McALLEN William Daley, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Congressman Rubén Hinojosa learned Friday how the Rio Grande Valley will become the next high-tech corridor thanks to a joint effort by The University of Texas-Pan American and the Cross Border Institute for Regional Development (CBIRD).
CBIRD is a strategic effort designed to strengthen infrastructures, create new technologies and build public-private partnerships benefiting the U.S.-Mexico border region.
It was formally created in early 1999 among UT Austin and its IC2 Institute, The University of Texas at Brownsville, the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico and the Houston Advanced Research Center.
A recently created UTPA CBIRD Program will provide the strategic planning to establish a baseline to help the region develop into a new high-tech corridor.
"Essentially, the UTPA CBIRD Program will evaluate our current resources and determine what we need to build, create or develop to bring in high-tech firms," said Roland S. Arriola, UTPA vice president for External Affairs, who briefed officials on behalf of the University.
The UTPA CBIRD Program coordinator will be Dr. John Sargent of the College of Business Administration. The information gathered by the University will help develop incubators, manufacturing extension services, investment in technology infrastructure and high-tech skills training, and more, said UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez.
"It is an important project that will unite the whole region of northern Mexico and South Texas to be viewed as one economic area," Nevárez said. "People and goods flow back and forth in this area, and you have to look at the whole region. Our partnership with Monterrey Tech (ITESM) will allow us to start developing a database, infrastructure base and research base so we can start sharing this information and form a regional economic development plan."
Overall, CBIRD focuses on critical problems facing the border region, such as education and training, infrastructure, affordable housing, quality-of-life issues, human resources and financial capital. It also assists in the management of critically important natural resources including water, air and land on both sides of the border.
"CBIRD is working to provide the answers to many of the challenges facing our border society," said Dr. Manuel Zertuche, CBIRD executive director for ITESM. "Cross-border cooperation is the only way to create a truly prosperous region."
Daley said the U.S. Department of Commerce is committed to making CBIRD work.
"Because of the needs in this part of the country, we are going to give serious consideration to how we can be helpful in seeing the goals and objectives of CBIRD to completion," Daley said. "We want this part of the country to benefit and be part of the economic expansion and success we are seeing across the country."
The UTPA CBIRD program will play a big role in the benchmarking process, Arriola said. The results will provide a framework for understanding the dynamics of the regional economy and chart a direction for economic advancement.
"Taking the lead in this benchmark process is a tremendous opportunity for UTPA because it is the underpinning of the whole CBIRD project," Arriola said. "We1re going to make maximum use of our faculty and students and collaborate with all the other universities in the region."
Congressman Hinojosa said Hidalgo County is poised for high-tech industry because of its tremendous growth and available workforce. The county's population has increased from about 325,000 people in 1990 to nearly 600,000 today.
"We are united on both sides of the border in undertaking this program," Hinojosa said. "All the pieces are falling in place to see CBIRD reach fruition."
Hidalgo County Judge Eloy Pulido echoed Hinojosa's comments, adding participation by UTPA and other higher education institutions in South Texas is critical for the region's success.
"Hidalgo County is in its infant stages of growth," Pulido said. "This growth with continue, and we also believe Hidalgo County can be another Silicon Valley because of its human resources."