MCALLEN, RGV – The Rio South Texas Economic Council will give five site selectors representing European corporations and industries a 48-hour tour of the Rio Grande Valley towards the end of February.

According to Matt Ruszczak, executive direction of the Rio South Texas Economic Council (RSTEC), site selectors work with major corporations to advise on where they should expand or relocate their operations to. This is the second year RSTEC has given a tour of the RGV to a group of site selectors.

Matt Ruszczak

“Being able to come to a community and touch the ground, smell the air and get a real feel for the region is critical [because] they’re advocating or talking to their clients about where to go,” Ruszczak said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase this region.”

Some of the site selectors are U.S.-based and others are Europe-based. All are international site selectors focused on European companies that invest in the United States. They are all affiliated with the European American Investment Council, of which RSTEC is a member.

The five site selectors, most of whom are unfamiliar with the Valley, will travel across the region from the Port of Brownsville to Rio Grande City. This will give the site selectors better judgment when they speak to corporations about relocating or expanding their operations.

They will also visit some of the educational institutions such as the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), South Texas College (STC), Texas Southmost College and Texas State Technical College-Harlingen. (TSTC). Ruszczak told the Rio Grande Guardian the institutions will showcase some of the ways they engage with industry and help contribute to the regional workforce picture.

“We’re very excited to showcase … the key regional assets that we have like the Port of Brownsville, the international bridges that highlight the importance of international trade here as well as our unique position on the global supply chain,” Ruszczak said.

“We’ll be visiting our educational institutions [and having] long discussions about workforce and workforce development which is obviously critical for the manufacturing industry. So we’re really looking forward to having a great visit with these folks and putting the Valley in the best possible light.”

One factor that makes the RGV so appealing to site selectors is the region’s demographics. Ruszczak says the region has a large, young population and with a high fertility rate the population is growing in number–more kids are helping drive the Valley’s positive demographic numbers.

Another factor RSTEC will emphasize to the selectors is that regional business includes Mexican border towns such as Reynosa, Rio Bravo and Matamoros. Ruszczak says RSTEC will ensure the site selectors have a clear understanding of the unique opportunities that the Valley’s strategic demographic location has to offer to its clients.

“It’s clearly understood among everybody that’s involved in this process that the world doesn’t end sharp at the river–quite the contrary,” Ruszczak said. “We have a set of communities on the south side of the Rio Grande that contribute very positively to the overall economic picture of this region, the economic vitality of this region and also the economic strength of this region.”

The site selectors will represent European manufacturing industries from countries including Germany, Belgium, Poland and Switzerland. According to Ruszczak, Europe makes up over 50 percent of foreign direct investments in the United States. The RGV has strong ties with the Asian, Mexican and South American market, however, the European presence is limited.

“[This is] an opportunity that RSTEC is realizing and taking advantage of in order to broaden the reach of our members–allowing them to focus on their established pathways and doing an add-on to forever strengthen the impact of the economic recruitment efforts,” Ruszczak said.

According to a previous article from the Rio Grande Guardian, last year’s site selectors were very impressed with what the Valley had to offer. One site selector said the Rio Grande Valley is a story that deserves to be told globally.

Ruszczak says a couple of site selectors came back for a follow-up and those conversations are still occuring. He finds this tour to be a great way to showcase the RGV for those who have never visited.

“That obviously opens up many doors and many opportunities. If you look at economic development, particularly manufacturing and auxiliary industries, it’s  a really long process to go from A to Z in a company expansion or relocation,” Rusczak said. “But in terms of the momentum that has been developed over the last 12 months (the visit of site selectors last year) has been tremendous. We’re hoping to amplify that momentum with this new group of site selectors coming to the region.”

Ruszczak says this event is not just a one-off effort, but is part of RSTEC’s strategy. Ruszczak will be travelling to Germany in April to attend Hannover Messe–the largest industrial manufacturing show in the world–to represent the Rio South Texas region and what it has to offer. He will also represent the Valley in June at the Select USA Conference in Washington D.C.–a national foreign direct conference where companies from all over the world come to explore opportunities to invest in the United States.