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South Texas Mayors’ Alliance, United in Strength for Regional Prosperity, Celebrated Third Meeting

Third meeting and getting closer to a plan of action

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South Texas Mayors Come Together to Champion Regional Prosperity and Shared Economic Goals. Pictured above from L-R: Ramiro Garza, Edinburg Mayor; David Suarez, Weslaco Mayor; Norma Sepulveda, Harlingen Mayor; Norie Garza, Mission Mayor and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Photo by Roberto Hugo González
South Texas Mayors Come Together to Champion Regional Prosperity and Shared Economic Goals. Pictured above from L-R: Ramiro Garza, Edinburg Mayor; David Suarez, Weslaco Mayor; Norma Sepulveda, Harlingen Mayor; Norie Garza, Mission Mayor and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Photo by Roberto Hugo González

Texas Border Business

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By Roberto Hugo González

On July 25, 2023, the city of Mission hosted the third South Texas Mayors’ Alliance of Cities, where Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio joined Mayor Norie Garza of Mission, Mayor Ramiro Garza of Edinburg, Mayor Norma Sepulveda of Harlingen, and Mayor David Saenz of Weslaco. Also in attendance were distinguished representatives from the education field and business. Absent were Mayor Javier Villalobos of McAllen and Mayor John Cowen of Brownsville.

The South Texas Mayors’ Alliance, established to harness the combined economic and political ability of these cities through strategic partnerships, focuses on shared economic, social, and cultural interests. Each participating city contributes to the unified strength of the alliance, which aims to optimize the socio-economic potential of South Texas.

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Ron Nirenberg, San Antonio Mayor. Pic by RHG

Mayor Nirenberg of San Antonio, the largest majority-Latino city in the country, underscored the importance of education in his remarks. He stressed the need for continuous learning beyond a high school diploma for a sustainable wage, drawing attention to the programs in place in San Antonio to facilitate pathways to further education and workforce development.

Nirenberg also highlighted the concept of regional economic growth, explaining that each city contributes to a larger supply chain, resulting in growth for the region. Critical to this is talent development – a primary focus of the alliance. He proposed aligning the cities’ talent development initiatives to ensure that they are all better equipped to attract businesses and secure a prosperous future for the region.

Furthermore, the San Antonio mayor pointed out the potential of regional collaborative efforts. The city, under a voter-approved program, has committed approximately $200-240 million to job training, anticipating future employment needs. This innovative approach includes not only covering tuition but also providing support for obstacles like childcare and transportation, which often derail potential learners. Nirenberg proposed that the alliance could provide a similar support system regionally, which could make South Texas an attractive destination for businesses.

Lastly, he addressed the need for equity in South Texas, noting the importance of collaborative efforts to bridge gaps in the region. As a case study, he mentioned the successful collaboration of four bio-science entities in San Antonio, which, through their joint efforts, sparked innovative research, securing significant grant funding, and creating jobs.

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As the South Texas Mayors’ Alliance of Cities continues its mission to foster regional growth and prosperity, these discussions underline the immense potential of strategic partnerships and collaborative efforts. The next meeting in San Antonio promises to further cement this alliance’s role as a driving force for regional progress.

In June 2023, during the second meeting when the Compact of Mayors for a South Texas Alliance of Cities was signed, Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio, in solidarity with mayors from McAllen, Mission, Weslaco, Harlingen, and the mayor of Brownsville, united around a common purpose: to pinpoint South Texas’s unique needs and devise a comprehensive strategy to exploit their collective influence for the region’s broader economic expansion.

Fast track to today, Mayor Nirenberg’s statement focuses on several key themes, all underlining the core idea of growth, development, and prosperity for San Antonio and the wider South Texas region better known as the Rio Grande Valley. His key points include:

1.) Demographic Composition: He starts by highlighting San Antonio’s diverse population, emphasizing its majority Latino population, and the shared demographic destiny of the wider Rio Grande Valley. He underscores the city’s unity and its forward-looking nature.

2.) Education and Workforce Development: Nirenberg stresses the importance of education beyond high school. He argues that having more than a high school diploma is critical for escaping poverty in today’s job market, and thus, promoting higher education and technical training is a priority for his administration. His focus extends to “ready to work” programs, and he discusses the necessity of creating pathways for individuals to gain professional licenses and degrees, ensuring a well-prepared workforce.

3.) Regional Collaboration and Economic Growth: He talks about the potential for regional growth due to the interconnectedness of various industries across South Texas. He also addresses the need for a coordinated approach to talent development in the region, which can attract major businesses to set up operations. He introduces the idea of promoting South Texas as a cohesive region with abundant resources and potential, able to offer a steady supply of well-trained workers.

4.) Readiness for Future Jobs: Nirenberg emphasizes the importance of preparing the workforce for jobs that are in demand, underlining the critical role of talent development in achieving this. He also highlights the need for ongoing skills training for adults already in the workforce, mentioning the voter-approved “ready to work” program that allocates significant funding for job training.

5.) Socioeconomic Equity: The Mayor addresses the importance of achieving equity for South Texas, particularly in terms of access to post-secondary education and better-paying jobs. He highlights the role of non-profits in supporting individuals through challenges that could otherwise disrupt their training, and he envisions a future where everyone in the region has a pathway to better opportunities, irrespective of their current status.

6.) Collaboration and Partnerships: He speaks to the importance of regional collaboration, inviting a cross-learning process to harness best practices in talent development. He also mentions the potential benefit of grants such as the RECOMPETE grant, which would allow the region to attract new businesses.

7.) Regional Priorities and Resource Mapping: Nirenberg suggests the need to identify blind spots and define responsibilities within the region. This mapping would help ensure that resources are directed towards the most impactful areas.

8.) Future Discussions and Action Steps: Lastly, he proposes a follow-up meeting in the coming weeks to continue the discussions and move towards action. He encourages other mayors to exchange ideas and foster collaboration, asserting that progress is more likely when they work together.

In summary, Mayor Nirenberg’s statement paints a picture of a diverse, forward-looking city and region that, with the right focus on education, training, and collaboration, can ensure prosperity for all of its residents.

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