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MCALLEN, RGV – McAllen Economic Development Corporation President Keith Patridge has praised Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca for launching a new regional economic development initiative.

Patridge was asked to give the keynote address at the 1st Foro para el Desarrollo Económico sin Fronteras hosted by the Governor’s Office and held at El Centro de Educación Continua Unidad Reynosa-Instituto Politécnico Nacional in Reynosa.

Patridge said the ideas he heard from Cabeza de Vaca’s administration at the event mirror those being championed by economic development corporations in McAllen and Brownsville.

“The Governor of Tamaulipas is pushing to develop a regional economic development effort to try to bring all the different parties together across the state of Tamaulipas. That effort was kicked off this last week in Reynosa. I gave a keynote speech there talking about how we have worked together for 30 years. It went over very well,” Patridge told the McAllen EDC board of directors.

“I think it holds a lot of promise in bringing the Mexican side together in more of a regional effort so that we can start focusing together on infrastructure development and education and workforce training, because, quite frankly, our biggest issue right now is in finding a skilled workforce.”

Patridge said the challenge of developing a skilled workforce was not unique to the Rio Grande Valley. “Everyone is faced with it. It does not put us at a competitive disadvantage but it is something we have got to address,” Patridge told the MEDC board.

After the meeting, Patridge gave an in-depth interview to the Rio Grande Guardian about Cabeza de Vaca’s initiative.

“This is an attempt by the Governor to start casting a larger net in Mexico to bring in the private sector to help develop long-term growth strategies for the State of Tamaulipas,” Patridge said.

“The Governor wants to start looking at how we can bring everyone in, how we start getting everyone rowing in the same direction, to really start making a difference to the Tamaulipas economy, to grow the skill sets and the wages and the attractiveness of the state for investment and growth.”

Asked if the Rio Grande Valley has a role to play in the Governor’s plans, Patridge said: “Absolutely. I think a lot of what he is proposing has to do with the Governor’s bilingual and bicultural background. He recognizes we are a region that is made up not of Mexico and the U.S. but of the two combined. That is part of the reason he asked me to come over and kick off the first of these meetings.”

Patridge said there will be more such meetings in various cities in Tamaulipas in the weeks and months to come. He said his keynote speech was well-received.

“We had an excellent response from the people who were in attendance. I was asked to talk about the history of how McAllen and Reynosa started working together 30 years ago. Many of those in the audience were under 35, which means they did not know how MEDC got started. I was able to tell them how we got started and why. I think they found it extremely interesting and they now have a vision of what we can be if we do work together,” Patridge said.

Patridge said the Mexican Consul to McAllen, José Guillermo Ordorica Robles, also spoke at the event.

“He gave an excellent presentation along with several of the research people from the universities out of Tamaulipas. It was really just giving them a background on where we are as a state in Tamaulipas. And I think the Governor’s vision is how do we really bring the two sides together to develop this area as a region. That is excellent because at the same time, or nearly the same time, there was the manufacturing summit that was being held by Congressman Vela in Brownsville and it is my understanding that basically the same message was coming out of there.”

Patridge said he was excited about the possibilities of developing a regional economic development plan and marketing the region as a whole. He said that with the work Cabeza de Vaca is doing in Tamaulipas generally, with McAllen’s historic economic ties to Reynosa, and with the collaborations Brownsville and Matamoros are developing, there is “a great opportunity to start pulling these pieces together into a unified plan, to really start focusing on south Texas, northeastern Mexico, as an economic unit and really start developing this region to achieve the potential that we all know we can reach if we work together.”

Patridge said he was encouraged by a recent call from his counterpart in Brownsville, Gilberto Salinas, interim director of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.

“We are really excited about it. We have a lot of different entities and institutions that are really now focused on bringing the region together. My counterpart in Brownsville, Gilberto Salinas, he and I have already talked on how we start working more together to attract some of these big, key, potential projects to the area. I think it can be done in a way where everybody sees it as being fair and everyone sees it as being beneficial to the region. The bones are kind of there, we just have to put the meat on the bones, so to speak. But, we are really excited about what the Governor is doing with his initiative.”

Rafael Ángel Ortiz Salazar


McAllen EDC Vice President Ralph Garcia, McAllen EDC President Keith Patridge, and economic development consultant Rafael Ángel Ortiz Salazar.

Patridge said he was pleased to report McAllen EDC had retained the services of Rafael Ángel Ortiz Salazar, the former secretary of economic development for Tamaulipas.

“I have known Ángel for 16 years. We have had the pleasure of working with Ángel on a number of projects, when he worked with the state in Tamaulipas. He accompanied us on several foreign trips, to Korea and China. We really have a strong working relationship with Ángel. We are really pleased to have him on board. He is helping not only us, with our efforts, but I think he is also helping in Mexico with the new administration, to look at how things have been done in the past and to help the new administration get up to speed with economic development in the state. We are really pleased to have him on board.”

International MSA


The advanced manufacturing summit Patridge referred to was hosted by Congressman Vela and held at UT-Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville earlier this month. One of the guest speakers was Dr. Mark Kroll, dean of the Robert C. Vackar College of Business & Entrepreneurship UT-Rio Grande Valley. Kroll said he agreed with Patridge’s call for an international metropolitan statistical area. Another guest speaker was Chris Wilson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute. Wilson made the point that if the Valley, Reynosa and Matamoros were recognized as one metro region they would have a combined population of three million and would be the second largest metro region on the U.S.-Mexico border – second only to San Diego-Tijuana.

Patridge said he liked what he read about Wilson’s remarks and the vibe generated at the Brownsville event.

“When you start looking at it, the U.S. side and the Mexican side, the international border metro area, which is what we are focused on, we are talking about an area with more than three million people. We are talking the size of a Dallas. When we start looking at that, that tells you what the potential could be. The difference between us and Dallas is that we have the people but we don’t have the economic viability or the strength of a Dallas. What we need to do is take the assets that we have and start increasing income levels, increasing skill levels, increasing job opportunities. In order to do that we also have to start focusing on infrastructure requirements,” Patridge said.

Bi-National Infrastructure Projects


The McAllen EDC leader said he would like to see more bi-national infrastructure projects developed on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Infrastructure is something that I personally I think we could be looking at on a regional basis. Instead of each city building water treatment plants, each city building sewage treatment plants, on both sides of the border, how do we do regional infrastructure projects where literally we build big plants and we are processing one another’s water, we are also looking at other sources of water, where we really can start focusing on that infrastructure for both sides,” Patridge said.

“It gets beyond economic development. It gets into health and safety issues. When you start looking at the infrastructure for water and sewer it is critical for food safety and literally the health of the people. Regardless of whether we build a wall or whether we have a virtual wall, pests and disease does not stop at the border or at a border wall. (Working on infrastructure projects that straddle the border) will give us the greatest opportunity to achieve what we all know we can achieve. But, we have to do it together. And we have got to do it cross-border.”

Patridge said it is clear what the first step must be.

“The first step, which I am pleased to hear is garnering more and more support, is the whole concept of an international metropolitan statistical area. They keep looking at us as individual cities. They keep looking at us as Mexico and U.S., and we are not. As an economic entity, we are an international metro area of over three million people. That is the way we have to start looking at ourselves and selling ourselves.”