COSTEP Entertains a Delegation from India

After a productive day of work sessions, Adam Gonzalez of COSTEP shakes hands with Dr. J. A. Chowdary of ISF, paving the way for regional economic growth. Photo by Roberto Hugo González
After a productive day of work sessions, Adam Gonzalez of COSTEP shakes hands with Dr. J. A. Chowdary of ISF, paving the way for regional economic growth. Photo by Roberto Hugo González
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By Roberto Hugo González

Regional collaboration is key to unlocking prosperity in economic development. Adam Gonzalez, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of COSTEP, Council for South Texas Economic Progress, stands at the forefront of this mission, steering efforts to attract new industries to the Rio South Texas region. COSTEP’s work spans seven counties on the U.S. side and ten municipios in Mexico, creating a binational synergy to foster economic growth.

COSTEP’s primary objective is to attract new industries to the region. Adam Gonzalez emphasizes the importance of collaboration, stating, “COSTEP cannot do it alone. We need economic development corporations (EDCs), cities, higher education institutions, and workforce boards working together to attract new industries to the region.”

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The recent event, triggered by Adam’s January visit with the Texas governor’s office and the Texas Economic Development Corporation, showcased the region’s potential to key stakeholders, including Dr. J. A. Chowdary, Founder and Chairman of the International Startup Foundation (ISF) in India. “They are working with many entrepreneurs and startups with products ready to market. They’re already generating at least a million dollars in revenue and are looking to expand into the United States,” Adam noted.

One of the significant challenges COSTEP faces is creating awareness about the region’s potential. Adam shares, “Another European company, which initially settled on the East Coast, is now considering our region. They had no idea about us and what we do here.” This highlights the necessity of putting Rio South Texas on the map for international businesses.

Dr. Chowdary led the Indian delegation that visited the Rio Grande Valley. A prominent figure in India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, Dr. Chowdary has fostered innovation, supported startups, and driven economic growth through technology and business development.

Dr. Chowdary told Texas Border Business that his visit to the Rio Grande Valley was driven by his interest in exploring opportunities for Indian startups to expand into larger markets. The Rio Grande Valley, with its strategic location and growing economy, offers several advantages:

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First, identifying appropriate areas in the Valley for Indian startups to establish operations can help these businesses access the bigger North American market. Second, the region’s business-friendly policies, infrastructure, and support for innovation make it an attractive destination for startups. Third, establishing a presence in the Rio Grande Valley allows for potential collaborations with local businesses, educational institutions, and research organizations on both sides of the US/Mexico border. Dr. Chowdary was impressed with the Rio Grande Valley’s potential and welcoming business environment.

COSTEP’s efforts attract companies and ensure they fit well within the region’s ecosystem. “We know that if it’s a wind or solar energy project, Jim Hogg and Willacy Counties are good for them. They need a deep-sea water port. We know where that is,” he explained. This strategic approach ensures that new businesses can thrive, leveraging the region’s unique assets.

The success of COSTEP’s initiatives hinges on regional cooperation. Adam highlighted the importance of a united front, “If the project does not fit in Brownsville well, it’ll fit in McAllen, Harlingen, or somewhere else because we’ll all benefit from the jobs and the tax base.” This cooperative is crucial for comprehensive regional development. 

ISF participated in one full day of presentations, divided into two sessions: the morning in Cameron County and the afternoon in McAllen, Texas. Representatives from Brownsville, Harlingen, and Matamoros began the full-day presentation early in the morning at the Port of Brownsville meeting chamber in Cameron County. In the afternoon, the focus shifted to Mission, McAllen, Pharr, Weslaco, Edinburg, and Reynosa, with the meeting held at Casa de Palmas in McAllen.

Adam expressed his optimism about collaborating with Startup Runway and Internations Startup Foundation, highlighting his positive impression of the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) for the Indian companies they are working with that are looking to expand into the U.S. Adam is hopeful that these companies will view Rio South Texas as an ideal location for their operations. He is currently negotiating agreements with Startup Runway to attract these businesses to the region. While the companies will ultimately choose their best fit, the goal is to showcase the diverse opportunities available in counties such as Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Jim Hogg, Zapata, and Willacy. Each area offers unique advantages for renewable energy projects, deep-sea ports, logistics, and manufacturing.

From Adam’s perspective, the most attractive aspect of Rio South Texas is its people and their willingness to collaborate. He pointed out that the region’s underdeveloped manufacturing industry presents a significant opportunity for new companies. The key is to work together as a community to put the region on the international map. Adam believes in a regional approach, where different areas can complement each other, ensuring that even if a project doesn’t fit one city, it can find a home elsewhere, benefiting everyone through job creation and increased tax revenues. The region’s strategic advantages include being within 90 minutes of three international airports and having over 20 bridge crossings, including 12 dedicated to trade.

Regarding workforce supply, Adam acknowledged the need for a collaborative effort involving companies, educational institutions, and workforce boards to build the necessary pipeline. He stressed the importance of an inclusive regional ecosystem where all parties work together to develop a skilled workforce tailored to the needs of incoming industries. This approach ensures that the region can attract new businesses and support them with a capable and prepared workforce.

Overall, Adam is focused on leveraging Rio South Texas’s collective strengths to attract and support new industries and foster economic growth and development throughout the region. COSTEP’s vision includes harnessing local talent, enhancing infrastructure, and maintaining a cooperative spirit among various stakeholders to create a thriving business environment.

One critical factor for attracting new industries is ensuring an adequate workforce. Adam stresses the importance of aligning educational institutions with industry needs: “We need to work with the company, our educational system, and our workforce boards to create that workforce pipeline to help attract that cluster of industry into the region.”

Institutions of higher education play a crucial role in this ecosystem. “It’s not about putting students in seats to fill a seat or to get a degree, but we need to refocus on educating them in the jobs that we want to retain here in the region,” Adam added. This approach ensures that the region can provide a skilled workforce tailored to the demands of incoming industries. “We want our guests to feel comfortable here and to get a feel for the region,” he concluded. COSTEP aims to be a conduit, bringing together communities and businesses to foster economic development.

The future of Rio South Texas looks promising, with COSTEP’s efforts paving the way for a vibrant and diverse economic landscape. By highlighting the region’s strengths and fostering a joint environment, COSTEP is setting the stage for Rio South Texas to become a significant player on the international economic stage.

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