Exploring Economic Development Through Education

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From left to right: Alex Meade, Eduardo Campirano, Naomi Perales, Norma Salaiz, Joey Treviño, and Thomas E. Dearmin.

Top image from left to right: Alex Meade, Eduardo Campirano, Naomi Perales, Norma Salaiz, Joey Treviño, and Thomas E. Dearmin.

Educators and superintendents were joined by community and business leaders at the Annual Superintendents’ meeting today, September 22, which focused on the important role education plays in the economic and technological emergence of the Rio Grande Valley. This unification of education and business is instrumental for the future of our region, as today’s youth will be tomorrow’s workforce, capable and critical for advancing this region from a service­oriented sector to one that generates its own products, whether through physical manufacturing or creative production, such as coding and invention.

Norma Salaiz, Director for Rio Grande Valley Linking Economic and Academic Development (RGV LEAD), spoke about the boon business can provide to education. She shared a common sight: the advertisements on scoreboards at football games, or sponsors on t­shirts, that demonstrate a business has an interest in supporting our children. While this sponsorship is beneficial, what students really need are direct involvement with businesses through partnerships and engagement programs; students are interested in getting their hands in the markets they might one day have a career in. She disclosed RGV LEAD’s plans for the year, which include the training     of student ambassadors and exploring opportunities for collaborative dialogue between school and industry. Salaiz concluded by presenting RGV LEAD’s 2015 Labor Market Report which can be read HERE.

This resource includes a section for students, with an overview of the region’s occupations. Eduardo A. Campirano, Director of Brownsville’s Navigation District, spoke about the exciting future the RGV can expect in regards to energy. As infrastructure that supports liquid natural gas and alternative energies like wind grow in use in the valley, Texas can continue to be an energy-producing state, fueling the economy and driving the business sector. Campirano hypothesized that game­changing industrialization will happen in Cameron county, due to the infrastructure already in place. “Brownsville’s deep water seaport is our connection to the world – and it doesn’t belong just to Brownsville, but the entire region,” he said. Similarly, the railways connect us to both Mexico and the heartland of the U.S. will benefit the economy of the entire Rio Grande Valley.

Alex Meade, Chief Executive Officer for the city of Mission Economic Development Corporation, concluded the meeting with a few words of reflection. “We all see the tremendous opportunities all over the valley. I believe UTRGV will be the catalyst for a lot of this change. Companies have always looked at the region for the work we can do with our hands – but I see a future where they are looking for our minds.” Meade took the chance to address a common misconception: the valley is sometimes slammed as an area that is low in education, or a poor region. “But they’ve never measured us on – and I believe we have more of this than anyone – ganas,” he said. “The effort we’re putting in here today, is leading us to a brighter future here in the valley.”