Friday, May 19, 2017


By Juan Montoya
A vice president who flies the coop and gets a job with the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation.
A president who gives weeks's notice and leaves a cushy job that has yielded minimum returns as far as jobs for local people are concerned.

An executive board that seems more interested in steering potential clients their way for their personal businesses.
And rumors of a $5,000 invoice sent to the corporation by the former president while he was in Colombia supposedly to cover costs which he later voided and paid back in cash.

An address of a consultant in Colombia which turned out to the the address of a girlfriend of one of the corporation's officers.
And talk of the FBI interviewing the former president and vice president over their dealing with the public's money.

That corporation is none other than the Brownsville Economic Development Council (BEDC), a quasi-governmental entity which contracts with the GBIC and Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation (BCIC) to vet and keep applicants for money to start up business and produce jobs in the community.

The former president is none other than Jason Hilts. The vice president was Gilberto Salinas, now the executive director with the GBIC.

At this last week's meeting, the executive board protested loudly that the rumors of their impending demise by a gelling city commission majority was unfair and would remove them from the public through. There is talk among this group that they would be better off without the BEDC to look over the business generated by the GBIC and BCIC, each of whom receive a $5 million annual share from splitting a half cent of the city's sales tax receipts.

The money is supposed to be used to create jobs in Brownsville by providing incentives to companies to either come here or expand their operations. Instead, they have become the BEDC's personal ATM machines, spending and doling out the public's cash as if it were theirs. Now it seems that the GBIC and BCIC have had enough and are considering starting from scratch and creating a new entity of seven members including one ex officio member from the city commission, much like the Public Utilities Board.

One of Hilt's brainstorms was the opening of an office in Colombia to attract companies and businesses who might consider setting up shop in Brownsville. Among some of the goods and services they talked about was the importation of tropical fruit and Colombian products. After spending $100,000s nothing (excuse the pun) has come to fruition. But what a great time everyone – including some elected officials from the city, the Port of Brownsville, some state officals and their staffs – had on the public dime.

After a while, it just got to be too much and the office was closed down with nothing to show for it except a few girlfriends and tropical memories for the photo album. In the three years that the Colombian operation was in biz, the following was spent at this futile endeavor.

Hilts asserted then that their efforts so far at "developing relationships" had the "potential" of bringing at least 11 mid-size operations in different sectors with $25 million and 200 jobs and another $300 million from two major projects in food processing and retail which might create 450 jobs and another 300 indirect jobs here. But as usual, the tangible results were always just out of reach and never materialized despite Hilts' heavy lifting and wining, dining (and romancing)  of the Colombians.

Here's the breakdown on the Colombian operation funded to the tune of $314,438 from July 2013 until mid-2016 when the tent was folded and the money stopped going south. date (click on graphic blow to enlarge):

Staff and salary:
Director of Recruitment: $50,436 yearly
Office Assistant:                                         $6,600 yearly
Office Assistant:                                          $800 monthly

Total multiplied by 2.5 years:                     $197,590

July 15 to Sept. 13, 2013 Four Trips: (1.Medellin, 2.Bogota-Cali, 3.Bogota, 4. Barranquilla-Bogota,Medellin, Cali)
Fellow Travelers: City of Brownsville (Mayor Tony Martinez), BEDC staff, Port of Brownsville reps (Eddeie Campirano, commissioners?, Office of the Governor of Economic Development, A Brownsville manufacturer(?), attorney (private?), labor consultant (?)
Why the Mayor? Hilts, in the December 8 workshop, stated: "In South America, a mayor is viewed like a governor or president. The meetings we set up are better attended if the mayor is with us."
Participants BEDC claims attended the "Invest in Brownsville Trade Mission": 375

(Note: in the report sent to El Rrun-Rrun, Hilts did not identify the individuals who were taken to Colombia at public expense other than by their organizations. For example, he did not mention the Port of Brownsville commissioners or administrators who went with the BEDC.)

Oct., 7, 2013 to June 18, 2014 Four Trips: (1.Bogota, 2. Bogota, Medellin, Cali, 3. Medellin, 4. Ipiales, Cucuta, Tunja, Medellin, Barranquilla, Pereira, Santa Maria)
Fellow Travelers: BEDC, Office of the Governor ED)
Participants BEDC claims attended the "Invest in Brownsville Trade Mission": 503

July 29, 2014 to August 16, 2014 Two Trips(1. Bogota, 2. Medellin, , Cali, Bogota, Cartagena)
Fellow Travelers: City of Brownsville (Martinez?, federal official (Filemon Vela?), Port of Brownsville (Eddie Campirano?),  Office of the Governor ED)
Participants BEDC claims attended the Invest in Brownsville Trade Mission: 193

Oct. 27 2014 to April 23, 2015 Two Trips: (1. Medellin, Bogota, 2. Medellin, Bogota
Fellow Travelers: BEDC staff only
Participants BEDC claims attended the Invest in Brownsville Trade Mission: 51

May 30 to Nov. 12, 2015 Three Trips: (1. Medellin, Bogota. 2. Medellin, Bogota. 3. Bogota, Cali)
Fellow Travelers: BEDC staff only
Participants BEDC claims attended the Invest in Brownsville Trade Mission: Not noted

Total Travel by BEDC, City of Brownsville, Office of the Gov., Port of Brownsville, Brownsville Manufacturer, lawyer, labor consultant:

(Hilts added the caveat that: All travel is associated with meetings pertaining to prospective activity, trade missions, government officials, investor relations, entrepreneurs, port authorities and chambers of commerce. The face-to-face meetings with such representatives are derived through an internal lead generating process. In return, the meetings result in visits to Brownsville by prospective companies and participants for the inbound trade missions hosted in Brownsville.)

Results on our $314,438 investment in personnel, office and travel of our able representatives:
Jobs for local residents: 0, not counting Hilts and BEDC VP Gilbert Salinas
Jobs for Colombian nationals: 3


I'm not a robot!!! said...

This is the kind of investigative reporting the local rag 'The Sunshine Herald' Should be conducting,

Good Job ElRRunRRun

Anonymous said...

BOON-DOGGLE! And, are there any positive "connections" or any jobs that have resulted...other than new jobs in BEDC????? This week we lost jobs because of the reduction of young illegals this year. We continue to lose jobs and citizens get little information about new jobs, either from new business or expanding business. Tony Martinez is travelling and promoting himself...but what about the rest of us....left to wander around on our bicycles with no jobs.

Anonymous said...

This is pocket change compared to the purchase of La Casa Del Fraude, I mean Nylon.

Anonymous said...

FBI, keep sniffing Brownsville has other piles to sniff.

Anonymous said...

Seems that this city administration and its shadow entities can't win, even when they cheat. And, it seems the cheating may not be about benefiting this community, but getting the administrators laid, on our dime. Tony Martinez, as mayor, is complicit in this corruption and seems to go along for the ride.
This is why Brownsville is swirling down the toilet while other cities in the RGV thrive.

Anonymous said...

Totally corrupted city, just take a look at the city HR department, so many positions were never advertised so potential applicants could apply to be consider for employment. The grants director, emergency management director, public relations officer, planning and zoning director, government analysist , city attorney, and the list can go on and on. These positions were never advertised, just given, some of these employees have zero experience but got hired anyway. Hopefully, the new city commission will take note of this illegal hiring practices and do sometipjing about it.

Anonymous said...

It's about time, theirs a lot of people that are involved.