BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Although the federal government has not helped financially to bring a mega manufacturing project to the city it does deserve great credit, says the CEO of Brownsville Economic Development Corporation.

Jason Hilts said he cannot speak highly enough about Select USA, an agency set up by President Obama to promote foreign direct investment in the United States.

Brownsville EDC is just one contract away from announcing a huge manufacturing project involving, initially, a multi-million dollar investment by an Italian company. Later, a huge investment is expected to be made by a Finnish company as part of the same project. The two companies, as yet unnamed, will have a foundry and machining operation to make heavy duty parts for Caterpillar in Mexico and the United States. In the long term the project will lead to about 4,000 high-paying jobs.

Jason Hilts
Jason Hilts

Hilts explained how Select USA came about. “Select USA was formed by the Commerce Department to work on promoting foreign direct investment into the United States. For many years the Commerce Department and all the embassies around the world worked to help U.S. firms to get their products sold in those foreign countries. President Obama and Secretary Pritzker created Select USA to work to bring in foreign direct investment into the states.”

Asked to explain Select USA’s role in the Brownsville project, Hilts said: “I will give you an example of how effective they are. We had a meeting with Congressman Vela in his office in Washington, D.C., a couple of years ago. Select USA came in and really got engaged with us. They are so high on foreign direct investment that the head of Select USA called our clients in Europe. Secretary Pritzker herself called the president and owners of these companies for us, and, in the embassies in each country, the ambassadors called the owners of these companies, spoke with them, invited them to go to our embassy to have lunch. It was incredible.”

Penny Pritzker is U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Pritzker was in the Rio Grande Valley recently for the official opening of the West Rail Project. At a private roundtable discussion during the visit Hilts said he personally thanked Pritzker for her role in helping land the manufacturing foundry project.

“What the federal government does, while there is no money involved is, they are telling our foreign investors that you are welcome in the United States, your investment is going to be protected in the United States and doing business in Texas and Brownsville is a good bet. That is powerful. When you have an ambassador from the United States in a foreign country call a client and say, hey, I know you are working on these projects, come to the embassy, let’s have dinner, let’s talk about it,” Hilts said.

“So, I can’t say enough about what Select USA does for economic development efforts around the United States. I have seen it first-hand. I give testimony whenever and wherever I can for those companies, those entities that help us out. They have done a great job.”

Hilts said that at the roundtable event he told Pritzker that it was a shame more economic development corporations do not reach out to Select USA for assistance.

“Select USA helps EDCs in many ways. They can help you do trade missions, they have trade missions around the world to do foreign direct investment so an EDC can participate if they want. They can help open doors. Then, they support you. If needed the administration would probably call on behalf of the project. If it comes to that. That is huge,” Hilts said.

Hilts added that the Italian and Finnish companies are in it for the long haul in Brownsville.

“It is a complex project with a large investment. This is more than a 25 to 30 year project. When foundries are built, they are long term projects. The companies we are dealing with are family owned, fourth or fifth generation. They have been around since the early 1900s. Some of these companies have foundries that have been around since the 1850s.  I met with foundry companies out of France before that have been around for 300 years. So, the people involved in these investments, for them this is not a five-year deal. It is for the long-term and that is what we want.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows President Obama at the two-day Select USA Investment Summit held in Washington, D.C., in March, 2015. This above story is the second in a three-part series on the new large manufacturing project coming to Brownsville. Click here for Part One. Part Three will be posted on Monday, Oct. 26.