WESLACO, Texas – The Rio Grande Valley Partnership wants to know how it can help the Governor’s Office bring “economic powerhouses” to the South Texas border region.

In a Zoom conversation just before the holiday season, attorney Amanda Saldaña asked Gov. Greg Abbott: “How can we in South Texas position ourselves to compliment your efforts to entice these powerhouses to our region?”

Saldaña is part of Pathfinder Public Affairs, which is a member of RGVP, the Valley’s regional chamber of commerce. She is also a board director for the group.

Amanda Saldaña

Abbott responded: “One of the best things you can do is to have good, robust, local economic development teams that will work on trying to generate some leads and then work collaboratively with our office.”

Abbott said this is typically the way his office works with the larger Texas cities such as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.

“Often times the lead will begin at the local level and then the state will work alongside the local level and I personally will be making phone calls to the CEOs, working on closing the deals,” Abbott said.

“So, one thing that you can do is make sure you have robust, local economic development teams, working on those leads, reaching out on certain categories that are particularly good fits for your particular region.”

Abbott said a crucial component on luring investment to a region is having a skilled workforce. He said the state’s workforce developments boards stand ready to help local communities. He also said workforce development would be a key issue during the upcoming legislative session.

“Second thing is, to lean into your education institutions. There is higher education but also separate from your traditional higher education there is workforce skills training education opportunities in your region,” Abbott said.

“That, by the way, will be another focal point that we have over the course of the (legislative) session. We will have what I will categorize as a job-oriented session, where we focus on skills training to make sure that we will have the high quality workforce that will meet the needs of the employers seeking to expand in Texas.”

The conversation with Abbott was hosted by RGVP. Its president, Sergio Contreras opened and closed proceedings. In his remarks, Abbott spoke about Texas’ efforts to thwart the coronavirus pandemic and looked ahead to the legislative session.

After his remarks, Saldaña asked Abbott four questions. In addition to the one about bringing economic powerhouses to the Valley, she asked how the state government might partner with private industry in order to eliminate the digital divide.

Abbott responded: “We have already begun our discussions with members in both the House and the Senate. The good news is that both the House and Senate, they really want to see this (improved broadband opportunities) done and the Governor’s Office wants to see this done. And so, you mentioned different providers and we are already working with different providers to make sure this gets done.”

Abbott said he felt sure Saldaña and RGVP would appreciate the the approach the legislature will take on broadband connectivity.

“I will mention something and it sounds like you appreciate this concept and that is, sometimes we layer on top of each other a bunch of different providers with a lack of clarity about how does what in making sure we do get to the last mile for everybody,” Abbott said.

“The bottom line is this. We are committed both in the House and the Senate and the Governor’s Office to make sure we have a broad-based platform of broadband access to everybody in the state. We have the leaders working in the House to make sure we get that done.”

Saldaña also asked how the legislature could help stop businesses with large commercial vehicle fleets from being sued as frequently as they are. She also asked how transportation infrastructure funding could be guaranteed to cope with Texas’ fast growing population.

After the event had concluded, Contreras told the Rio Grande Guardian:

“Economic recovery is a priority in our region.Our healthcare system and the business community across the RGV continue to align to ensure a safe and prosperous recovery.We encourage our elected officials to continue to support programs that driveinfrastructure construction projects and foster business friendly communities.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Gov. Greg Abbott. (Photo credit: (AP /Tony Gutierrez)

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