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Jeff Pappas, managing director of E Smith Partners, walks towards the tour bus that took seven site selectors on a tour of the Rio Grande Valley. Pappas represents corporate clients on a national and international basis, managing their global real estate strategy through location advisory and labor market analytics.

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, RGV – The Rio Grande Valley is a story that deserves to be told globally, says site selector James Beatty, president of NCS International.

NCS International is a nationally recognized site selection and economic development consulting firm based in Omaha, Nebraska.

Beatty participated in a three-day Site Link site selector forum co-hosted by Webster Global Site Selectors and Rio South Texas Economic Council. A day and a half was spent at the Hilton Garden Inn on South Padre Island, with attendees listening to seven site selectors. The other day and a half was spent touring the Valley.

James Beatty

In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Beatty said he was impressed with the places he visited and the people he met.

“The Rio Grande Valley is a story that deserves to be told globally. Listening to the pride and exuberance in the area was encapsulated by the Chief of Police from Sullivan City, Richard Ozuna. The chief was excited about the future and absolutely sold all of us that the prospects for the future were bright,” Beatty said. “I am sold on the area and I will do all I can to recruit jobs, industry, and investment.”

Beatty said the Valley needs to build on the success of the site selector forum.

“The Rio Grande Valley area should not stop with this visit from leading site consultants like myself, but should proactively continue to reach out to other site consultants and prospect companies on an ongoing basis. The McAllen Economic Development Corporation invited several of us back for an even more in-depth tour and I plan to take them up on the offer.”

Beatty promised to discuss the Valley with several clients after touring the region for the first time.

“I have placed several projects representing thousands of jobs in Texas over the years, place such as Houston, Dallas, Killeen and El Paso,” Beatty said. “I have not had the privilege of working in the Rio Grande Valley area yet. However, after visiting the region, it gives me a great vantage point and background to intelligently discuss the area with current and future clients.”

Beatty said he would propose opening businesses in areas such as advanced manufacturing, health care, shared services, customer services operations, food and nutrition.
An attraction for Beatty to open businesses in the Valley, is the Mexico-U.S. partnership.

“Certainly, the access to the Mexico opportunities for product assembly and shipment back to the U.S. can assist U.S. companies to mitigate labor costs with minimal financial impact is of great interest,” he said.

Beatty added that after seeing Valley businesses like GE, United Launch Alliance, and the Port of Brownsville, he would strongly consider the region for future investment.

“Having seen several existing companies who clearly are thriving in the area and have a long legacy such as GE, and ULA, this trip provides quantitative data as well as qualitative insights for in-depth discussions with prospects,” Beatty said.

“I was absolutely impressed with the Port of Brownsville and its impact on the area. The support of the educational institutions and the Workforce Solutions officials is clear and consistent.”

The base for the Site Link site selector forum was the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel on South Padre Island. Economic development corporation leaders from across the Valley attended the three-day forum to learn how site selectors do their work and what they are looking for in a community. Economic development leaders from Pharr, Alton, Donna, Brownsville, Harlingen and Weslaco attended.

The site selectors spoke with insight and expertise and provided strategies for economic development in the region. In addition to Beatty, the site selectors present were:

•    James Blair, founder and managing director of Navigator Consulting, an international consulting firm that provides site selection services to European companies looking to expand their business operations into the U.S. market.
•    Dusty Duistermars, strategic account executive for Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, where his expertise is utilized in portfolio and location strategy, workplace strategy, transaction management, CRE Technologies/IWMS, and economic development Incentives.
•    Allea Newbold, principal, Ryan-Tampa, Florida Office, where she specializes in federal and state planning for clients, negotiating credits and incentives for new and expanding companies nationwide, to help them maximize their return on investment.
•    Tim Feemster, managing principal of Foremost Quality Logistics, where he specializes in hands on problem solving situations in economic development, real estate, transportation, logistics, distribution, and marketing.
•    Jeff Pappas, managing director, E Smith Partners, where he represents corporate clients on a national and international basis, managing their global real estate strategy through location advisory and labor market analytics.
•    Paige Webster, president, Webster Global Site Selectors; has worked with many projects across many industry sectors including: aerospace, biotech, geothermal, wind and solar, warehouse/distribution, office projects, data centers, corporate centers and the retail sector.

RSTEC was the title sponsor. Its executive director, Matt Ruszczak said the forum was a great opportunity to exchange and discuss ideas with experts to attract new development across the Valley.

“I am very honored and privileged to be the title sponsor for this event,” Ruszczak said.

“There were frank conversations, the sharing of best practices that are happening, conversations about sites available and a great sense of idea-exchange and brainstorming in terms of what can we do to work together to develop opportunities for our communities.”

Matt Ruszczak

Ruszczak said the site selectors toured the Valley after the forum to consider investing in the region.

“It’s really been a synergetic event, it has been a great opportunity for the site selectors to learn about our region and to get to know our people, and everyone who is here, to really engage in interaction.”

In an interview after the conference, Paige Webster told the Rio Grande Guardian, that his company puts on forums like the one on SPI around the country. Other venues have included the states of Mississippi, Oregon, Kentucky, and Virginia.

Webster said he likes to limit the site selector conferences to no more than 75 people. The event in the Valley attracted 42 people. Webster said he would have liked more attendees but, given that this event was the first of its kind in the Valley, he was pleased with how it went. “We want to come back and bring more companies in the future,” Webster said.

Leaders from EDCs in the Valley said they found the site selector conference extremely beneficial.

Marie McDermott, executive director of Weslaco EDC, said RSTEC’s Ruszczak had discussed the idea of having this forum in the Valley after attending a similar event in Kentucky. McDermott said she learned a lot about attracting new businesses to her city.

“When I learned about this from Matt’s that he attended one in Kentucky and said ‘I want to get it in the Valley’, I immediately signed up,” McDermott said.

“I have learned that there is a lot of good information about industries and how to get them to your community, what to do with your community, and how to design your website. It’s very important.”

McDermott said the connections she made with leading site selectors can only help Weslaco in the future.

“I’ve created a great relationship with people attending the seminar. I have been in regional and community development and I am learning new things, refreshing my memory and it’s very effective for me.”

Steve Peña, executive director or Alton EDC, said the forum was a great opportunity to network with experts for future investments and planning.

“Meeting these site selectors has been a God’s send to us, especially as small communities do not have a lot of budget money to go and see these individuals in the bigger cities,” Peña said.

“These are keys to individuals we can contact now. We have become friends at a level and having their information and being able to contact them on a daily basis is going to be very favorable to us.”

Speaking of the Valley tour, Ruszczak said his goal was for site selectors to get a true taste of the region.

“The goal of the tour is that I want them to get a real world feel of what the Valley is all about and what opportunities exist here and what we already have here in this area,” he said.

“We are excited about showcasing facilities from logistics, to the port, to real estate facilities to our historical communities we have in this area so they get a really strong sense of the dynamic nature of our region.”