Roundtable at UTPA discusses future of advanced manufacturing in region
Posted: 02/23/2012
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The state of advanced manufacturing in South Texas was the focus of a White House Business Roundtable held Feb. 16 at The University of Texas-Pan American.

Pictured at the roundtable left to right are Dr. Miguel Gonzalez, interim vice provost for UTPA's Office of Research and Sponsored Projects; Jack Damron, executive director, Region One Education Service Center; Keith Patridge, president/CEO, McAllen Economic Development Corp.; Guillermo Castro, owner, M&M Cargo (Laredo); Dale Woodfork, manufacturing engineer, Modine (Laredo); Jorge Trevino, CTA Global Solutions (San Antonio); Juan "J.D." Salinas, regional administrator, General Service Administration's southwest region; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA president and chair of the NAAMREI leadership team; Bonnie Gonzalez, CEO, Workforce Solutions for Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy Counties; Wanda Garza, NAAMREI executive officer; Blas Castaneda, CTA Global Solutions (Laredo); and Mike Willis, executive director, South Texas Manufacturers Association.
Juan "J.D." Salinas, regional administrator for the General Service Administration's southwest region, requested the meeting with members of the core leadership team of the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research & Education Initiative (NAAMREI), which includes several UTPA representatives, to obtain input from the region to help advance the Obama administration's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) launched last year.

"I am here today to listen to those in the manufacturing business to see what we can do better as an administration, what changes in the policy do we need to look at so we can try and help our economy to come back," Salinas said. "This is a listening tour to take notes and report back to the White House and tell them the lay of the land here."

Salinas, former Hidalgo County judge, created the Rio South Texas Economic Development Council, a regional economic development group, during his administration in the county.

The AMP is a national effort bringing together industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in the emerging technologies that will create high quality manufacturing jobs and enhance the United States' global competitiveness. More than $500 million in AMP funding was proposed by President Obama. The AMP was developed based on the recommendation of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

More than 60 business, education, economic development, industry and government partners form NAAMREI, which was launched in the South Texas region as a result of a U.S. Department of Labor investment. NAAMREI partners are focused on transforming the region into a world leader for advanced and rapid response manufacturing.

UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen welcomed other roundtable participants. UTPA is the lead research institution in NAAMREI and Nelsen chairs NAAMREI's leadership team.

Attendee Keith Patridge, president and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corp. and a NAAMREI leadership team member, said its members, who are from Laredo to Brownsville, have been working for almost 10 years on focusing South Texas on advanced manufacturing. He said prior funding they received during the Bush administration allowed NAAMREI to establish infrastructure in the region such as the Advanced Rapid Response Manufacturing Center at UTPA. NAAMREI has initiated educational programs to create a world class talent workforce pool and is also developing plans for a research and education park on land donated in McAllen.

"The Obama administration is pushing toward bringing manufacturing back to the United States and North America. Because we are focused on it, all of a sudden South Texas has become a leader in that area," Patridge said. "J.D. is here to see what we need, how the administration can help us and how we can work together to support its goals."

Dr. Miguel Gonzalez, UTPA's interim provost for Research and Sponsored Projects, said he hopes NAAMREI can access funds being made available by the AMP to support the efforts here in this region.

"We need to grow the research, education and other support infrastructure to the right levels for the advanced manufacturing in the region. It has evolved into something that creates jobs and wealth in the region," he said.

Click here to learn more about NAAMREI. Visit UTPA's Rapid Response Manufacturing Center website here.