McALLEN, RGV – The City of McAllen has been invited to bid to host the 2018 World Technopolis Association’s general assembly, with Cairo, Egypt, also in the running to stage the event.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling is on the WTA’s board of directors and recently spoke at a mayor’s forum hosted by the organization in Indonesia. Also on the stage with Darling were the mayors of Paris, Frankfurt and Brussels.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling

“We are going to compete, subject to city commission approval, with Cairo, Egypt, for having the 2018 World Technopolis Show general assembly,” Darling told the Rio Grande Guardian. “There are 50 countries in the association, with 400 participants from local governments, universities, and private companies, manufacturers mostly, who get together and talk about new technology.”

Darling said the aim of WTA was to make sure new technology is distributed evenly throughout the world and not remain the preserve of the major industrialized nations.

“The goal is to make sure the new technology is spread worldwide. So, you have countries like Germany and you have countries like Nigeria sharing ideas. It is a very, very, worthwhile program,” Darling said.

“They also bring their students over, the universities, to do science projects. So, if the event comes to McAllen, it would be a fantastic opportunity for our kids to mix with these international kids. It would attract about 400 people so we could accommodate them very easily at the Convention Center. It is a very nice, cultural event. We would need to recruit some interpreters, though. Hopefully, we will get it.”

Asked about McAllen’s chances of landing the WTA event, Darling said: “I am on the main board. I did a presentation before the board, as did the lady from Cairo. I do not know how many more people Cairo has than us but the important thing is what you have at your core. So, we think we are an appropriate place.”

Next month, the WTA will hold a Hi-Tech Fair & Business Conference and an International Training Workshop in Daejeon. “That is where the president is based. The WTA headquarters tends to follow the president,” Darling said.

Darling visited Indonesia and Japan in September with representatives from McAllen Economic Development Corporation, South Texas College and UT-Rio Grande Valley. The goal of the delegation was to find manufacturing companies that are interested in setting up an operation in the Rio Grande Valley and/or Reynosa.

“Our mayor represented our city extremely well – to the point where we called him a rock star because he had half of the city of Jakarta wanting to take a picture with him,” said Keith Patridge, president and CEO of McAllen Economic Development Corporation. “It was a very successful trip. There must have been about 200 people in the ballroom and everyone was just glued to what the mayor was saying.”

Asked about the success of the trip, Darling said: “It was a really exciting visit. We got to see a lot of interesting panels. We got to do a lot of panels. I visited with people from Nigeria, Australia, Germany, Mongolia, Korea and Japan. There were a lot of questions about what was happening here with the presidential election.”

Darling said he had had a good meeting with a mayor from a satellite city to Jakarta. He said the South Texas delegation got to visit the city and sample the local cuisine. “The city has 1.1 million people and 400,000 people go to Jakarta every day, about one hour away, to work. You can imagine the traffic. This mayor’s budget is just over $100 million. McAllen’s budget is just over $3 million for 150,000 people. It really makes you understand the dichotomy of what goes on in the world. It is pretty fascinating.”

Darling said Jakarta, the largest city in Indonesia, is a great city to visit. “You see skyscrapers everywhere. I counted 42 cranes on the way back to the airport. And, they have really great architecture. It is growing fast. An hour away from the city we saw a different side to the country, very rural. A lot of hand labor on the streets.”

Patridge agreed the trip to Asia was a great success.

“It was an excellent trip to Japan. It looks as though we may have an excellent project coming out of that, that could create more jobs on the U.S. side and a project that could bring the university in for a medical project. That looks really good. Indonesia was really good also,” Patridge said.

The focus of McAllen EDC is manufacturing. Patridge said the South Texas delegation visited one manufacturing plant that had more than 200 people producing one little part. “That was all they built, one little part.” He said he was also struck by the fact that Japan’s workforce is aging and the country is desperate for more workers. “Japan is a very old country. They do not have the workers they need. That is why we have a bright future. We have a very young workforce. We really have an opportunity. If we educate our students and the community understands how everything is inter-related, we can prosper.”

Patridge said if WTA does come to McAllen it will be the first time the group has held a general assembly in the United States.