BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – Something special is likely to happen when a city, two different economic development corporations, a university and the private sector come together on a project.
This is the opinion of Helen Ramirez, Brownsville’s new city manager. By way of an example, she cited a new partnership forming that will help a software developer from Mexico grow its U.S. presence in Brownsville.
“Look at this project with Future SQC Software. You have the university, UTRGV, you have the city, the City of Brownsville, you have two EDCs, Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, and Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation and you have SQC from the private sector,” Ramirez said.
“Sometimes you see everybody rowing in a different direction. Here, everybody is rowing in the same direction. And that’s how we’re going to accelerate our economy. If we’re all rowing in different directions or competing, we’re not growing. This is a great example of what partnerships can do.”
Ramirez made her remarks in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service following a news conference held at the offices of GBIC. The conference was called to announce a Launch BTX grant worth $210,000 that was awarded by GBIC to UT-Rio Grande Valley’s workforce and economic development department. With the funds, UTRGV students and faculty will help do important research for SQC.
SQC, a manufacturing data software firm, is based in Monterrey but wants to establish a presence in the United States. It has arrived in Brownsville via UTRGV’s Global Soft Landing Program.
According to GBIC, the $210,000 grant being awarded to UTRGV will help SQC with the purchase of software, virtual reality hardware, and possible additive manufacturing equipment worth $45,000. GBIC says it will support the advancement of manufacturing and commercialization of equipment used in automotive, food and beverage manufacturing, resulting in the acquisition of contracts and job creation. The partnership between SQC and UTRGV is expected to create 20 direct and up to 50 indirect local jobs.
“Industry wants to see cohesion. They want to know that when they talk to the City of Brownsville, that we have a link and connection with our economic development corporations, which in turn have a link to the university or Texas Southmost College,” Ramirez said.
“We must not forget TSC because they’re also innovating. I think they are the most one of the most agile community colleges or higher education institutions I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.”
Ramirez was asked to react to a comment Ron Garza made at the news conference. Garza, UTRGV’s associate vice president for workforce development, said something special is happening in Brownsville.
“There is a momentum in Brownsville and people want to come be a part of it, whether you’re a new company, or an existing company,” Ramirez said.
“Historically, 70% of venture capital startup money has gone to the same cities. You know, it’s always been Silicon Valley. SQC mentioned it here, Boston, New York. Really, seeing SQC come to the Brownsville, I think it’s just an indicator of where we’re going.”
Ramirez was asked why she thought SQC had chosen Brownsville.
“I believe a large of part is customer service, persistence, and also the innovative programs we offer such as Launch BTX, BCIC’s eBridge Center, and the programs at UTRGV with the Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center. It’s the whole package,” Ramirez said.
“Companies look at the whole ecosystem, how leadership is run, the professionalism of the leadership, but also innovation, such as GBIC taking the lead and creating an innovative program like Launch BTX. It’s not only about education, it’s also economic development, and keeping the talent here.”
Ramirez said the Rio Grande Valley has great potential because of its young, talented workforce.
“With this project, it all just meshes well. The research and development component is very important. So we’re giving the students hands-on experience at SQC. Also the professors. We are giving them the opportunity through this grant (Launch BTX) to really evolve in their own profession, and also be game changers for our economy. So it’s a very exciting time.”
This reporter said he liked the way Nathan Burkhart, director of marketing and small business development at BCIC, explained it. Burkhart said a company comes into the Global Soft Landing Program and works with BCIC and UTRGV to find its feet. Then, when it is ready to transition out, GBIC and UTRGV help them establish a presence in Brownsville.
Ramirez responded: That’s right, it is an evolution. You incubate the company, they grow, they get the resources they need, then we’re they’re ready to come out and create those manufacturing jobs, GBIC really steps forward and provides space.”
Ramirez said a lot of that space is at the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport. “We have 60 industrial tenants there, including SpaceX,” Ramirez said, proudly.
GBIC has to make the right calls, however, the city manager explained.
“What happens a lot in the economic development world is that an EDC will try to sell them more than they can chew. The important thing is tailoring a program, tailoring a city’s offering to what the company needs. And we are really listening to what they need. And I think that’s one of our gifts. We listen. And then we execute. So, very exciting times.”
Ramirez was asked, how do communities like Brownsville compete to land big corporations when they are up against the so-called “golden triangle” of Dallas, Houston, and Austin-San Antonio, which always seem to be the favorites of the state’s economic development department.
Ramirez responded: “Well, I would say that we create our own leads, right. With GBIC and BCIC, there’s a very proactive approach with new programs such as Launch BTX. They’re not waiting for someone else to invent or reinvent. They’re trying to invent. Sometimes that new change or innovation will yield results, like a company relocating. But sometimes you just learn from that whole experience. Maybe the company doesn’t establish themselves here. But, what have you gained? You’ve gained this new knowledge for the students, new knowledge for the university and the professors. And that is something that’s invaluable that can change someone’s life.”
Ramirez added: “We can wait for someone to give us a lead, whether it is at the state or federal level, or we can create things for ourselves, right, listening to the companies and what they need. So, we have tailored programs to what the companies need. And not only that, we are encouraging them to innovate. Many companies innovated during COVID They were forced to be agile. They learned that the only way they were going to survive during or after COVID was to change and be agile in the economy. All this innovation is giving us momentum.”
Editor’s Note: The above news story is the third in a four-part series on GBIC awarding a BTX Grant to UTRGV’s workforce and economic development department. Part One features the perspective of UTRGV’s dean of engineering and computer science, Ala Qubbaj. Click here to watch it. Part Two features the perspective of Future SQC Software founder Eduardo Cerda. Click here to watch it. Part Four, featuring the perspective of UTRGV Associate Vice President Ron Garza, will appear in our next edition.