MCALLEN, RGV  – Mark Kroll, dean of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s College of Business and Entrepreneurship, spoke at South Texas College’s Inno’ Conference about the Bi-National Economic Development program.

The Bi-National Economic Development (BiNED) program began in 2014 to bring advanced manufacturing to the border region. The program was initiated by the cities of Brownsville, Matamoros and Harlingen. It has since been expanded to include Cameron and Hidalgo counties, Reynosa, McAllen, Edinburg, Mission and other cities in the Rio Grande Valley.

“From the get go we have recognized the necessity of it being a border region project,” Kroll said. “In order to make the border region what we would like it to be, we would need to have the political buy-in from the mouth of the Rio Grande to the mouth of Colorado–the whole region, across the region. We’re of course starting here in the RGV.”

According to the organization’s website, BiNED’s objective is to develop a competitive, innovation-driven, advanced manufacturing area spanning and operating seamlessly across the U.S.-Mexico border.

However, the zone goes beyond economic opportunities. There will also be educational as well as capital formation investment opportunity available, Kroll explained.

“Imagine a zone that would cover about 10,000 acres of land that’ll [connect] both sides of the river,”  Kroll said. “The perimeter would be secure so that there wouldn’t be any bad guys to worry about. Goods that were in the zone–either finished goods or raw materials will premiere throughout the zone. Once people enter the zone, they can work and travel in whatever part of the zone they wish to be in.”

With BiNED, wealth can be found in advanced manufacturing. Kroll said there is a window of opportunity because there is a great deal of re-shoring and near-shoring of manufacturing taking place.

“Chinese labor laws have been rising at a point now where they are more or less competitive or on the same plane roughly speaking as Mexico,” Kroll said. “There’s obviously the shipping time issue [and] intellectual property rights issue. In this day and age, manufacturers like to rapidly customize their products They have very short life cycles, they want quick turnarounds, etc. Being 7,000 miles doesn’t lend itself to that kind of quick turnaround.”

Kroll said BiNED also has an integrated concept that would bring together the private and public sector, academia and all the Economic Development Corporations (EDCs) in the region. For the zone to succeed, collaboration is critical. As of yet, the organization aims to develop an integrated industrial development strategy across the border.

“We have the coordinating board that has articulated a set of by-laws and we have articulated a funding mechanism,” Kroll said. “We hope to have a manufacturing summit in the not too distant future bringing back all the elements of our region.”

Editor’s Note: Reporter Steve Taylor contributed to this story from McAllen, Texas.

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