WESLACO, RGV – The executive director of the Economic Development Corporation of Weslaco cannot wait to see what synergies develop from a unique cluster of organizations and institutions that have made or are making her city home.
In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Marie McDermott ran through the list: the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council and its Center for International Economic Development Opportunities, Rio South Texas Economic Council, the State of Tamaulipas’ Texas Tamaulipas Trade Office, the Bi-National Economic Development Zone, and, coming next year, UTRGV College of Business and Entrepreneurship’s Center for Innovation and Commercialization.
All of these entities are or will be within a couple of blocks of each other, near Texas Avenue and Business 83.
“It is all about synergy, innovation, and ideas. The Mid Valley has a lot of people who are moving in the right direction, which is forward. We are together, we go to each other’s meetings and we get ideas and bounce them off each other. That is good for progress,” McDermott said.
“Things are evolving quickly. This will be great for future collaborations and new ideas.”
Just prior to meeting with the Rio Grande Guardian, McDermott met with UTRGV officials to discuss ideas for the Center for Innovation and Commercialization. Likely to be built by July 2018, the CIC will house a business and technology incubator to help increase the Valley’s economic, business and educational opportunities.
“They are excited about the speakers they will be bringing in. The angel network will be housed there, plus Make-a-Space, which should produce many innovative things. Maybe they will have engineers working in that space,” McDermott said.
“What will all of this do? It will change the way we think about the future. We are going to house people from PhD students to innovators. It is going to pay back in a big way very soon.”
Asked how Weslaco EDC can help UTRGV and its College of Business and Entrepreneurship, McDermott said: “Our big thing is taking a look at education and getting the labor force connected to the school. The school districts, the parents and that students need to know what goods and products will be made here with all this innovation. We want to get the school districts, the college, and workforce closer together.”
McDermott said she is particularly excited to see the State of Tamaulipas open its Valley office in the Center for International Economic Development Opportunities, right next door to the Rio South Texas Economic Council.
“We are making stronger connections all the time with Rio Bravo and Nuevo Progreso. They have great people in their team, such as Maria Elena Cavazos who handles economic development. We plan for great things. We want her to bring traders in to participate in our monthly Alfresco food, arts and crafts extravaganza and a procurement fair we host each year.”
Asked about other projects the EDC of Weslaco is working on, McDermott said forging closer ties with the South Texas Manufacturers Association. She said Weslaco manufacturers and their supplies can benefit from the services of STMA.
“Over the past year we have seen an increase in capital investment of $15 million in our community, either through new businesses coming in or existing businesses expanding. All types of industries, retail, manufacturing, logistics. Next year we have got to beat that,” McDermott said.
Later this month, the EDC will take local dignitaries on a bus tour of Weslaco to see the new companies the group has brought in. “We thought it important for our board of directors, the mayor, the city commissioners, the chamber of commerce, to see what was completed over last year. People talk about the projects we do but not many know what these companies produce,” McDermott said.
McDermott also pointed to a new website the EDC has developed, in conjunction with Create the Bridge.
“In today’s growing economy, businesses around the world looking to grow and expand need to go no farther than their computers to see if communities like Weslaco meet their growth criteria, so before scouts, business head hunters or business developers step foot on Weslaco soil, their research begins with what the business industry calls ‘site selection’,” McDermott said. “So, our new website features property, site selector information, our board, the businesses we have in town. It is a good collection of information.”
McDermott said another program Weslaco EDC is proud of is Alfresco, which brings 80-plus vendors to display their food, arts and crafts.
“We do this once a month for six months a year, on Texas Avenue between 3rd and 6th. There are two objectives, to bring people in from outside the community to spend money in Weslaco and to have a good time. It brings the city together. The next one is on October 19 so come along. It is a lot of fun.”
McDermott concluded her interview by telling how she regularly goes to city commission meetings and planning and zoning committee meetings. She says she does this to get a pulse on the city.
“Weslaco is progressing so well, it is growing at a nice pace. The City is improving parks in the center of town and in the northern part of the city. People should be so proud.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows an artist’s impression of UTRGV College of Business and Entrepreneurship’s Center for Innovation and Commercialization.