WESLACO, RGV – The date of this year’s RGV to DC trip has been announced by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.
Around 40 VIPs from the Valley will visit the nation’s capital on June 11, 12, and 13.
“This will be our second RGV to DC trip. We did the first one last year. We feel it is critically important that we go to Washington with one voice to advocate on behalf of our international trade community, our ports of entry, and our educational institutions,” Contreras told the Rio Grande Guardian.
RGVP is the Valley’s regional chamber of commerce. It is otherwise known as the Valley Partnership.
Cities such as Laredo have been taking delegations to Washington, D.C., for many years. Asked if the Valley is showing a greater level of maturity and regional cooperation by making such a trip, Contreras said: “Absolutely.”
Contreras announced the date of the D.C. trip at a Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council meeting on Wednesday. Contreras said those on the trip will make use of the LRGVDC’s new RGV2020 economic development document.
“We hosted about 40 individuals last year and we are looking at about the same number this year,” Contreras said.
Contreras said the organizing committee for the DC trip has been able to secure a government rate for all participants on the trip – $253 per night at a hotel very close to Capitol Hill. The party will spend four nights in D.C. The cost to participate is $250 per head.
Accompanying Contreras at the LRGVDC meeting was former Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza, who now works in the private sector as a consultant. “Ramiro is one of our board members and a key advocate for regional economic development. He has been part of the conversation ever since we started planning this,” Contreras said.
Contreras told the council of government’s board of directors that he would keep them posted with more information about the trip via the office LRGVDC Executive Director Ron Garza.
“We are collaborating with Mr. Garza as well to ensure that the information you are gathering for RGV2020 is part of the message (we give in D.C.),” Contreras said.
“We are also gathering input through private industry.”
Garza said the inaugural RGV to DC trip, held in 2017, was “really successful.”
Contreras also announced the dates of two RGVP events for 2019. He said the Valley Partnership has taken over responsibility for handling RGV Day at the Capitol. This trip occurs every other year, when the state legislature is in session.
“We have already had two meetings with all the respective small to large chambers of commerce. We met in Weslaco in March. We met in Brownsville this past week and we are having it at the RGV Outlet Mall in Mercedes in May,” Contreras said.
“We are going to have focus groups. Some organizations will be managing the logistics. We will work with others on content, and others related to speakers. There is quite a bit of planning on this.”
RGV Day at the Capitol is Feb. 5, 2019, in Austin.
The RGVP is also working on the RGV Legislators’ Tour, a program the Valley Partnership has run for decades. It involves visiting state lawmakers visiting the Valley for a four-day trip every other year soon after the legislative session has started. One year the visiting lawmakers visit Willacy and Cameron counties and two years later they visit Starr and Hidalgo Counties.
“The four-day legislative tour of the Valley will occur on the fourth weekend of January 2019. We will be Focusing on Starr County and Hidalgo County,” Contreras said. “We look forward to working with you to ensure success for our region.”
At the same LRGVDC meeting, Garza spoke about RGV2020 during his executive director’s report. The project aims to develop a new economic development strategy for the region.
“This process has been going absolutely fantastic. This past month we have been focused on moving it to the next level, which are focus groups. So, instead of the large forums, which we did in each county, we are now bringing in different segments,” Garza said.
“We did a focus group with college students. We brought members of the private sector together. We brought the leaders of education together. All our regional college presidents were together. And we have learned a tremendous amount.”
Garza has defined RGV2020 as “the Valley’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy” and a “regionally-owned planning process designed to guide the economic prosperity and resiliency of the RGV region.”
One action item related to RGV2020 was the appointment of Texas Southmost College President Jesus Rodriguez to the group’s steering committee.
“The newly appointed TSC President, Dr. Jesus Rodriguez, has really shown an interest in becoming part of the steering committee for RGV2020. As that group pointed out, that steering committee did not have a junior college representative in there,” Garza said.
“And, just to remind everybody, this is our economic development playbook for the next couple of years. We will be using this for legislative advocacy, for priority management. We should have this ready to go by June. We hope to have this ready for the (LRGV to) DC trip.”