WESLACO, RGV – Having been away from the Rio Grande Valley for the past eight and a half years, Marie McDermott says she has found a new sense of optimism and excitement upon her return.
McDermott has just been named executive director of Weslaco Economic Development Corporation. She has been serving as its interim executive director since April.
“The Valley has changed dramatically since I left. The entrance to the Valley is different. The stores have changed. Tastes have changed. The car dealerships have changed. Business seems to be thriving. There seems to be more people going to work every day. There is excitement and optimism. I can feel the difference,” McDermott told the Rio Grande Guardian.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the determination to succeed that McDermott sees is the focus on education. “Over the years, the Valley has taken education very seriously. That is driving a lot of the growth. People who were in school when I left are now at work, they are living a life of earning incomes and churning money. It is exciting to see.”
During the previous eight and a half years, McDermott was based in Houston. She said that when big companies were moving into the Valley, such as SpaceX and Royal Technologies, it made the news in Houston. “More and more people are paying attention to the Valley now. It is great to see,” McDermott said.
McDermott said there is one particular contact she made in Houston that she wants to invite to the Valley. “I met an executive from Norway who would come to the big offshore oil conference that was held in Houston every year. I cannot wait to show him the Rio Grande Valley. He is very excited about it. Once he sees the Valley he will tell everybody in Norway.”
Both in a news release issued by Weslaco EDC and in her interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, McDermott makes clear her passion for economic development. It has been part of her life for decades. In Houston she helped recruit companies operating on a global scale as vice president of business development for the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region. That was from 2007 to 2015. Before she left the Valley, McDermott served as president and CEO of Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce. That was from 2005 to 2007. And, she was president and CEO of Brownsville Economic Development Council from 1992 to 2001.
“Economic development has been my love and life,” McDermott told the Rio Grande Guardian, pointing out that she was named a Certified Economic Developer by the International Development Council. She also served as chair of the Texas Economic Development Council in 2004. This organization has 900 members.
“While I have enjoyed a healthy 30-year career and many valuable experiences, Weslaco is exactly where I want to be,” McDermott said. “I am excited about what is happening in the Mid Valley, with a hospital and nursing home now being built next to the expressway. Healthcare is very important for the Mid Valley.”
Asked about her goals for Weslaco EDC, McDermott said she intends to “grow developing and established logistics, supply companies and higher education institutions and to create jobs that bring higher wages to the residents of Weslaco.”
Assisting Downtown Weslaco is also part of McDermott’s plans. “I have discovered downtown and it is lovely. I want to enhance downtown and redevelop it; to take the stores that have nothing in them and try to improve them.”
Asked why Weslaco can flourish even more than it is now, McDermott said: “Location. It is in the Mid Valley. It is close to Mexico. It has ever component necessary to support business.”
McDermott said Weslaco EDC is committed to improving the quality of life of local residents, bringing jobs and retaining businesses that have already made Weslaco their home. “I am honored to have been given this opportunity and am committed to producing results with the formidable and quality staff assigned to my position,” she added.
Richard Talbert, president of the Weslaco EDC board of directors, said that during her short term as interim executive director, he had seen how McDermott had “generated excitement and a genuine interest” in the changes coming to Weslaco.
“I see a city that has long since realized its potential. It is now capitalizing on what it can offer new business, growing industries and more importantly, a quality of life for the people that have already experienced its humble charm,” Talbert said.
Weslaco EDC Vice President Joe Olivarez agreed. “Her proactive attitude was embraced by the board,” Olivarez said. “While the selection process was rigorous, we valued her understanding of building long lasting and strong relationships with the people of Weslaco, along with her ties and connections statewide.”