MCALLEN, RGV – Carlos Margo, associate dean of industry training and economic development at South Texas College, insists that the Rio Grande Valley is in fact ready for advanced manufacturing.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Mario Lozoya, director of government relations and external affairs for Toyota Motor Corporation in San Antonio, recently said the Rio Grande Valley is not ready for advanced manufacturing. He stated this during a presentation he gave promoting the establishment of a Valley chapter of the Texas Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education at IBC Bank in Brownsville Feb. 19. However, Margo has a very different take to Lozoya.

“I completely disagree with that comment. I think it was an ill-informed comment. A combination of a lot of networks and resources that we have including South Texas College (STC), Texas Southmost College and Texas A&M University I believe make us definitely ready for a large company to come down here,” Margo said.

Carlos Margo

“I can’t say and just like many other cities including San Antonio cannot say that they have an existing technical workforce sitting around waiting for a company like Toyota to come in. That’s not reality, however, I can definitely say that South Texas College is ready to train individuals, prepare them and ramp them up to be prepared in a short notice.”

Margo says STC has enough resources to mobilize a program to be able to get a workforce trained relatively quickly. STC did not have a tool and die program until Keith Patridge, president and CEO of McAllen Economic Development Corporation (EDC), got a company from Canada that needed tool and die makers. In response, STC mobilized and developed a tool and die program.

“I can fairly say we are ready for just about anything at South Texas College,” Margo said. “We have the capacity, the network and the resources to establish any type of program that is needed. We are also able to use our flexibility to our advantage, use our resources and our ability to develop programs rather quickly.”

Margo told the Rio Grande Guardian the people of the Rio Grande Valley have the talent and are willing to learn. If a large company decided to establish a facility in the region, Margo said STC and all of its partners can really gear up, get training programs in place and be ready in time for the company to finish setting up.

“We are definitely ready for any [advanced] manufacturing company. We have the capacity and we have the ability to train the workforce,” Margo said.

Lozoya gave a similar presentation to the one in Brownsville when he spoke at a joint meeting of Edinburg City Council and Edinburg EDC on Saturday Mar. 10. When asked by a reporter to comment on the disagreement about the region not being ready for advanced manufacturing, Lozoya stood by his comment. He made clear he was talking about advanced manufacturing not manufacturing per se.

“When I say you’re not ready, what I mean is that you don’t even know what you have. You guys don’t even know what your data tells you. What if the data tells you that majority of your manufacturing region is around electronics and not around medical equipment,” Lozoya said.

“Let’s say 60 percent of the manufacturing in my 50-mile or 100-mile is around electronics then I should create programs relevant to that and then I should put in a delegation and go to Korea and tell [them] to come down here because I’m going to mitigate your costs because I have 60 percent of your manufacturers here already. That’s the kind of data we don’t have when I say you’re not ready for advanced manufacturing.”

As an example, Lozoya said to assume 60 percent of the manufacturing in a 50-mile or 100-mile radius is around electronics. The region should then create programs relevant to that, put in a delegation and go to Korea to tell them the region can mitigate their costs because the RGV already has 60 percent of the manufacturing.

“When I go to EDCs around the Valley all they talk about is logistics–we have the grit, we have the highway. Everybody talks about that, but nobody wants to hear that. We want to hear about what you have to mitigate my bottom-line as a company,” Lozoya said.

“I have the workforce and I have a network of suppliers and you can show that and make it relevant it to the company’s bottom-line then you can go send a delegator to Japan, Korea, Spain, Mexico and say come here let me show you why we are important to your bottom-line.”

Another way to prepare for advanced manufacturing is working with what the region already has. Another example Lozoya gave is inventorying all the advanced equipment for all the hospitals in the region and creating a workforce that can repair the equipment.

“There are probably 2,000 pieces of equipment in a hospital and you ask, ‘Who repairs all these things?’ [Some responses include] well we contract them off or we don’t have the workforce here to repair our advanced equipment,” Lozoya said.

“Well, we want to create our own workforce and we want our people to get those jobs. When you start creating your own workforce based on what you need currently, outside people start looking and is like, ‘Those guys know how to deal with current employment needs in your communities’.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Mario Lozoya of Toyota Motor Corporation making a presentation to Edinburg City Council and Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.