LAREDO, Texas – Elected officials, workforce training and education leaders in South Texas are pleased to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by the Tri-County Economic Development Coalition.
The Tri-County includes representatives from Jim Hogg, Duval and Webb County. During a ceremony, celebrated Wednesday morning at the Killam Library Colonnade, inside Texas A&M International University, the MOU became official.
Signing the document were Jim Hogg County Judge Humberto Gonzalez, Duval County Judge Ricardo Carrillo, TAMIU President Pablo Arenaz, Laredo Community College (LCC) President Ricardo Solis, and Workforce Solutions South Texas Executive Director Rogelio Treviño. Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina was absent.
“The Tri-County Economic Development Coalition has been created to contribute to the economic sector by uniting stakeholders invested in the development and prosperity of the South Texas area,” according to a press release. The group has been working together for more than a year.
Michael Gonzalez, director of TAMIU Small Business Development Center, who was master of ceremonies during the event, explained the agreement was a critical step forward for a long-term vision of regional unity and cooperation to support economic development in South Texas.
“Through this agreement, we are demonstrating that our counties and key stakeholders are united and committed in supporting the job growth, business development, and economic prosperity in South Texas,” Gonzalez explained.
Jim Hogg County Judge Humberto Gonzalez said it was important for the three counties to work together.
“We are tight together, because of the region, because of the influx of traffic that comes through our community,” Gonzalez said. “This Coalition will support ourselves and will bring more power in unity.”
Thus far, many opportunities have come along with the Tri-County Coalition, Gonzalez said. He mentioned a refinery, an airport, and other projects that will force authorities to work together to bring jobs and economic development.
“We need to make sure our region, including Zapata County, is going to be part of this success. So, we want to make sure we are in the position to access that economic development as a region, more than cities and counties,” Gonzalez said.
One advantage for this region is its strategical position in the map, and that it’s something worth developing, Gonzalez added.
Duval County Judge Ricardo Carrillo, referenced how many people have mentioned the Raven Refinery project. He said that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
He said cities need to be ready for what’s coming because there will be lots of opportunities, but he added the local University and College also need to help in preparing and educating the workforce.
“The sky’s the limit and is all upon us. The bottom line is: Are we going to take advantage of it or not?” Carrillo asked. “We have to start now because it’s coming. We can do it, but is up to us.”
Carrillo reaffirmed the importance of educating the community because “if we don’t do it, companies won’t come.”
Arenaz, from TAMIU, agreed with Carrillo’s opinion that the University is an important piece in the economic development for this region.
“We need to be able to provide the human capital necessary for the economic development,” Arenaz said. “We feel very happy to be a part of this, to be of service, and we will make sure we’ll provide this region with the human capital it needs to be successful.”
Solis, from LCC, said they are taking the community college to another level.
“I am so encouraged and motivated. Without the help and willingness of both TAMIU and LCC, we wouldn’t be able to achieve reaching our workforce,” Solis said. “We have an incredible workforce, a very strong work ethic, especially with the Hispanic, Mexican-American ethnicity, but we need to make sure that the families and the mentality of this same ethnicity group, can be convinced of the importance of higher education.”
Solis added that the idea is to make sure that with united efforts the three counties will be able to come ahead of any issue in front of them.
Before the signing of the agreement, Treviño mentioned how Workforce Solutions for South Texas has been working the past three decades along with higher education institutions to help train the workforce.
“When we are looking at prospects, when we are looking into companies that are coming to our area, the first question they ask is ‘how is your workforce, what are your education resources, are you available to provide the tools to cover the need of your workforce’… and that is our focus,” Treviño said. “We are committed to help bring down the resources that are available through federal funds.”
The next step for the Tri-County Coalition is to provide workshops, forums and events needed to help the area in its economic development, its leaders said.
Last but not least, Rodney H. Rodriguez, economic development center director for LCC, got a special mention for his contribution and hard work to grow economic development in the region.