BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation will soon announce that another major manufacturing company is moving into the region.

In a Rio Grande Guardian livestream on Facebook on Wednesday, Gilbert Salinas, interim executive director of GBIC, said: “We will be making an announcement here in about a month for another manufacturer, a big-name manufacturer, of large transportation equipment. We are just teetering on the edge of making that announcement. And again, that is going to put a lot of people to work because of the company that it is. It is going to put us on the map again, in many different ways.”

When he was at the Brownsville Economic Development Corporation, Salinas played a pivotal role in bringing SpaceX and the SATA Group to Brownsville. GBIC has effectively taken on the work BEDC used to do. With regard to SpaceX, Salinas said on the livestream: “SpaceX, Brownsville, you know what I call that? Instant brand recognition. You cannot put a price on that.”

Salinas made his comments about landing another major manufacturer in answer to a question about what big projects are on the horizon. He pointed out that the size of the projects Brownsville is going after today are much bigger than they used to be.

“Where we used to work on projects of several millions of dollars, if it was a $20 million or $30 million project that was huge. And it still is, don’t get me wrong. It is a huge win for our area. But now we are working billion-dollar projects. We are working with four different billionaires. That is unheard of. Not just for Brownsville but really for a city of our size.”

One of the big projects GBIC is working on right now, along with the Port of Brownsville, is called Project America.

“That is a steel mill company that is looking at the Port of Brownsville, which is really the Port of the Rio Grande Valley. That is a $1.6 billion capital investment project. Upwards of 500 jobs. The majority of those jobs would not be in the Brownsville area but throughout Cameron County – again we get back to that regional approach,” Salinas said. “With Project America we are still in the running. We are competing with another state. The State of Texas has done a fantastic job in supporting us with this project.”

Salinas also discussed Keppel AmFELS, which is best known at the Port of Brownsville for building oil rigs but has now turned to shipbuilding.

“Keppel AmFELS took a huge hit with the global gas prices (dropping sharply) and they had to let a lot of people go. That is an economic pillar for this area, for this region. They approached us a while back and they were asking us what we could do to help as far as they were going to start retro-fitting their yard and were looking at the possibility of shipbuilding,” Salinas said.

“Of course, we were very excited about that. Fast forward two years and here we are. They have already landed two contacts with Pasha Hawaii, for the manufacturing of – they are already in the design phase right now – two 780-foot-long vessels, cargo vessels that are going to be built at the Port of Brownsville with our labor force and this summer they are going to start ramping up all the welders and solderers and what have you.

“What is interesting about that project is that now Brownsville, and it goes back to the uniqueness of this area – there are only four cities that can build vessels as per the Jones Vessel Act, and that basically means any vessel that is going from a U.S. port to another U.S. port has to be built in the United States. It is New Jersey, it is Mobile, Alabama, and Philadelphia. Well, now Brownsville is on that list.”

Salinas added that when it comes to economic development, Brownsville is setting itself from the competition.

“Really, we are setting ourselves apart from many other cities in Texas as to the diverse economic background that we have here,” Salinas said. “We have got the LNG plants. Those are liquefaction plants. Those are going to be tapping into the Eagle Ford Shale as well as the Burgos Shale in northern Mexico, for export. Those are huge job generators and again those are $5 billion to $7 billion of capital investment.”

In addition to Salinas, there were three economic development specialists on the livestream: GBIC Chair Cesar De Leon, Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation Executive Director Rebeca Castillo and BCIC Chair Anisa Ramirez.

Among the topics discussed were collaborating with Matamoros and Mexico generally, a new sports park, SpaceX, incentives to lure companies to a region, regional cooperation, and tourism.

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Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series about the Rio Grande Guardian livestream on Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation and Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation. Part Two will be posted later this week.