BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Ruth Hughs, the commissioner representing employers on the Texas Workforce Commission, says a $100,001 check for skills development will have a regional impact of $3.3 million.
Hughs was at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts on Thursday to make the check presentation to Texas State Technical College-Harlingen. TSTC will custom-train 40 workers on the premises of SATA USA, an Italian manufacturing firm that has committed to an investment of a $114 million for a machining operation that will create 300 jobs in Brownsville over a ten-year period.
“This grant is yet another example of smart investment – $100,001 is going to create 40 new jobs,” Hughs said. “But, the 40 new jobs are just the beginning of what is anticipated to be 300 jobs over the next few years. We know this is the start, and that it is going to continue to grow and expand and impact this region in very positive ways.”
Hughs said the grant will be used to provide focused instruction in machining, production processes and precision tool use. She said trainees will include forklift operators, purchasing agents, quality technicians, metallurgists, gauge calibration technicians, heat treatment operators, non-destructive testing technicians. She said that upon completion of training, the workers will receive an average wage of $14.22.
“We are pleased to make this grant to SATA USA, Inc. and TSTC, which will provide high-quality jobs in the manufacturing industry growth for this area. This grant is the perfect example of a win-win situation. The employer benefits by receiving a custom-trained workforce that will give them a competitive edge, and the employee benefits by receiving high-quality training and an opportunity to start a career in the best state in the nation.”
Hughs then factored in the multiplier effect. “The regional impact of the grant is $3.3 million. I am very excited that this region is leading by example and really taking advantage of these opportunities to promote workforce and development in the region.”
Hughs said the grant is coming from the Skills Development Fund, which was set up by the Legislature in 1996. Since then, Hughs said, the Fund has helped create 342,000 jobs with 4,200 employers securing assistance with their customized training needs.
In her remarks, Hughs paid tribute to TSTC and SATA USA.
“This grant is part of a system that really does encourage tightly focused smart investments in innovative technologies and companies that are the job creators of the future. This partnership is an example of those smart investments,” Hughs said.
“TSTC has distinguished itself as the most sophisticated technical vocational institute in the country. Having this global company (SATA) is going to greatly contribute to our continued growth. Manufacturing is the largest and most dynamic sector of the U.S. economy. It is much different to manufacturing of the past.”
Because SATA is an Italian firm, Hughs said she would like to quote Galileo Galilei, the Italians astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician. “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing, knowing is not enough, we must apply, being willing is not enough, we must do.” Hughs said: “This is certainly a room of doers, so I congratulate all of you for that.”
Stella Garcia, provost of TSTC-Harlingen, was emcee at the check presentation. Marco Margrotto, SATA USA’s chief operating officer and vice president, was one of the speakers, as was John Cowen, Jr., a director of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation. GBIC has committed $30,000 to the current SATA workforce training project. Cowen said that typically, every dollar committed by an economic development corporation yields a return of $7. He said that in case of SATA, the return is $11.
“Three important factors: first, this is a company providing foreign direct investment. Second, it’s in the advanced manufacturing sector, which is future of manufacturing generally across most industries. Third it is a company that brings a brand-new skills set into our state,” Cowen said.
“GBIC is committed to providing up to $2 million in economic development money to SATA. It is not enough, we need to be more competitive, we need to support these people, these are our future.”
Pat Hobbs, executive director of Workforce Solutions Cameron, said he echoed the remarks of TSTC’s Garcia: that the machines SATA has at its Brownsville plant, costing anywhere from $500,000 to $900,000, are very impressive. “This is an important day for the area and for area workforce,” Hobbs said.
Three elected officials were present for the check presentation: state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., of Brownsville, state Rep. René Oliveira, of Brownsville, and state Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, of Harlingen.
“This is another demonstration of the State’s commitment to Brownsville and to job creation for our region,” said Sen. Lucio. “We look forward to SATA USA’s ever-increasing presence as it develops its operation, making Brownsville its North American headquarters.”
Oliveira said he remembers when the State of Texas’ involvement in workforce training was overhauled back in the early 1990s, leading to the creation of the Skills Development Fund.
“The Skills Development Fund has benefitted Toyota, SpaceX, so many companies. In 2016, the Workforce Commission awarded 43 fund grants. It does not seem like a lot but it was almost $27 million that was spread around Texas to create jobs. I would like to see it doubled,” Oliveira said.
Oliveira said the hundreds of new, good-paying, jobs SATA is committed to bringing to Brownsville will impact the community in more ways than many can imagine.
“Thank you SATA for being a new welcome member of the Brownsville, Cameron County, family,” Oliveira said. “It is good that SATA recognizes something we have known for a long time – that Brownsville and the State of Texas are open for business.”
Rep. Lucio said that thanks to companies like SATA and SpaceX and others, his children are going to grow up with an entirely different appreciation and perception of the community. “They are going to think of it as just as good anywhere in the world,” Rep. Lucio said.
Rep. Lucio said some workforce training statistics alarmed him going into the recent legislative session. He said that currently in Texas, only 20 percent of high school graduates go on to earn a certificate, license or degree. However, 80 percent of the new jobs being created in Texas require a certificate, license or degree.
“We are excited about where we are headed in terms of skilled workforce development. It is a bipartisan issue we are working very closely on in the Legislature. There is a need and we will be addressing it,” Rep. Lucio said.