WESLACO, RGV – The economic development efforts of the State of Tamaulipas and the Rio Grande Valley have come more closely aligned following the signing of a binational collaboration agreement.

This initiative is being led by Rio South Texas Economic Council (RSTEC) and the Ministry of Economic Development for the State of Tamaulipas.

The municipios of Nuevo Laredo, Guerrero, Mier, Miguel Aleman, Camargo, Diaz Ordaz, Reynosa, Rio Bravo, Valle Hermoso, Matamoros, Ciudad Victoria, Altamira, Madero and Tampico were represented at the first meeting, which was held at the offices of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council.

Valley communities represented included Alamo, Brownsville, Donna, Edinburg, Harlingen, Hidalgo, Laredo, McAllen, Mission, Palmview, Pharr, Roma, Rio Grande, San Benito, Sullivan City, and Weslaco.

Representatives of the General Consulate of Mexico in McAllen and the United States Consulate General in Matamoros participated as official witnesses of the ceremony, along with representatives from the Texas and Tamaulipas state governments.

Carlos Garcia, secretary of economic development for the State of Tamaulipas said that by signing an “unprecedented” binational collaboration agreement, economic development organizations in South Texas and Tamaulipas are looking to work together in areas of mutual interest to create joint initiatives for the exchange of information, data, capacity building, marketing, as well as peer‐support.

“Our strength is the ability to promote the communities in both states as one region.” Garcia said. “The ability to have operations on both sides of the Rio Grande river is what makes companies look at our region favorably.” 

RSTEC Executive Director Matt Ruszczak said the signatories look to the binational initiative to strengthen investment recruitment and job creation in communities on both sides the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo.

“Working together, sharing tools, combining resources, and leveraging the advantages of South Texas and Tamaulipas is what puts our region on the global map, and opens the door to attracting investment from across the globe,” Ruszczak said. “We have kicked our regional game up another notch, and we are all excited about the fruit this initiative will bear in the future.”

After the agreement was signed, Ruszczak sat down for an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM to explain how the initiative started and what the goals are.

“I was first contacted by the ministry of economic development for the State of Tamaulipas and they talked to me about bringing together economic development professionals on both sides of the border,” Ruszczak explained.

“They clearly understood and appreciated the importance and strengths of our binational region; that you can leverage the positives of the Mexican side and the South Texas side. That if you bring them both together, that is a really compelling message to take across the continent and across the globe.”

Ruszczak said RSTEC is “very privileged” to partner with the State of Tamaulipas and the secretary of economic development to advance the new initiative and to promote it on the U.S. side. He said the Secretary Garcia will work hard to promote it on the Mexican side. 

“This is actually a long term project. Last month we had the opportunity to take the first big step by bringing together the economic development professionals; the folks that work in the economic development trenches day in and day out. From the counties, from the states, from the municipios, the people that get the work done everyday. We brought them together in Welsaco on March 5 to sign the collaboration agreement.”

Ruszczak said the collaboration agreement is focused on “sharing data, resources, working together, doing peer-to-peer support, sharing education or training resources.” By doing this, he predicted, leaders from Tamaulipas and South Texas can “Sharpen the tools that everybody has at their disposal for the purpose of advancing economic development in the binational region.”

Ruszczak said it goes without saying that everyone who is connected to economic development in South Texas has an understanding that Mexico provides a strength from the U.S. side and the U.S. provides a strength from Mexico. “This was a great opportunity to kickoff that relationship, to move beyond the rhetoric and develop a working relationship on a regional scale.”

Some economic development leaders in South Texas already do a very good job of working with their Tamaulipas counterparts, Ruszczak said. “This is taking it up a notch and taking that collaboration to a regional level.”

Asked what the next steps will be, Ruszczak said: “There will be follow-up meetings now where we will have workshops to give the collaboration agreement muscle. One very interesting aspect of this is when the State of Tamaulipas came to us, they showed us some very interesting economic development resources. These will be discussed at some upcoming meetings.”

Asked to elaborate, Ruszczak said: “The State of Tamaulipas came with tools and said, hey, we have developed these tools, we would like to share them. It was exciting to see that. They are a strong partner, they are strongly committed, they have put skin in the game to make this happen.”

South Texas economic development groups can do the same, Ruszczak said.

“We can bring in our partners and other economic development corporations so we can put some sweat equity into this as well. We can accomplish great things moving forward. This kicks up our economic development efforts up a notch, as we truly embrace the binational opportunities that exist.”

Ruszczak concluded the interview by thanking the State of Tamaulipas for its leadership, especially Governor Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca. 

“Governor Cabeza de Vaca is a huge proponent of binational collaboration. It is exciting to see projects like this grow under his leadership,” Ruszczak said. 

“I also want to give a huge thank you to the secretary of economic development in the State of Tamaulipas, Carlos Garcia, who opened up his tool chest and rallied his troops to bring us all together in Weslaco in order to initiate and formalize this effort. We are excited as we look forward to continue with workshops and put into place a plan of action.”

Editor’s Note: The above story is the first in a two-part series about Rio South Texas Economic Council. The second, featuring the group’s work in Europe, will be posted later this week.