BROWNSVILLE, RGV – An economic development consultancy firm from Austin will soon be recommending a new marketing and rebranding strategy for the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.
TIP Strategies, working with McDaniel Strategy Ecosystems and USDM Digital, is nearing the final phase of developing a strategic plan for GBIC. One component of the strategic plan will focus on Brownsville’s image.
John Karras, a senior consultant with TIP Strategies, gave an update on his company’s work in Brownsville at a GBIC board meeting on Thursday.
“We have had 40 different meetings with key stakeholders in education, major employers, real estate professionals, and the public sector and the first thing that came out of most of the meetings was, we really have to change the image and the narrative, both internally and externally about Brownsville,” Karras said.
“Marketing and image is an important part of what GBIC should be implementing over the next several months and several years.”
Karras said Brownsville has some “great” assets, such as its higher education institutions, its airport, its seaport, and its long-established international relationships. He described downtown Brownsville as “one of the most historic urban areas in Texas.” And, he said, recently arrived companies like SpaceX are bringing new economic opportunities.
However, he said the city also has challenges, most notably related to its workforce and the out-migration of talented workers. Karras said Brownsville has lost about 20,000 workers over the past several years.
“You can only grow so much by serving your local and regional marketplace. If you really want to be a thriving community you have to sell products to the outside world and have export-related industries. So, recruiting those companies and investment is an important part of having a strong economy,” Karras said.
“When you think about the marketing and image, you have so many world-class assets in this community, in this city and this region. But, the story is not really being told either within the community to the outside as much as it can. There are a lot of things that can be done, making sure you are communicating to your local leadership, that you are having external marketing to business decision-makers outside of the region, doing things with social media and with your online presence.”
Karras said his company would be recommending GBIC board members “hone in” on a new brand.
“What will it be called, what will it stand for, this is what our partner, USDM has been working on. They have been working on a branding assessment, looking at the landscape of different organizations, who is promoting what, who is trying to market the region,” Karras said.
After the ten-minute presentation, GBIC board member David Betancourt questioned why Brownsville should be marketing itself again. Board chairman César De León told Betancourt that the final decision would be in the hands of the board of directors, with TIP Strategies only making recommendations.
Tom Stellman, president and CEO of TIP Strategies responded to Betancourt.
“We have seen organizations stop marketing for a while and lose sight of telling the story of all the assets the community has because another issue comes up and then the economy will take a turn and you will lose some businesses because you have not continued to put your name out there,” Stellman said.
TIP Strategies was hired before GBIC’s new executive director, Mario Lozoya, was hired. In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian after the meeting, Lozoya said he was pleasantly surprised that the consultancy firm knew about the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education.
“I met with them before the board meeting and I was extremely surprised and extremely pleased that they know a lot of the same people I know in Houston, Dallas and around the state. They are very familiar with a lot of the workforce strategies I have been involved with, especially the one in San Antonio,” Lozano said.
Lozoya was formerly government relations and external affairs director with Toyota in San Antonio.
“I was pleased to know they are familiar with the Kentucky FAME that was established as a state program in Kentucky by Toyota. I helped start a Texas FAME in San Antonio,” Lozoya said. “To hear them have that kind of knowledge in a program like that was very satisfying to me.”
Lozano said he has given TIP Strategies another task as they finalize their strategic plan recommendations.
“I asked them to look at what kind of weight this community needs to put on workforce solutions. So that as they look at the data they will see that workforce development is something we should put significant weight on.”
GBIC Chairman De León said he is pleased with the work TIP Strategies is doing.
“Tracye McDaniel (of McDaniel Strategy Ecosystems) is a phenomenal person and human being, and very wise, especially when it comes to economic development strategies. We decided to hire a group to help us compile a group of data to really start looking at the numbers and start figuring out what our competitive advantages are,” De León said.
“They have gone through interviews with all types of different businesses, small, medium and large. They were in Matamoros twice, to see all the maquiladoras and industries in that city. So, they have gone through the phase of collecting data and are now ready to start to develop an action plan and the timeframe for the plan to be implemented.”
Asked about the possibility of Brownsville taking a new approach to marketing, De León said: “It is like having a can of food. You can use a label multiple times but what we really have to work on is the content. Does it taste good and do people want to buy it. If it is a good product, it does not matter what label you put on it, people will buy it. So, it is not about changing the label, it is about changing the essence of who we are.”
De León said what has held Brownsville back is its education system and not having a sufficiently skilled workforce.
“We are taking a different approach. We used to throw money at companies, causing a race to the bottom. Now what we want is create assets locally, to have the infrastructure and to have the workforce.”
De León also said he is pleased with the start Lozoya has made as executive director.
“Mario is amazing. He is a Marine and they are always the first ones in. I will tell you we are very happy and very pleased with him. I have heard great, great comments from everybody in the community. People seeing him out and about makes a great difference.”