BROWNSVILLE, RGV – The outgoing chairman of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership says 2019 was an outstanding one for the group as it continued its advocacy for the region and the local business community.
Lee Reed gave a presentation on the major projects of the RGVP over the past 12 months at a Christmas Party held at IBC Bank’s offices in Brownsville.
RGVP is the regional chamber of the commerce for the Rio Grande Valley.
Valley Legislators Tour
In his presentation, Reed started with the Valley Legislators Tour, a three-day event which sees visiting state lawmakers visit the region. The event is held every other year, soon after the biennial legislative session gets underway.
“It was the most successful ever with over 35 state legislators and three senators,” Reed said. “We brought them down here to educate them about the Valley and the needs of the Valley.”
Some legislators that could not make the tour sent their chiefs of staff. Reed said 25 chiefs of staff were on the tour. He thanked the sponsors for making it happen.
“It takes a lot of money to pay for the airline tickets, the hotel, coordinating all the travel, food, everything, to showcase the Valley,” Reed said. “Having them come down here is very beneficial to making things happen here in the Rio Grande Valley.”
Reed said the goals of the Valley Legislators Tour included winning legislative support for a Level 1 Trauma Center for the RGV, as well as additional funds for transportation, and continued support for the UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine. Other goals included impressing on the lawmakers the need for increased funding for public education and additional money to improve the region’s drainage system.
Reed said he works for a Laredo-based bank and he therefore gets to see quite a few emails from that city. Some of the folks in Laredo ask, “Why aren’t we doing what the Rio Grande Valley is doing,” Reed said.
Reed said some folks in Laredo also say, “Why aren’t we doing the same thing, they (the Valley) are being so successful,” Reed said, in reference to the Valley Legislators Tour. “How great it was to bring all those legislators.”
RGV Day at the Capitol
Another successful RGVP event, Reed said, was RGV Day at the Capitol. This involves taking Valley leaders to Austin to advocate for the region during the legislative session. Reed pointed out the 2019 trip was the first time the Partnership had hosted it.
“We had 225 individuals from the Valley. We made a big impact. We had 100 people from Cameron County,” Reed said, giving a shoutout to Brownsville Chamber of Commerce for recruiting many people for the trip.
“We met with the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House. We all worked to press the issues that we need for the Rio Grande Valley,” Reed said.
RGV to DC
RGVP also hosts the annual RGV to DC trip. The one in 2019 was the third.
“We spent a lot of time advocating for the passage of USMCA, the new NAFTA agreement. We spent a lot of time trying to support the Port of Brownsville in their efforts to bring a lot of industry to the Valley. We also advocated for the drainage infrastructure we need in our community,” Reed said of RGV to DC.
Other events promoted by RGVP in 2019 included RGV First, which showcases the talents of local architects and engineers. It also hosted its sixth RGV Leadership class, which allows up and coming leaders to network and hone their leaderships skills. Reed gave a shoutout to RGVP board members Deborah Cordova and Annabell Cardona for leading the RGV Leadership program. “They lead that effort and do a fantastic job,” Reed said.
RGVP hosted the Mobility and Infrastructure Luncheon, Reed pointed out, with attendance from Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Bruce Bugg, U.S. Senator John Cornyn and members of the new RGV Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Reed said the luncheon provided an opportunity to advocate for additional transportation and drainage funding.
“Chairman Bugg pointed out that we are aligned for $2.2 billion in transportation funding, up from $1 billion,” Reed said, proudly. “Thanks to the new RGVMPO, that additional funding is available. That is where all our communities come together to form a regional partnership to help bring additional funds to our community.
There was a round of applause when Reed explained that RGVP President Sergio Contreras was the only non-elected member of RGVMPO. “He is representing us well,” Reed said.
Another event hosted by RGVP in 2019 was the 30th Annual Honors Banquet, which recognized 125 high school students for achieving their goal of becoming a valedictorian or a salutatorian.
The group also hosted its 37th Annual Golf Tournament, raising a record high $64,000. Reed thanked Atanacio Hinojosa of Magic Valley Electric Coop for coordinating the golf event. “Since 2012 we have distributed close to $220,000 in scholarships to local high school students to attend local colleges in our regions. Next year (2020), I am the chair so we need to do better, for the foundation,” Reed said.
RGVP also also hosted a function to promote the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Reed said. Its keynote speakers were Sen. Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. “The partnership has been pushing USMCA all year long. It is definitely something we want to get done, to help economic development in our area,” Reed said.
Reed said RGVP is definitely a supporter of the Port of Brownsville. “We recently hosted over 75 individuals at the port. We invited the LNG companies to provide an update. They were waiting for approval. We recently have gotten approval for all three. We look forward to them getting started and creating a lot of jobs and economic development in our area, across the Valley, not only Brownsville.”
Another event hosted by RGV was a bus tour of Brownsville for VIPs. The tour took in the city’s industrial parks and historic downtown area.
RGVP also published two guides, Reed said. One of these is to assist tourists, and the other – the data-driven Economic Snapshot – to boost economic development.
Reed concluded his presentation by thanking the membership of the Partnership. “Without the membership, all of this cannot be accomplished. The stronger the membership, the more the Rio Grande Valley Partnership can advocate for the RGV business community.”
Reed also thanked the RGVP staff, and in particular Contreras, Monica Sanchez, and Sandra de los Santos. “Those three individuals are the people that really did all the work and made all the things happen that we did this year. They worked tirelessly to make all this happen.”
Reed also thanked his boss, Al Villarreal, CEO of IBC Bank in Brownsville, for allowing him time off work to participate in RGVP events. And he thanked Karen Peña in IBC Bank’s marketing team for helping promote the Christmas Party.
The chairman of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership for 2020 is Billy Canales of Rio Motors.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story was taken at the RGVP Christmas Party. It shows Ron Whitlock of Ron Whitlock Reports, Rio Grande Valley Partnership board members Billy Canales and Lee Reed, and Sergio Contreras, president of the Partnership.