HARLINGEN, Texas – The motto for the recent economic summit hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership and held at the Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg was “One Region, Once Voice.”
The idea being that the leaders of the 40-plus cities in the Valley put their Friday Night Football mentality behind them and work together for the good of the region.
Judging by their comments on social media afterwards, a vast majority of the political and economic development leaders present for the summit were in agreement with this sentiment. They said it was a new day for the Valley.
So, where do the Valley leaders go from here? How do they achieve what Gov. Greg Abbott said the summit was all about, unity? Abbott suggested they look at what happens in the greater Dallas area, where all the peripheral cities work with Dallas to land major economic development projects. He said that while the City of Irving seems to be landing the lion’s share of such projects, the whole region wins.
To see what the roadmap looks like, the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service sought the views of Harlingen Mayor Norma Sepulveda. Along with Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza, Sepulveda played a leading role in helping the RGVP craft the summit.
It was put to Sepulveda that perhaps the various economic development corporations merge, so that they would not compete over where a potential large manufacturing plant was located.
Sepulveda responded: “I think right now, the idea is for the EDCs to be working hand-in-hand, to collaborate. The Partnership has been great in providing an opportunity to have a platform through their website, to be able to highlight all of the EDCs together. I think it is important to have local folks within our EDCs representing our individual communities because obviously they know best, right? They live and work within the city of Harlingen (for example). So it’s important to have that representation.
“But, I am not going to say that it would be far-fetched to have, potentially, another type of organization that has representatives from within each of the cities or at least from within those counties.
“My role at the summit was to represent not just Harlingen but Cameron County and Mayor Ramiro’s role was to represent Edinburg and Hidalgo County. I do feel that that there is going to be more of an opportunity to be able to share what we have going on within our cities and our counties and merging those visions together.”
The Guardian sought out Sepulveda because in her remarks at the summit, she spoke about the “invisible boundaries” that had “stifled growth.” She was referring to city boundary lines.
“When you have these big companies coming into our region, they don’t care that the potential site lies within two cities or two counties. They care about the skilled workforce, they care about the ability to have incentives from the local EDCs, they care about support, they care about regulation. They care about green spaces for their employees. And so I think it’s important that we work together to highlight the positives within our individual cities, and put them together to be able to sell the region instead of our individual cities,” Sepulveda told the Guardian.
Sepulveda said that while a unified approach to economic development had been formalized at the summit, through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by all the mayors, she had been practicing such an approach ever since taking office.
“I’ve been in contact with the mayors in Cameron County and Hidalgo County. We work really, really, well together. This is a different leadership, if you will. We have been doing that within our counties and now, bringing in Starr and Willacy counties to make this even stronger, I think is going to benefit our entire region.”
Here is the Guardian’s exclusive interview with Mayor Sepulveda:
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