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Photos by RGG/Karen Reyes

REYNOSA, Tamaulipas – The close bond that exists between South Texas College and the Instituto Internacional de Estudios Superiores was celebrated by education administrators, elected officials and business and economic development leaders in Reynosa on Friday.

Among the elected officials in attendance were Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, Reynosa Mayor Maki Ortiz, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, and Weslaco Mayor David Suarez.

Among the economic development leaders in attendance were Carlos Talancón, secretary of economic development for Tamaulipas, INDEX Reynosa President Enrique Castro, McAllen Economic Development Corporation President Keith Patridge and McAllen EDC Vice President Ralph Garcia.

Among the education administrators in attendance were Tamaulipas Secretary of Education Héctor Escobar, IIES President Rosendo Martinez, Mario Reyna, STC’s dean of business and technology, and Carlos Margo, associate dean of industry training and economic development.

The audience comprised yet more VIPs, along with students from IIES.

Rosendo Martínez

“We have a great opportunity to start a great cultural and educational alliance for social and economic international development with our friends from the South Texas College,” Martínez said, kicking off the ceremonies.

Rosendo Martínez

The IIES president pointed out that his university was born 40 years ago, as the Nuevo Laredo City College. Three years later it opened a high school and 23 years ago, it opened its doors as a university. Being so close to the burgeoning maquiladora industry, it made sense to form alliances.

“We started new relationships with maquiladoras and, thus far, we have agreements with around 60 maquiladoras,” Martínez said, adding that all students at IIES have to graduate with proficiency in English.

Reynosa is the biggest city in Tamaulipas and has more than 150 maquiladoras. “As such, this represents a great opportunity for IIES and STC to bring better programs according to the needs of all these companies,” Martínez said. “We have alliances with INDEX, custom brokers, the association of accountants, and with different companies and government organizations, such as DIF and PEMEX.”

INDEX is the trade association for the maquiladora industry. The group has warmly welcomed the alliance IIES and STC has formed to provide customized training for manufacturing workers.

“We know that for a solid, secure and constant growth, a professional education is needed, and this one needs to be at the vanguard of the demand for professionals who can compete internationally between companies,” Martínez said.

Since 2014, IIES and STC have been working on a program called “Congress of Innovation,” Martínez said. Under this program, companies, professionals and businessmen meet with students to discuss their experiences in the world of industry. “This has developed great research studies. We are building a bridge which will be the more solid for the world, and I am talking about the education.”

Martínez added that IIES is asking local and state governments to help its students with funding. “We already do this but we cannot do it all alone. I know we will have this support,” he said.

Mario Reyna

Like Martinez, STC’s Reyna addressed the audience in Spanish.

Mario Reyna

“We are committed to working with IIES. We have had many years to get to know each other, and today here we are to fulfill what we have worked on,” Reyna said. “The opportunities are the same. We like the same things. We cannot be separated.”

Reyna said that, increasingly, the future lies in long distance education. “We have many long-distance courses to offer. We have the equipment locally, so students don’t have to travel anywhere in Texas to have access to that international education. This is an opportunity we are analyzing.”

Reynosa touched upon a theme that many speakers repeated: that if Reynosa is successful, the Rio Grande Valley will be successful. One way to make that happen, he said, is to provide the customized, professional courses industry needs. “We know that a prepared person will offer more to the company he or she is working for.”

Reyna added: “The way to move forward is by giving much needed opportunities to our citizens to have a higher education. And we are making the commitment to make this possible.”

Keith Patridge

MEDC President Patridge gave his remarks in English.

Keith Patridge

“We are looking at how we can bring the education together on both sides of the border. To make the partnership that the sister cities, Reynosa and McAllen, want,” Patridge said.

Referring to the students in the audience, Patridge said: “You are our future and we need to make sure we provide you with the best educational opportunities we can.”

Patridge praised STC and IIES for listening to the needs of industry and working together to “develop integrated programs that provide educational training for students on both sides of the border. I appreciate all the support we have had.”

