WESLACO, RGV – The Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council has passed a resolution that will form the basis of the Valley’s message when 35 or so of its local leaders visit Washington this week.

Ron Garza

The leaders are participating in the first ever RGV to DC trip. Organized by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, Rio South Texas Economic Council, and LRGVDC, the visit runs June 12-15.

Ron Garza, executive director of LRGVDC, said the resolution began as a response to President Trump’s budget, which zeroed out federal agencies that have been important to the Valley, such as the Economic Development Administration. However, Garza said the document will now serve as a calling card for the DC trip.

“Our region is robust. It has extremely high quality of life. We want to ensure that the story that needs to be told, continues to be on the forefront,” Garza said.

Sergio Contreras

“So, what we did with this resolution is capture three main areas. One, embracing the vital relationship we have with Mexico. Two, advocating for the continued funding of federal agencies like the Economic Development Administration, and the Community Development Block Grant program, that have been great and robust for our area. And, three, just remaining committed to enhancing and showcasing the great quality of life in our region.”

Asked what LRGVDC does next with the resolution, Garza said: “We circulate it. For our upcoming trip, we use it as a basis for our advocacy. We will read it and circulate it every chance we get while we are in D.C. We want to advocate for the great quality of life down here. We timed it in such a way that we can pass it locally but communicate it in the national arena.”

Garza acknowledged that LRGVDC has not, up until know, had any programs that interact directly with Mexico and specifically neighboring cities such as Reynosa, Matamoros and Rio Bravo. However, he pointed out that LRGVDC does now run the Center for International Economic Development Opportunities, which was established with a grant from the Economic Development Administration.

“We don’t have a program of direct scope with Mexico. However, just because of the economic impact, trade with Mexico influences so much of our daily life. When we look at infrastructure, water planning or public safety, or all the economic development or EDA grants, it comes together,” Garza said.

Matt Ruszczak

Asked to comment on CIEDO, Garza said: “The Center for International Economic Development Opportunities will play an increasingly important role for the Rio Grande Valley. RSTEC is housed there. Matt Ruszczak, executive director of RSTEC, is working there, side by side with our economic development director, bringing in the component of the global competitiveness, just speaking of the vital importance of what the trade with Mexico does for our region.”

Asked about the significance of RGV to DC, Garza said: “We are very excited for a lot of different reasons. One, it is the first we have done, so history will be made. Two, we are very excited we have partnered with two other regional organizations, the RGV Partnership and RSTEC, to make the trip possible. Doing this together, we are trying to display what regionalism truly is. Sergio (Contreras) at RGVP, represents the business community, I have the local, elected official aspect to it, and Matt (Ruszczak) at RSTEC, does the economic development aspect. You put those together and advocate for the same topics and it is a pretty strong combination.”

Sergio Contreras, president of RGVP, said the offices of U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and the offices of U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela, Vicente Gonzalez and Henry Cuellar, have helped set up meetings with federal agencies and key members of Congress for those participating in RGV to DC.

“We are all set. Our hotel is full and we have met our goal of 30-plus VIPs from the Valley,” Contreras said. “In fact, we have an additional 20 people going up to Washington from other parts of Texas to reinforce our message. The 35-plus Valley contingent is a diverse group from the world of business, education, healthcare and government. They are going to drive home the message that international trade is vital and so are the other important activities that occur in the Rio Grande Valley.”

Ruszczak, executive director of RTSEC, said he could not make the trip to D.C. However, he said a number of his board of directors will be part of the Valley delegation, including Eddie Campirano, its chairman.

“We are excited to be partnering up with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council and the Rio Grande Valley Partnership to support the first ever RGV to DC trip for our region. Our goal is to strengthen the understanding of our region in Washington, what the opportunities are, where we could do with a little bit of support to make those opportunities greater, and what some of our core issues are,” Ruszczak told Ron Whitlock, of Ron Whitlock Reports.

“It is always a good to visit the nation’s capital but in the past few months we have definitely been the focal point of attention in Washington. So, it is very timely for us to be up there. We need to highlight the strengths, the opportunities and the prosperity that exists down here.”

LIVE: A conversation about RGV to D.C. with Rio Grande Valley Partnership president Sergio Contreras. Have questions? Ask away!

Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Friday, April 28, 2017