U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary for Economic Development David A. Sampson awarded a $1 million Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant Friday, Aug. 24 to The University of Texas-Pan American for the start of a university-based Center for Border Economic Studies.
"The border communities that will be served by this project have unemployment rates two and three times the national rate," said Sampson during a news conference as part of the U.S.-Mexico Border Summit.
"Even though NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) has helped transform the area into a major conduit for trade and commerce between the U.S. and Mexico, most communities in the border region continue to experience the highest unemployment and lowest per capita income in the nation."
The project will create a community-based public policy studies center that will focus on border economy, trade, immigration, environment and information technology. A major issue the center will concentrate on is the exploration of strategies for sustainable economic development along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Roland S. Arriola, UTPA vice president of External Affairs, said the center will be housed at the International Trade and Technology Building under the Office of Center Operations and Community Services (CoSERVE). It will be staffed with University faculty and individual staff who will focus solely on border studies.
"This is a tremendous occasion not only for UTPA, but the entire Rio Grande Valley, South Texas and the border," Arriola said.
UTPA will work with El Colegio de la Frontera Norte in the gathering of data on the Mexican side of the border and share their findings with each other, Arriola said. He will begin using the grant in a couple of weeks and meet with Mexico's Border Czar Ernesto Ruffo to discuss the goals of the center.
UTPA is the only university in the United States housing data Mexico collects from El Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía E Informática (INEGI). An agreement signed in 1996 made the University INEGI's first Information Center in the United States that periodically receives INEGI's statistical and demographic information in the form of printed materials, magnetic disks and maps.
Also attending the presentation were Congressman Rubén Hinojosa and Austin EDA Regional Director Pedro Garza.