Saturday, May 27, 2017


By Juan Montoya
Years ago, current interim Brownsville Economic Development Council CEO Jose Herrera would make presentations in his role as a member of the BEDC's nine-member executive committee member.
Herrera would pull out his poster board which showed the 10 top recipients of the BEDC's list of firms that had received incentives to relocate to Brownsville. At the very bottom, almost as an afterthought, were local businesses. Then came Titan Tire, Delphi, and other notable failures.

At yesterday's Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation's monthly meeting, Herrera – owner of Herr Metals, a company which provides metals and plastics to the maquila industry  – was at it again. He made a cursory presentation going over all the current projects and their "potential" to create 100s of jobs and the magnified role of BEDC in the recruitment of outside companies to come to the Brownsville area through monetary incentives. BEDC is the subcontractor for the GBIC to vet potential companies and to provide the support for the entity to foster economic development and create good-paying jobs.

Under a three-year contract with the GBIC, they get paid $1,672,400 each year, for a total of $5,017,200. That contract ends this September.
It is safe to say that that BEDC did not attract anywhere near that $5.07 million in new jobs or industry that it spent on its "operations."

One of the reasons that there has been a "disconnect" between the GBIC and subcontractor BEDC – according to an assessment undertaken by a three-person panel made up of representatives from the UTRGV School of Business, the Brownsville Public Utilities Board, and the Texas Southmost College Workforce Development Office – is that neither of the entities has clearly defined their goals or objectives.

"Neither GBIC nor BEDC has undertaken a comprehensive yearly strategic planning effort for some time," the report states. "BECD has produced some 'planning documents' which appear to be sporadically done, and in large measure are repetitions of prior years' documents. There does not appear to be any external environmental assessment, internal assessment, or stakeholder input...measurable goals are not readily apparent."

"In such a vacuum, BEDC has apparently in large measure gone its own way," it concludes.

The report goes on to say that it appears that BEDC has focused the very great majority of its energies on marketing Brownsville to firms outside the region and, to a smaller degree, to work with existing firms to encourage growth and expansion.

In previous years, Herrera used to carry a poster board listing the top 10 recipients of the monetary incentives. At the very bottom the existing local businesses were listed, even though its bylaws speak to a broader mission with a wider agenda. Its mission statement it says it purpose is "conducting research and development of information regarding area economics, growth, finance, education and training, housing, human relations, planning and development, and other similar related to economic and industrial development."

"Obviously, this represents a very broad scope of work that would likely be difficult to fulfill given current resources," the study concludes. "The resulting failure to fulfill some of those roles, while aggressively fulfilling others has left select stakeholders disenchanted."

"The possible disconnect between the priorities of BEDC and its stakeholders, notably GBIC, appears the result of the failure of the two contracting parties to establish priorities. It appears BEDC does a competent job of performing a relatively narrow set of functions it has defined for itself. The much larger question of whether these functions maximize the city's utility for the money spent does not appear to have been addressed either internally or externally," the report states.

There appears to be no valid way to analyze BEDC's performance to evaluate success because of the dearth of information to gauge several indicators, the authors state.

"Unfortunately, we were only provided with this sort of date for fiscal year 2015. "Jason Hilts, who heads (headed) BEDC, stated that the FY 2015 Report was a first time trial run that 'wasn't met with great success.' and that maybe they would look to revive the endeavor but would have to assign the responsibility to someone new because the person who previously generated the report has now left the BEDC. To that end, we have no valid way of quantitatively evaluating BEDC's performance during the course of its ongoing contract with GBIC."

The report noted that as the North American economy shifts from traditional manufacturing and agricultural bases to "advanced, rapid-response" manufacturing and service economy, BEDC should broaden its focus from traditional manufacturers.

"BEDC needs to define what our community can do proactively to anticipate the needs of such firms," the authors write. "BEDC should also consider tracking non-manufacturing many jobs in the service sector offer comparable salaries to manufacturing jobs – for example, jobs in professional, scientific and technical services or jobs in health and social service sectors.

"If BEDC starts to capture information related to 'knowledge-based' jobs such as IT, computer systems development, marketing and design, then those data can be used to create economic development programs to support these nascent industries. Moreover, those data can also be shared with organizations such as Texas Southmost College. Texas State Technical College, the University of Texas-RGV, the Texas Workforce Commission, and the Brownsville Independent School District to keep and grown these industries in our community."


Anonymous said...

So what, Juanito?

Anonymous said...

The lack of effective planning in BEDC and GBIC is reflective of the failures of the Tony Martinez government. Lots of trips to foreign venues, but no positive results from those trips....just spending more of the taxpayers money. It is amazing to watch the progress in Hidalgo County and growth of jobs there...while Cameron County seems to be the poor step-brother in the RGV. That's because Brownsville has no jobs (actually some say we are actually losing jobs). Mayor Tony Martinez has and continues to be a great disappointment. Lots of his friends getting rich...but the taxpayers are getting nothing for their money.

Anonymous said...

That's what Brownsville voters wanted and elected him not once, but twice. It seems that the citizens of Brownsville loved to be ripped off of their tax monies.

Anonymous said...

But just watch we idiots elect Martinez again next time. I can bet that if he doesn't run, La Chiscada
Gowen will - otra rica que no sabe sufrir. Y el Rick
que se creo en el barrio, ya se le subio a la cabeza y no hace nada que el Blue Jean Mayor no le diga. Que lastima, Rick, porque you district is the dirtiest one in Brownsville and I have never seen you conduct some kind of a clean up for the district.

Anonymous said...

Rick is too busy Dj'ing with 8 tracks - someone needs to bring him into the 21st century.

His music sucks and his robotic voice is depressing.