MCALLEN, RGV – The Rio Grande Valley Partnership, the Valley’s regional chamber of commerce, is taking a delegation of 25 to 30 business, education, and community leaders to Washington in June.
The trip, starting June 12 and ending June 15, is being called RGV to DC.
“This will be an historic event for the Rio Grande Valley, the first of its kind,” Contreras told the Rio Grande Guardian. “We want to go to D.C. to advocate on a range of issues important to the Rio Grande Valley. We will be advocating for a healthy and educated workforce, open and fair trade, and infrastructure to support our ports of entry and highways.”
Contreras spoke in depth about RGV to DC while participating in a Rio Grande Guardian livestream on Facebook. The event was hosted by Rio Grande Guardian publisher Mark Hanna. Contreras said that while RGVP is taking the lead, collaboration with regional partners is key. Among those helping to make the event possible, he said, are Rio South Texas Economic Council, Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, UT-Rio Grande Valley, and RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Contreras said the legislative agenda for the trip will be loosely based on LRGVDC’s regional strategic plan, with exact details of the agenda being unveiled in the coming weeks. “We will have a range of priorities and they are all equal priorities. If one is not in place, the others will not succeed,” Contreras told the Rio Grande Guardian.
The Valley’s five-member congressional delegation – U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, Filemon Vela, and Vicente Gonzalez, and U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz – are helping plan the itinerary. “The congressional delegation has been very supportive. Their staff has offered to host us for a number of events,” Contreras said.
For example, Cornyn and the Border Trade Alliance will co-host one event. Another event, that the offices of the three U.S. Reps are working on, will give the Valley delegation a chance to mingle with members of Congress from other parts of the country. “We want to stress to these members the importance of international trade, of open and fair trade,” Contreras said.
The State of Tamaulipas will be invited to participate on the trip, Contreras said, to reinforce the message that international trade and regional cooperation is vital.
During the livestream, Contreras also spoke about another RGV Partnership initiative, designed to showcase the talent that exists in the Valley. It is to be called RGV First.
“We will be showcasing our talent, showcasing our construction companies, our architects, our engineers, our graduates from our colleges and universities. We are going to do this through RGV First,” Contreras said.
“Our goal is to engage with our municipalities, engage with our counties, engage with our universities, and demonstrate we have talent here, we have offices in the Valley that, given the opportunity, could win the engineering contracts, the construction contracts. We know that when our local employers grow, so does our economy. They live in our community, they play in our backyards and they invest back into our communities. We want to showcase what we have.”
Another project the Valley Partnership is working on is providing more data about the Valley’s economy. Full details have yet to be unveiled but UT-Rio Grande Valley students will likely participate in collecting and collating the data.
“We are going to be laser focused on supporting our organizations across the Valley with the data they need,” Contreras told the Rio Grande Guardian. “We are doing this by collaborating with higher education institutions.”
Contreras predicted such data will be of particular interest to the real estate industry and economic development corporations.
On a related point, Contreras said RGVP will be hosting an event in August, in collaboration with the Valley’s congressional delegation to highlight border economics, both on the U.S side and Mexico side, “to drive the message of international trade in our communities.”
Connecting with Mexico
Asked by Rio Grande Guardian publisher Mark Hanna if RGVP might focus more on collaborating with chambers of commerce in Tamaulipas, which was a priority of the organization when the late Bill Summers was its president, Contreras said:
“We need to do, we need to engage more with our partners (in Mexico) and support each other’s efforts. We want to bring them to the table and engage in the conversation. We are working with Congressman Vela on such an initiative. As a region, we need to do more. we need to step it up.”
In fact, there could be an event similar to RGV to DC, that takes place in Mexico. This would occur in the Fall, Contreras said, and be held in conjunction with Congressman Vela.