WESLACO, RGV – Rio South Texas Economic Council’s efforts to lure European companies to the region could pay off sooner than expected.
Stefan Aengenheyster, a director with the Transatlantic Business & Investment Council, said two manufacturing companies from Germany are looking at the Valley closely.
Aengenheyster was one of eight European site selectors to visit the Rio Grande Valley late last month. The four-day trip was organized and hosted by RSTEC.
“It is always the longterm vision that drives your immediate actions. Nonetheless, I would say we are seeing very tangible results right now,” Aengenheyster said.
“Just last week we had a German company visit this area. A very high tech, very advanced manufacturing company that is entering the U.S. market in the electric vehicle sector.”
Aengenheyster said if it was not for his organization, and RSTEC’s membership of it, the German manufacturing company would not have visited the Valley.
“They would not have known about the Rio Grande Valley. In the first stage they were looking at, I believe, over 100 different communities. They ran the numbers and visited ten of them. The Valley was one of them. Those are very tangible results.”
The other company looking at the Valley is a German toy manufacturer.
“Right now we are working with one of the major toy manufacturers in Germany that is also looking to establish their first presence in the United States. We looked at the numbers. It is going to make a lot of sense for them to come to this region,” Aengenheyster said.
“We will do all it takes to convince them to come down to visit because they have both capital intensive and labor intensive parts of their production. The injection molding part would very much take place on this side of the border, in the U.S., whereas the assembly would take place on the Mexican side. Those are 200 jobs each, capital incentive and assembly. That could have a huge impact.”
Aengenheyster said his organization held a meeting with Am-Mex. Mike Bowen, who runs Am-Mex, helps companies set up shelter facilities in Reynosa. “He helps them with the unions, with legal aspects,” Aengenheyster said.
The Transatlantic Business & Investment Council was previously known as the European American Investment Council. RSTEC hosted the group in February, 2018, when it was known as EAIC and in January of this year, after it had changed to TBIC.
Last month’s four-day visit included stops in Cameron, Willacy and Hidalgo counties, along with a visit to a maquiladora plant in Reynosa. While some of the other European site selectors on the trip said it would take a long time for the Valley to build up strong relationships with Europe, Aengenheyster said short term success is also possible.
“The long term vision is important but you have got to have short term results to support that vision. I think we have both at this time. Last year I would have been a little more hesitant to talk about short-term results but we are seeing it right now. So, I think Matt’s very hard work is starting to pay off,” Aengenheyster said.
Aengenheyster was referring to Matt Ruzszcak, executive director of RSTEC.
“I agree with the long term vision aspect but we also want to get things done. We are not coming with empty promises, that is not how our organization works,” Aengenheyster said. “We want to make sure we have something we can measure and we have it.”
Aengenheyster said the first major European companies are realizing what assets the Valley possesses.
“These are not small machine shops. They are big companies that are going to have a long term impact on the U.S. market. So, yes, I am very confident. Hopefully, next year, when I am here, we have something that we can look at – a building, the first facility, the first jobs. We will see.”
TBIC has about 100 members in 30 different states in the United States. One of these is RSTEC. Asked why the European American Investment Council changed its name to the Transatlantic Business & Investment Council, Aengenheyster said:
“We have had a couple of inquiries from European companies that thought we were a real estate agency of some sort. So, we wanted to throw the word business in there. On top of that, a little more important, maybe, two of the fastest growing sources of foreign direct investment in the United States are Turkey and Israel. We have visited those countries a number of times. The word European is a little more exclusive than Transatlantic.”
Aengenheyster hastened to add that Europe is where TBIC has most of its expertise.
“We have expertise in certain areas and it is not going to be Asia tomorrow. We are still very much focused on Europe and we have always considered Turkey and Israel to be within the greater periphery of Europe.”
Aengenheyster said he is pleased with the team TBIC has put together. He noted that Charlotte Nytoft, who was on the Valley trip, has just opened a TBIC office in Copenhagen, and Alessia Paolicchi, who was also on the Valley trip, focuses on U.S.-Italian connections.
“We are very lucky to have the advisory board members we have. Charlotte is helping with the Nordic companies and Alessia is helping with the Italian companies. We are also fortunate to have active and ambitious members, such as the Rio South Texas Economic Council. Without these members we would not be able to do what we are doing. We would not be able to support the companies in the way we are supporting them.”
Asked how productive the Valley trip had gone, Aengenheyster said:
“We know Matt and what he is capable of doing. This has been a very informative trip once again. Sure, there was some repetition for me personally, as I came last year, but I wanted to make sure our advisory committee members who had not been here before got a good picture of it.
“For me, personally, what was very enlightening and helpful was learning more about the Port of Brownsville. It was a little bit more in-depth this time. Also, the cooperation with the Mexican side of the border. That is the unique selling point of this area. It makes it unique and stand out. The Valley is very lucky to have someone like Matt who seems to have endless energy and determination to work on economic development in this area. It has been very good.”
Asked about the visit to Reynosa, Aengenheyster said: “I had seen some of the industrial parks but I had not been inside a maquila. The images you are getting of this area, as portrayed by the news and political rhetoric, is not what it is like. They are state of the art facilities, very high-tech, very advanced, very clean, very tightly organized and managed. It is truly a huge asset for this region.”
Aengenheyster added: “We would like to thank Matt for setting this up and helping us learn about your region and in turn educating our European companies.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Stefan Aengenheyster and Werner Beermann of the Transatlantic Business & Investment Council, and Ralph Garcia of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation.
Editor’s Note: The above news story is the first in a ten-part series on the recent visit of site selectors from Europe. Part Two will be posted later this week.