WESLACO, RGV – The chances of the Rio Grande Valley landing a major European manufacturing company have just improved considerably.
This is the view of leaders with the Rio South Texas Economic Council, an economic development and marketing group that represents numerous communities in the Rio Grande Valley.
At a recent conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana, RSTEC learned it had secured investment-ready certification from the European American Investment Council (EAIC).
EAIC helps connect U.S. communities with European manufacturing companies that are looking to invest in North America. The group hosted the conference at Fort Wayne.
Matt Ruszczak, executive director of RSTEC, said the timing of the EAIC Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Qualified Community Qualification could not be better with the new United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement likely to be ratified in the coming months.
“We are extremely excited about this new certification with EAIC and excited about what the future holds because we now have an additional tool in the toolbox when we do our outreach to Europe,” Ruszczak said.
In order to secure investment-ready status, RSTEC had to provide EAIC with 397 data points, plus support documentation covering things like educational attainment, workforce readiness, cost of living, and quality of life. In addition to the data, two “certifiers” from Navigator Consulting visited the Valley, with Ruszczak showing taking them to various industrial sites.
“One of the things we had to show was how experienced the region is in dealing with international investors,” Ruszczak said. He calculates that he and RSTEC board members put in 500 hours of work to get EAIC the information the group needed.
“It was fun. We had seven days to get the information together. Effectively, we were simulating a true request for information scenario. We delivered the right data and made the right impression.”
Asked why investment-ready certification is important, Ruszczak said: “It is important to show up on a map. Now, there is a new map of certified communities for European manufacturing firms and we will be among the first ones in the country to be on that map.”
When manufacturing companies want to scope out a new location to build a plant they always have a list of questions. “Now, thanks to EAIC, there will be a database of information to answer those questions. We have the seal of approval from an entity that specializes in European manufacturing.”
Asked to explain the importance of EAIC, Ruszczak said the group bridges the gap between economic development organizations and European investors searching for the perfect location in the U.S.
He pointed out that the organization was set up about two and a half years ago and that he learned of it soon after it was formed.
“We received an invitation to become members roughly a year ago. We have not looked back since,” Ruszczak said, pointing out that five site selectors from Germany that are part of EAIC toured the Rio Grande Valley last February.
“When people ask me what I do I tell them I put people on airplanes. I bring site selectors down to see what our region has to offer. The visit by the five site selectors from Germany was certainly a factor in getting us to where we are today,” Ruszczak said.
Ruszczak said that when business investors in Europe think of the United States, top of mind could be Los Angeles, New York, Chicago. And when they think of Texas it is more than likely Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, or Austin.
“They do not think about our region. When people think Texas, I want them to think about the Rio South Texas region, that we are an attractive place for investment.”
On its website, EAIC states: “For a single community it is hard to be heard in Europe and to actively promote its sites and European FDI readiness. Therefore the EAIC offers multiple opportunities to its member communities, to benefit from its market intelligence, its European business network and its experience in arranging delegation trips, meetings and events.”
Ruszczak said EAIC FDI Qualified Communication Qualification is “like the crown jewel” for an economic development group looking to land a European manufacturing company. “It is like a site certification but plus, plus, plus.”
Asked to elaborate, he said: “We were evaluated for workforce development, the workforce pipeline, transportation logistics, the education system, cost of doing business, cost of living, quality of life, how experienced the region is in dealing with international investors. We had to provide over 397 data points, plus dozens and dozens of support documentation. We were evaluated to see if we could pass muster on the numbers. Then we received a four-day site visit, with two certifiers from Navigator Consulting. I took them on a whirlwind tour, with a walk thru of industrial sites, a visit to education centers, recreational areas.”
In addition to RSTEC getting regional designation as investment-ready, two of its members, McAllen Economic Development Corporation and Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation secured EAIC DFI validation.
Asked how the new USMCA trade agreement dovetails with the EAIC investment-ready certification, Ruszczak said: “If the current draft of USMCA stays mostly intact, it holds tremendous promise for all of North America, attracting more investment, with more North American content. North America accounts for 25 percent of the world’s GDP (gross domestic product). So, this is a huge market where people want to do business. Once USMCA is enacted there could be a sense of urgency on where to make investment and having this EAIC certification could be a key advantage. It is an extremely valuable tool, providing third party validation that we are suitable for investment.”
Asked for any concluding remarks, Ruszczak said: “This data we have put together can be used beyond Europe. Other regions will be keen to have this data. I truly appreciate all the work our members put in.”