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Border Initiatives Coordinator Cris Valadez met with Mexican higher education officials at the Brownsville County Courthouse on Tuesday. Pictured from left to right are Fernando Macías López, Julio Flores Rodriguez, Francisco Lerma Alvarado, José Moirfileño Briones, Cris Valadez, and Ron Rogers.

BROWNSVILLE, RGV – When Gov. Greg Abbott appointed Carlos Cascos as Texas’ new Secretary of State he gave him a couple of key tasks, one of which was to improve relations with Mexico.

It was an undertaking Cascos was happy to be involved in, as he explained in his keynote speech at the Governor’s Small Business Forum in Harlingen last week. He chose Cris Valadez, his chief of staff in the Cameron County Judge’s Office, to be his Border Initiatives Coordinator.

Valadez’s work in this capacity was on show when he met with education officials from northern Mexico in the Cameron County Commissioner’s Court Room on Tuesday. Officials from the Universidad Autónoma del Noreste and the Corporación Mexicana de Investigación en Materiales would like to provide education and training programs in the United States. Ron Rogers, a board member of Workforce Solutions Cameron, was present to offer his agency’s assistance.

Specifically, Corporación Mexicana de Investigación en Materiales wants to train students in welding in the United States while the Universidad Autónoma del Noreste wants to offer a Master’s Program in the fields of business administration and education for Mexican nationals living in the United States.

“At the Secretary of State’s Office we are facilitators, first and foremost,” Valadez told the Rio Grande Guardian, at the conclusion of the meeting. “We help people from both sides of the border that have anything to do with economic development, health, education, colonias, etc. We facilitate with different agencies on both sides of the border and put them in touch with the people that need to be helped, so they can get their objectives met.”

The two representatives from the Corporación Mexicana de Investigación en Materiales were Julio Flores Rodriguez and Macías López. They said the plan is to train welders to work in the U.S.

“We already do a lot of work in Panama, Colombia and Peru. But, we have always wanted to come north. We do a lot of work with Pemex and we want to follow the energy movement that has reached South Texas. We want to capitalize on that. You also have a big international ship-breaking component at the Port of Brownsville. They are always in need of welders at the port. With our know-how in the oil industry, the piping and the welding, this attracts us to South Texas,” Flores said.

Asked how many welders the Corporación Mexicana de Investigación en Materiales might train per year in South Texas, Flores said: “We would want to train between 100 and 200 trained welders a year. We are looking at the Rio Grande Valley and specifically Brownsville. We are taking a pro-active approach because we want to be where the growth is going to be. We see Matamoros as the next Ciudad Carmen with all the petroleum exploration going on. We have a presence over there. We see what is coming and we want to prepare for it.”

Valadez said this was his first meeting with officials with the Corporación Mexicana de Investigación en Materiales. “They have asked if there is a possibility of finding space out here and if there is a need for more welders, etc. All of that information we either have or know where to get. We try to speed the process up for these people. We are here to facilitate companies like these that are not familiar with the bureaucracy of the United States or Texas. We are here to help them, facilitate them and put them in touch with the people they need to be with.”

This was Valadez’s third meeting with officials from the Universidad Autónoma del Noreste. He said the Secretary of State’s Office is keen to help the university with its goals in Texas. “The Universidad Autónoma del Noreste has an online Master’s Program for those who wish to continue their education. They want a presence in Brownsville and we have hooked them up with Texas Southmost College. It looks like they are going to come to an agreement to lease some space over there. We have toured the facility with people from the college.”

The two officials from the Universidad Autónoma del Noreste to meet with Valadez on Tuesday were Francisco Lerma Alvarado and José Moirfileño Briones. Asked if Universidad Autónoma del Noreste has done a story on the potential demand for an online Master’s program among Mexican nationals in the U.S., Lerma said: “We have done a study of people living in Texas and we have identified about 200 people who can start using the program.” Among the Master’s courses available will be business administration and education, he said. “For many Mexican nationals in the U.S. there are barriers due to time, money and sometimes language. We want to help those who want to get a Master’s program.”

Asked if he could see, further into the future, the Universidad Autónoma del Noreste, setting up an entire campus in the United States, at least in the South Texas region, Lerma said: “Yes, absolutely. That is our long term goal.”

Border Initiatives Coordinator Valadez added: “We are seeing a trend in the number of higher education institutions looking to work across the border. We are excited about it. It gives an opportunity for a whole variety of people to further their education, which will help with job creation.”