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Insights from Romanita Matta-Barrera at the South Texas Mayors’ Alliance of Cities Meeting

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Romanita Matta-Barrera, Chief Workforce Officer at the greater:SATX Regional Economic Partnership, provided an insight-packed presentation on Regional Economic Partnership during the third South Texas Mayors’ Alliance of Cities meeting. Image Source: greater:SATX LinkedIN
Romanita Matta-Barrera, Chief Workforce Officer at the greater:SATX Regional Economic Partnership, provided an insight-packed presentation on Regional Economic Partnership during the third South Texas Mayors’ Alliance of Cities meeting. Image Source: greater:SATX LinkedIN

Texas Border Business

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By Roberto Hugo González

Romanita Matta-Barrera, the Chief Workforce Officer at the greater:SATX Regional Economic Partnership, recently shared with attendees with a comprehensive presentation at the third South Texas Mayors’ Alliance of Cities meeting. The event was organized at the Mission EDC building and was presided over by Norie Gonzalez Garza Mission Mayor and hosted at CEED building managed by Teclo Garcia, the Chief Executive Officer. Matta-Barrera’s attendance and subsequent presentation were a result of an invitation by San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, one of eight founders of the Alliance of Cities.

According to Matta-Barrera, thriving communities hinge on a skilled workforce. Hence, a strategic approach toward workforce development is essential for any regional economic progression. The primary focus of such a strategy should be to nurture the local population to meet the specific needs of regional employers, thereby establishing a direct support system. The alliance formed through this endeavor presents a potent partnership for advancing this cause.

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Matta-Barrera recounted the historical journey of SA Works, which was integrated into the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation eight years ago. The central idea was to lead economic development with a talent-driven approach, thereby connecting education and training providers with the ultimate beneficiaries – employers. The goal was to ensure that workforce development is not carried out in isolation; rather, it should engage school districts, higher education partners, and workforce agencies in this intricate ecosystem, as they play a pivotal role in preparing people – the greatest asset in any community.

The talk further highlighted the importance of diversity in the modern corporate world, emphasizing the need for the workforce to match the diversity inherent in the region’s demographics. Matta-Barrera stressed the importance of bringing about educational attainment that aligns with what employers are seeking today.

Elaborating on the transformation of SAWORX into greater:SATX, Matta-Barrera emphasized the significance of regional unity. This unity is reflected in the collaborative recognition of shared resources and strengths such as land, transportation, utilities, and more, which hold immense economic potential. This shift not only underscores the regional approach beyond San Antonio or Bexar County but also aids in fostering relationships with regional economic development partners.

Matta-Barrera’s presentation emphasized the criticality of workforce readiness and educational attainment in the regional competitive landscape. The pillars of talent development, attraction, and retention form the foundation of a robust workforce strategy. Here, integration with the private sector to keep pace with the evolving needs of industries is crucial.

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The talk then moved to address the concept of talent development at the K-12 level, stressing the importance of making young people aware of job prospects and what is required for them to be competitive in college and future careers. In this context, the “Ready to Work” initiative, launched by Mayor Nirenberg, was highlighted as a milestone.

The conversation transitioned into talent attraction and retention strategies. Matta-Barrera stated that San Antonio does not experience a “brain drain” as much as people tend to return after completing their education elsewhere. Still, the city does need to work towards keeping those who come to universities within the city and the region.

The presentation concluded with a call to action for investing in such workforce strategies for the sake of economic competitiveness. Matta-Barrera emphasized the importance of changing the narrative around educational attainment and filling the high-skilled jobs required by employers in STEM occupations. Her speech provided valuable insights and best practices for workforce strategy development, making a strong case for long-term investments in programs for improving regional economic competitiveness.

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