MATAMOROS, Tamaulipas – Rio South Texas Economic Council recently held its first ever board meeting in Mexico and in the process learned a lot about economic development projects underway in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
RSTEC chose to hold its meeting in the La Cancillería restaurant in Matamoros because the first member from Mexico to join the group, industrial site developer SIDEE (Servicios Inmobiliarios para el Desarrollo Exportador), is based in the border city. RSTEC members also visited an industrial park built by SIDEE.
“I was extremely excited that our board made the decision to move forward and host the meeting in Matamoros, Mexico, last week. We had a really good board meeting and a fantastic experience in Matamoros, a step in the right direction,” said Matt Ruszczak, executive director of RSTEC, in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM.
“We are a regional economic development organization. We look at the region as both riverbanks. We look at the four county area on the northern river bank and and we also look at the eight municipios on the southern riverbank as part of the Rio South Texas economic region. I think it is very important for us to not only talk the talk but walk the walk, in terms of truly engaging on our southern riverbank.”
Among the RSTEC members who attended the board meeting in Matamoros were representatives from Pharr Economic Development Corporation, Alamo Economic Development Corporation, Weslaco Economic Development Corporation, the Port of Brownsville, the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, Workforce Solutions, and UT-Rio Grande Valley.
One of the pluses of meeting in Matamoros, Ruszczak said, was the opportunity to interact with economic development leaders from the city, and from the State of Tamaulipas.
“It was invaluable for our members. I think it was important for them to visit the industrial parks of Matamoros. I think everyone had been to Matamoros at some time or other but many had not been back to Matamoros in years. They got a fresh look at what Matamoros looks like now and what opportunities exist,” Ruszczak said.
“It is important we know what the trends and underlying numbers are and what the initiatives are on the other side of the river, because it can have a very positive impact on what we are doing as well.”
Arturo Gomez, from the City of Matamoros, had some “fantastic statistics” for the RSTEC board, Ruszczak explained.
“Arturo spoke about the growth and the investment that has been happening in Matamoros, especially in the energy sector, such as wind energy and offshore exploration, with investments at the Port of Matamoros. I think it was really important for our folks to understand this because all of these developments are assets for the entire region.
“Our economy does not end sharply at the river. Quite the contrary, we are extremely well connected and there are opportunities that arise from positive developments on both sides.”
One example of a positive new development in Matamoros, Ruszczak said, is the new U.S. Consulate’s Office.
“As a past customer of the old consulate, while it was a charming facility, it is dwarfed by the size of the new facility. The new office is designed to process a lot of requests. I have heard numbers between 1,000 and 2,000 visa requests being processed every single day. When people have their visa they say, you know what, I am going across now. Many of these folks will be flowing across into our region. They represent an economic opportunity for us.”
Another significant new development in Matamoros, Ruszczak said, is the production of blades for wind turbines, not just in Tamaulipas but further afield. “They are fixing to get that operation fired up. That opens up opportunities on both sides of the river. The more familiar we are with these opportunities, the better.”
Developing strong relationships with the State of Tamamaulipas, the eight municipios that border the Valley, and industrial developers on the south side of the Rio Grande also helps RSTEC market the region, Ruszczak said.
“We work with the EDCs with their business recruitment. We are the sharp tip of the spear in terms of the marketing and outreach, in order to procure some of these leads. And so a binational message is really critical. It is one of our key competitive advantages. The ability to offer the U.S. and Mexico, and the ability to leverage the demographic and industrial strength of both river banks, as we tell the story of this region, is crucial. We want to really deliver on that regional message.”
Earlier this year, RSTEC hosted a delegation of site selectors from Germany. Asked if those site selectors are interested in developing in Tamaulipas as well as South Texas, Ruszczak said: “Chances are they might want to have operations on both sides of the river. We see that with some of the Asian investors that have come into McAllen and have operations in Reynosa. That could equally apply to the European folks we are talking to. It gives us an ability to create a unique proposition for these companies that they may not find in other markets that they are looking at.”
Asked for a wrap-up comment, Ruszczak said: “I am very excited to have made this step. I am looking forward having more meetings in the future on the southern riverbank. We are very blessed to be where we are. RSTEC is very excited to be a positive contributor to leveraging some of these regional assets.”
Related Post: Click here to read “SIDEE becomes first Mexican company to join RSTEC”