Saturday, October 10, 2009

Valley's regional marketing plan comes together with logo, Web site

Jared Janes
The Monitor

WESLACO — The Rio Grande Valley never made it past the short list.

An incentive package the region’s leaders quietly put together to lure in an aerospace manufacturer was still in consideration at the end, said Steve Ahlenius, president of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. But the company looking to expand its operations instead turned to options in other states.

The “Project Thrust” effort was the first collaborative approach to economic development by the Rio South Texas Economic Council, a 19-member alliance formed earlier this year to promote the region.

The group’s first shot at economic development ended unsuccessfully, but Ahlenius said it showed them that working together at least puts them on the lists.

“It never would have happened” without the council, Ahlenius said. “There’s a lot of companies that are going to start coming because of this.”

Council members signed a resolution Thursday that Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas said is a step toward “collaborating to compete.”

He unveiled the group’s Web site — — and presented its logo and slogan, “2 Countries, 1 Region, Many Choices.”

The collaboration resolution states the partners will work together to make the region competitive, promote its benefits and help each other to land projects.

Salinas, the chairman of the council and catalyst behind the effort, said the resolution pulls together a region that is among the nation’s 25 most populous if neighboring communities in Mexico are included.

It also gives the region the financial power to spread its message.

The council’s marketing budget through its member dues is $300,000, a number that could grow as it recruits businesses and other groups into its ranks.

An economic development team was hired this summer to develop a marketing strategy for the council.

Some items — the Web site, logo and slogan — were unveiled Thursday, but officials were tight-lipped on other elements of a 100-page marketing plan.

Splash events are in the works for Houston and New York to promote the region using a gamut of mail-outs, publications and studies.

The Web site will provide regional statistics on the workforce, incentives and educational assets, and it will soon include a database of available properties.

The effort gives smaller cities like San Juan access to marketing tools like the property database that it wouldn’t have with its own limited budget, said Miki McCarthy, executive director of the San Juan Economic Development Corp.

San Juan and other small cities usually can’t compete for companies seeking assets like a 200,000-square-foot building, she said. But the regional effort gives the city a chance to promote its small assets like a 50-acre plot of land that may be overlooked.

McCarthy said larger cities like McAllen can’t draw in big prospects without the support of smaller cities, which can benefit from having better job opportunities for their own residents.

“We’re dots on the map but we’re all feeding into the same population pool,” she said. “We can’t do it alone.”

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