MCALLEN, RGV – The South Texas Manufacturers Association has begun a search for a full-time executive director. 

A job posting has been placed in,, and The salary range is $50,000 to $60,000 a year, depending on experience.

Current executive director Mike Willis has been holding down the role in a part-time capacity. He also works as senior business relations representative for Workforce Solutions in McAllen. Willis was quick to point out he is not leaving STMA.

“I will serve as an unpaid STMA board member, mentor my replacement, and continue to fully support STMA. I will continue my employment with Workforce Solutions, and my responsibilities to work with Rio Grande Valley economic development corporations and to support STMA and the manufacturing sector will not change,” Willis said.

STMA is a 501 (c) 6 Trade Association and membership driven organization committed to advancing manufacturing in the Rio Grande Valley and the South Texas region. In 25-plus years, STMA has grown to its current membership of over 180 companies by focusing on providing high quality information and support to the manufacturing sector. 

“We work with area economic development corporations, other trade associations, regional workforce development boards, colleges and public school districts, our region’s manufacturers, and other businesses that provide services and support to the manufacturing sector in the region,” the group states in the About Us section on its website.

In an email alert to STMA members and supporters, Willis said he will chair an STMA Workforce & Education Committee and continue the work the group has done in both Hidalgo and Cameron counties to develop high quality training and educational program to support industry growth, and to promote careers in manufacturing.

Willis will also continue to conduct the biennial STMA wage and benefit survey.

“I will also focus more of my attention on continuing the development of our Cameron County STMA chapter while working with schools, EDCs and manufacturing companies in the eastern Rio Grande Valley,” Willis said.

The reason for hiring a full-time executive director, Willis said, is because STMA has over 180 member companies and continues to grow. 

“STMA badly needs someone who can devote their full-time attention to the organization. This is part of a succession plan we have been working on for over three years,” Willis said.

“My role at Workforce Solutions will allow me to continue to support STMA’s vision and goals. Both of the Workforce Solutions boards recognize the value of STMA to our region through the business, economic development, and educational partnerships we have developed.”

Willis first announced STMA would be looking for a new executive director at the group’s monthly meeting in May. At that meeting, Willis also announced an opportunity for group members top sponsor an STMA meeting, beginning with the Octerob 2018 meeting.

“The objective of making this change is to generate additional revenue to support the copse of a full-time executive director, which will further improve the quality of services we can offer our membership,” Willis said.

Connecting business with education

Pictured at a LIVE at Bob’s show held Aug. 21, 2018, are moderator Steve Taylor, Luzelma Canales, executive director of RGV Focus, Ana Gonzalez, executive director of Teach for America RGV, and Daniel P. King, superintendent of PSJA ISD.

The news that Willis will chair an STMA Workforce & Educational Committee will surely please Luzelma Canales, executive director of RGV Focus. At a LIVE at Bob’s event on Tuesday, Canales made a plea for the business community to interact more with education institutions.

“In order for the business community to have its needs met, they need to be able to articulate clearly to the education system what their needs are. And it has to be more than ‘soft skills’,” Canales told the Rio Grande Guardian after the program had ended.

“And, the education system needs to respond to that. But, it cannot be a ‘one and done,’ like, show up to a summit. It has to be intentional engagement throughout the year.”

Canales said if employers have a certain need that is not being met, educators need to know about that. “And they need to be co-designers of the new ecosystem that needs to be in place.”

Canales urged businesses to reach out to RGV Focus, school districts or colleges in the Rio Grande Valley.

RGV Focus was started in 2012 an education-focused collective impact initiative in the Rio Grande Valley aimed at greatly improving the educational outcomes across the four-county region. The group formed through the Communities Foundation of Texas and Educate Texas partnering with Valley-based leaders, “in support of the vision that all Rio Grande Valley learners will achieve a degree or credential that leads to a meaningful career and successful life.”

Its leadership team consists of school district superintendents, higher education presidents, philanthropic partners, and business and community leaders.

“The goal of convening the group is to transform the lives of the region’s more than 427,000 public pre-K-12 and higher education students by aligning systems across the cradle-to-career educational pathway to make sure each student is college ready, has access to and achieves postsecondary success, and pursues a meaningful career in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond,” the group states, in the About Us section of its website.

“Furthermore, RGV FOCUS’s work positions the Rio Grande Valley to support the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) goal to have 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds in the state earn a certificate or degree by 2030, a plan known widely as the THECB 60×30 Strategic Plan.”

Editor’s Note: The Rio Grande Guardian will have more stories about the public education conversation that took place at the LIVE at Bob’s event in the coming days.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Mike Willis, executive director of South Texas Manufacturers Association.