WESLACO, RGV – Tamaulipas Governor Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca has remained true to his election campaign pledge and opened a trade office in the Rio Grande Valley.
The Governor has taken a suite in the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council’s Center for International Economic Development Opportunities (CIEDO) in Weslaco. The Texas-Tamaulipas Trade Office will be manned by Francisco Galván Garza and Enrique Gómez.
“Our Governor made a commitment to having a permanent presence in Texas and the U.S., and this new trade office is part of that. It shows Texas and the Rio Grande Valley that Tamaulipas is open for business,” Gómez said, while participating in an orientation meeting at the CIEDO building on Wednesday.
Gómez, who majored in international business, was working in the private sector until asked personally by García Cabeza de Vaca to join the state government. He studied for a year in England.
“We are here to promote our state and to guide any investors that want to invest in Tamaulipas. This is going to lead to better relations between our two states and our two regions, which are increasingly becoming one region,” Gómez said.
Last week, García Cabeza de Vaca opened Tamaulipas’ main trade office in San Antonio. That office will be manned by four staff members, including Texas Tamaulipas Trade Office Director Rubén Lozano, Director of the Texas Tamaulipas Trade Office. Lozano and Gómez attended an LRGVDC meeting last week to introduce themselves to the group’s board of directors.
“It is important that we are in the Rio Grande Valley and Texas generally because we have so many inter-connections, including 17 crossing points,” Gómez told the Rio Grande Guardian. “We have to know what the Valley is doing in developing things like highways, so we can be prepared to do the same thing on the south side of the border. That is why we are here.”
Asked if there are special industries the trade office will focus on, Gómez said: “Everything and anything. Everything from healthcare to maquilas, wind energy, oil and gas.”
Gómez said this was an exciting time to be working out of the CIEDO building because of the synergies that may develop with those also occupying the building. The LRGVDC’s economic development department, headed by Terrie Salinas, is housed on the same floor, as is the Rio South Texas Economic Council, headed by Matt Ruszczak.
In addition, the main LRGVDC offices, which house a district office for U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, is just across the parking lot and UT-Rio Grande Valley’s College of Business and Entrepreneurship is building the Center for Innovation and Commercialization just across the street. Also within walking distance, just across Business 83, is the offices of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, the region’s chamber of commerce.
Throw into the mix the Bi-National Economic Development group, spearheaded by Brownsville businessman Carlos Marin and UTRGV Dean of Business and Entrepreneurship Mark Kroll, which is set to have an advisory council administered by the LRGVDC, and the possibilities of collaboration between regional entities housed in such close proximity seem endless.
“Being next door to each other, we are going to understand each other better so our projects will move much faster, Gómez predicted.
Ron Garza, executive director of LRGVDC, concurred. Garza thanked Ruszczak for connecting LRGVDC with the State of Tamaulipas and predicted great synergies between LRGVDC, those renting office space, and UTRGV.
“The purpose of LRGVDC is to get all the available knowledge of elected officials around the table. This building, CIEDO, is now becoming the same thing, getting the energy of economic development opportunities in the building together. I am very excited that the local council of government is fulfilling its role. I have noticed a shift in thinking innovatively. Previously, it seemed like a risk, now our elected officials are just embracing that. They know we are on the cusp of a lot of growth and that we need to keep up with it,” Garza said.
Garza said the opportunities for collaboration would be even greater when UTRGV arrives.
“The College of Business and Entrepreneurship jumped on it perfectly when their facility the Center for Innovation and Commercialization. This is fast becoming the innovation hub of the Valley. We are proud to serve as the home base,” Garza said.
Asked if LRGVDC might develop international programs of its own, Garza said: “Our primary purpose is to serve as the host of the resources. The process of bringing these resources together and communicating them, that is what spurs the activity. That is my role. Some great projects, developed in silos, as great as they are, it is hard to get support when they are developed that way.”
Garza added: “I really have to thank Matt Ruszczak for making this Tamaulipas connection happen. The Texas-Tamaulipas Trade Office could have leased space in any office, in any city in the Valley. But, somewhere in that mix, someone would have said, it should have been here, it should have been there. This is a perfect fit. I think of the offices we have next door to each other – our economic development department, RSTEC and the State of Tamaulipas, and it is just a great resource for economic development.”
RSTEC’s Ruszczak agreed with Gómez and Garza that history was being made in the Valley and Tamaulipas.
“It is an exciting day for the Valley and for Tamaulipas, for both sides of the river. To have these synergies growing closer together, helping develop human relationships, the proximity, we are really excited to have our partners in the Texas Tamaulipas Trade Office moving here,” Ruszczak said.
“Think about it. The Rio Grande Valley Partnership is within walking distance from here. The new UTRGV Center for Innovation is going to be within walking distance as well. The BiNED group is going to be here under the LRGVDC umbrella, the Weslaco EDC. It is really exciting to have us all here within arm’s reach. I predict this proximity and the ability to connect very quickly will allow us to move on things at a much faster pace, on common, regional projects.”
Asked if he could see the day when the State of Tamaulipas joins RSTEC, Ruszczak said:
“That is their choice. I hope we can build up valued propositions and connections. We are a voluntary, membership-based organization and anybody that is interested as an economic development stakeholder in the region is welcome to become part of our team. Hopefully, down the road, yes. At this moment, I am not too concerned about titles in our relationship as I am in strengthening those relations, building up value, and having impact. Regional success benefits everybody and that includes success on the northern riverbank and the southern riverbank. Our organization to be one of the leaders in that movement. We look forward to having positive results in the short- and long-term.”
Like Garza and Ruszczak, RGV Partnership President Sergio Contreras welcomed the State of Tamaulipas to Weslaco.
“It is exciting these new lines of communications are opening. We want to move forward with unity and collaboration. It is all about improving the quality of life. By being so close together we will be able to address the big challenges, such as providing a strong workforce on both sides of the river, head on. We are fortunate to have had predecessors who set the stage for today’s collaboration. My hat goes off to the risk takers. We need to build on this.”