MCALLEN, Texas – The Rio Grande Valley and northern Tamaulipas could end up benefitting from some of the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the view of Keith Patridge, president and CEO of McAllen Economic Development Corporation.
In an MEDC e-newsletter, Patridge points out that the pandemic has revealed a “critical shortcoming in the global supply chain.”
He says that this, coupled with the implementation of rules for the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and changes in consumer demand has resulted in a shift to the re-shoring of manufacturing.
It has also led to a change in supply chain strategies, the veteran economic development leader writes.
“This has resulted in a renewed interest in the cross-border, twin-plant, maquiladora model with Mexico,” Patridge said.
“If these early trends continue, it could create significant opportunities for manufacturing and the necessary support services in our border region, which in turn will create additional demand for an educated workforce with knowledge-based skillsets.”
Patridge said that as communities plan for a future “full of rapid change,” they will have to adjust their goals to accommodate whatever that rapid change may bring.
“For example, because of the pandemic, remote work moved from being a small percent of the American workforce to a majority of the workforce almost overnight,” Patridge pointed out.
“Now it is seen as a possible option to help companies decrease overhead costs, provide at home residents with job opportunities, and give employees a certain flexibility as to where and how they live.”
Patridge points out that while the pandemic created the need for remote work, it was technology that made that move possible. “As a result, we have to consider the impact of technology as it continues to open new horizons for job creation and economic growth,” he said.
The role of universities and community colleges will be critical, Patridge believes.
By way of example, Patridge said South Texas College (STC) has been preparing for the promise of advanced manufacturing for many years. He said UT-Rio Grande Valley and Texas A&M University in McAllen can also play key roles.
“STC, for example, has established one of the most extensive automation, robot, Cobot, and manufacturing 4.0 certification programs in Texas, and both UTRGV and Texas A&M continue to focus on increasing the number of STEM graduates.”
Patridge has played a senior leadership role at MEDC for decades. During that time, he said, the educational system of the Valley has “continued to evolve” to provide more educational offerings to the South Texas region.
“This regional partnership provides area students with exceptional educational opportunities to compete throughout out nation and the world,” Patridge said.
The MEDC chief thanked Chad Wootton, associate vice president for external affairs at Texas A&M, for providing MEDC board members with a close but virtual look at the Texas A&M Higher Education Center at McAllen. Wootton sits on the MEDC advisory board.
Patridge said Wootton provided a “broader look” into technology and the hands-on labs students have access to at the education center. He said Wootton also noted the “rapid growth plans” Texas A&M has for the Valley.
In the e-newsletter, Patridge noted that McAllen was recently recognized with two positive accolades. JustBusiness.com recognized McAllen as the best place in the country to start a home-based business, while U.S. News & World Report ranked the city as the third best place in the nation to live for quality of life.
“Combined, these awards provide a powerful statement of what we already know – McAllen is a great place to live and do business,” Patridge said.
The e-newsletter, the last to be published by MEDC this year, includes features on Texas A&M Higher Education Center at McAllen, the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone, which recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary, and Teach for America-RGV.
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