MCALLEN, RGV – A top economic development official says leaders in the McAllen area need to work closer with entities in Reynosa in order to achieve long term growth for the region.

Joaquin Spamer, founder and president of COBIFER gave the keynote speech at South Texas College’s Inno’ 2016 conference held Friday at STC’s technology campus in McAllen. COBIFER, a binational economic development group, stands for Consejo Binacional para el Fomento Económico de Reynosa.

“Nobody can do business in McAllen without understanding that Reynosa is an important player and an important partner,” Spamer said, speaking in Spanish, in his remarks at the Inno Conference. “Reynosa is the largest city in the region. Reynosa is an engine of economic success, not only for McAllen but for the entire region of South Texas.”

In the audience at the conference were students from the Instituto Internacional de Estudios Superiores in Reynosa. IIES has a formal partnership with STC.

“And all the students who are here need to please remember, this border no longer exists. Think about doing business, think about investing in commercial relations as though it (the border) were not there and with the idea of collaborating,” Spamer advised.

Spamer said some leaders in South Texas fully understand the benefits of binational collaboration while others do not.

“Unfortunately, there are many in South Texas who believe that commercialization, economic development, only has to do with the American side of the border. They tend to neglect the Mexican side and the importance of collaboration. They have a tendency to ignore the benefits of collaboration and working with their Mexican neighbors,” Spamer said.

“There are other individuals, who believe have a more enlightened perspective, who fully understand that the economic prosperity and future depends upon collaboration between entities on both sides of the border. This is one of the basic premises of COBIFER, that we have to be working together, we have to be collaborating on both sides of the border.”

At the end of his speech, Spamer showed two videos COBIFER has produced to promote economic development. One these has been posted on You Tube. Click here to watch it.

In his speech, Spamer, who studied marketing in college, discussed the development of trade between Mexico and the United States, including reference to the World War II-era Bretton Woods talks that established the rules for commercial and financial relations between the United States, Mexico, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and Japan in the mid-20th century. He also spoke about the North American Free Trade Agreement, the rise of the maquiladora industry and the dramatic increase in imports and exports that have occurred in recent years.

Spamer said he co-launched COBIFER following an unfortunate incident he encountered with his import-export business. He said he was speaking with an executive for a large import-export company, somebody with 40 years of experience in the business. The executive said he had never heard of Reynosa or McAllen.

“It was frustrating. He is now one of my most important clients,” Spamer said. “It convinced me we needed an organization like COBIFER, an organization that is based on binational collaboration, one that works with the local economic development organizations.”

Spamer said COBIFER was established by a group of businessmen and investors on both sides of the border, from many different sectors, including McAllen EDC, and Rosendo Martinez, founder of IIES.

He was quick to point out that COBIFER does not compete with local EDCs in the Rio Grande Valley but rather compliments them. He said the group’s membership in Reynosa includes most of the major chambers of commerce and commercial entities in the city, as well as entities such as the association of hotels, the association of professional women, the association of renters, the association of maquiladoras and industrial manufacturers, local colleges, and groups representing economists, the tourist industry, accountancy, entrepreneurial associations, and trucking companies.

“I am giving you this comprehensive list so that you can see just how great the reach of our organization is and the importance of collaboration. Once we unify we are much stronger,” Spamer said.

“We were able to include in COBIFER all the chambers of commerce in Reynosa. We achieved this by explaining to them and convincing them that the primary objective of COBIFER was to promote economic development across the region; that we were not interfering in their particular territory. That we were working with them, rather than working against them.

“It is important for us to be working with the EDCS in McAllen, Edinburg, Pharr, etc. It is important we are collaborating. It (COBIFER) is like a binational economic development corporation. We want to ferment economic growth and development in the region.”

By way of an example, Spamer said COBIFER had joined McAllen EDC in visits to countries like South Korea in an attempt to lure major manufacturers to the region.

“Multinational corporations, when they see all the support that we have, the support of the government, of business in South Texas and Reynosa, of all the different economic development corporations, when these multinational corporations see the support we have and they see we are unified, they are tremendously impressed.”

Editor’s Note: The above article is the second in a series of stories about the South Texas College Inno’ 2016 Conference. Click here for Part One. More stories will be posted later this week.