional economic development luncheon hosted by the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce last month. “In Matamoros alone we have $8.4 billion of trade every year. The 116 maquilas over there, that’s how much they punch out. However, $6.4 billion of that value comes in from the outside. So, somebody else in some other metro area added value and they captured that wealth in the form of salaries. So that is one opportunity. You bring in Reynosa, even larger. That is something we have to work on as a region.”

Click here to read the Rio Grande Guardian’s coverage of Gonzalez’s remarks at La Sierra Event Center.

Gonzalez said Congressman Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, has played a key role in “developing and validating the BiNED strategy,” expanding regional collaboration through the Congressional Border Caucus, and “engaging the Obama administration on innovative programs aimed at transforming the border region.”

United Brownsville's Mike Gonzalez is pictured at the $300,000 EDA check presentation.
United Brownsville’s Mike Gonzalez is pictured at the $300,000 EDA check presentation.

Vela was on hand when EDA made the $300,000 check presentation last August. Vela said: “This is important not only because it kick starts the supply integration initiative but it also provides external validation by EDA of the BiNED strategy that we’ve been working on.”

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez is also a big supporter of the BiNED project. “Our future hinges on leveraging our relationship with our border city partners” Martinez said. “As Chinese wages increase above Mexican wages, and energy costs make the cost of transporting Chinese products more expensive, there is a tremendous advantage for near-shoring and reshoring of manufacturing capacity along the border region.”