Patridge added: “Together we can grow. We come from an international family, and we will continue to attract international jobs to our area.”

Enrique Castro

INDEX Reynosa’s Castro pointed out that when his group started, 35 years ago, there were five or six maquila plants in the city. Now there are 115.

Enrique Castro

In the early days, he said, it was “very difficult to find people that were prepared; people with the characteristics needed to compete in a global community,” Castro said, speaking in Spanish.

Castro said he first met Cabeza de Vaca in 2005. “He spoke to me about his vision. I realized we had so many things in common.”

He said Reynosa has been able to stand out from cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana “because it had a strategy along with McAllen and the local authorities.”

Castro added: “We need leaders who love this industry, even during difficult times. These times offer a big growth opportunity. We need to work along with our friends, our neighbors, our brothers in the United States. Today we are accepting this challenge, this agreement, that we will be with you all.”

Jim Darling

Mayor Darling gave his remarks in English.

“The border, the City of Reynosa, and the State of Tamaulipas are very important for McAllen. We know how important the maquiladora industry is to both countries. We understand how important the maquiladora industry is to us and the United States,” Darling said.

Darling gave a shout out to STC. “STC works on both sides of the border through an international collaboration that we always wanted to have. It’s good to see how it’s working.”

The participants then signed the “Alianza Estratégica para el Desarrollo Cultural y Económico entre IIES y STC.” Or, the “Strategic Alliance for Cultural and Economic Development between IIES and STC.”

Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca

Following the signing of the accord, Gov. Cabeza de Vaca gave his remarks. Speaking in Spanish, he praised Rosendo Martínez for his vision and commitment to education for Reynosa and the region.

“Those who have an education have the capacity to transform the circumstances. In Tamaulipas, we know that education is the best trainer for a society,” the governor said.

Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca

Cabeza de Vaca predicted that the gathering would lead to great development opportunities, not just for students at IIES and STC, but also for industry on both sides of the Rio Grande. He predicted competitiveness would increase. “The inhabitants on both countries will receive the benefits,” he said.

“I recognize both these institutions for focusing on the future. It is in my government where you will find that education is not an expenditure but an investment. I will give more scholarships to students so they can have that support.”

Cabeza de Vaca also spoke about Texas and Tamaulipas being one family. “We are allies and partners. We promote the development and security in the border as we generate opportunities to improve the quality of our families in both countries. Reynosa and McAllen build bridges, not walls. We find coincidences and not differences. There are some people who haven’t understood this relationship between our countries. We are one region, one unique region with a lot of potential.”

Cabeza de Vaca pointed out that when he was mayor of Reynosa, he traveled to South Korea to promote Reynosa and McAllen. “They were amazed with what we had to offer, the international airports, our housing programs. They decided to invest in Reynosa because they knew we were just one region.”

The governor said leaders on both sides of the river need to continue promoting the region as one.

“Reynosa has grown a lot in the last few years, but this has happened along with McAllen. Between 2005 and 2007, Reynosa and McAllen were the cities with the highest population growth in the United States and in Mexico. We were number one in construction of housing (15,000 houses per year between 2006 and 2007). We don’t compete, we complement each other.”

The STC-IIES alliance contributes to the strengthening of this region, the governor argued. “We are prepared for progress; better things are coming to the region. Great things in the energy arena.”

Cabeza de Vaca said he will be visiting China and Korea this year. “We shouldn’t be afraid to look at other horizons. Tamaulipas as enough border crossings where more 60 percent of the trade is made. We have enough potential with the gas, petroleum, agroindustry to be able to open new markets and new opportunities.”

Working in these arenas will “help make for a more competitive region, attracting new investments and, in consequence, we generate more employments opportunities for our young population,” Cabeza de Vaca added.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series focusing on the gathering of economic development, education, and political leaders at the Instituto Internacional de Estudios Superiores in Reynosa. Parts Two and Three will be published on Monday, March 27, 2017.