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UTPA, RGV leaders unite to promote regional cooperation
By Amanda Perez, Intern
956-665-2741
Posted: 05/11/2011
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Hurricane season is around the corner and can have a major impact on our economy. The University of Texas-Pan American and Rio Grande Valley county and city leaders are teaming up to train businesses, cities and local organizations on how to prepare and recover from a natural or man-made disaster.


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UTPA, Small City's Coalition of Cameron County, Workforce Solutions Cameron, The University of Texas at Brownsville and the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council with a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) will host the 2nd Annual Conference on Economic Development and Emergency Management in South Padre Island's Isla Grande Beach Resort June 1-3.

The conference titled "Rebuild, Restore, and Regionalize: The 3 R's of Economic and Post Disaster Recovery" is designed to support leaders, businesses and communities of South Texas and to provide the tools they need for their efforts to successfully overcome the challenges of a down economy and the threats of natural disasters.

UTPA representatives from the Division of Community Engagement will present their research findings from studies made possible by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). With this grant UTPA was able to create the South Texas Regional Rural Economic Development Strategy with a vision to promote a plan to create economic opportunity, build the capacity of rural leaders and improve the quality of life for the residents of the South Texas Rural Region through education, training and technical assistance.

"One of the priorities in the plan is to work regionally and have communities work together to collaborate," said Cristina Trejo, director of special programs for the Division of Community Engagement. "This regional conference is a perfect opportunity to present our findings, our plan and strategies that are already in place to do a regional collaboration with cities."

Trejo said they hope to spread awareness about the tremendous amount of potential the Rio Grande Valley has to offer in an effort to encourage communities to work together and partner with agencies to leverage funding for economic development projects that are critical to the area and for the recovery from a natural disaster.

"This is really opening the door for communities to feel that the University is truly here as a resource to them," Trejo said. "Our projects are community based…and they offer an opportunity to cities that otherwise may think that we are not accessible."

Participants can network with representatives from federal agencies such as USDA, EDA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), experts in the fields of economic development and emergency preparedness and keynote speaker Chuck Wemple, economic development program manager from the Houston-Galveston Area Council who will share his experiences with natural disasters and overcoming the hardships.

They can also take part in discussions, panels and workshops in three specialized tracks - business and economic development, civic leadership and management, and emergency preparedness - where they can address immediate recovery issues and prepare for long-term, regional and multilateral cooperation.

The conference is open to the public with registration fees that vary per entity: general public, $125; volunteer agencies, nonprofit organizations and armed forces, $75; business owners and students, $25.

For more information on the conference or to register, visit the development council's website.

Visit the South Texas Regional Rural Economic Development Strategy for more information.