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The Valley has not dropped the ball. – Rio Grande Guardian

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos has defended the decision by cities and economic development organizations in the Rio Grande Valley not to participate in a major trade mission to Asia with Gov. Greg Abbott.

Abbott is being joined on his trip to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan by Adriana Cruz, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism, Adrian Cannady, Board Secretary of the Texas Economic Development Corporation, Aaron Demerson, President and CEO of the Texas Economic Development Corporation, and a delegation of five Texas legislators and 23 Texas business and community leaders. The trip is currently taking him to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

No one from the Valley or Laredo is participating in the trip. The Borderplex Alliance, which represents El Paso, Santa Teresa and Ciudad Juarez, is represented on the tour.

Brownsville Mayor John Cowen Jr. and CEO Group leader Joaquin Spamer believe the valley should have been represented. Mayor Villalobos disagrees.

Villalobos spoke about the Asian tour during a press conference of the South Texas Alliance of Cities in Brownsville. In response to a question from Rio Grande Guardian When asked by the reporter whether the Valley had made a mistake by not participating in the tour, Villalobos said:

“I’m not saying we’ve messed it up. In fact, that’s something we’re watching. When someone opens the door, the opportunity, like the governor is doing, it makes it a lot easier for McAllen or an organization to do what they’ve already done. They’re opening doors, and I hope everyone realizes that.”

Villalobos was advised that the Asian tour also includes cities with significantly smaller populations than the Valley (such as Kilgore, McKinney, Temple and Victoria).

“Sure, and that’s fine,” Villalobos replied. “But what I’m saying is that they open doors. And once that happens, because I got the invitations… after the India visit, I got invitations from people in the Asian community to follow up on the governor’s visit. So that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

Villalobos suggested that McAllen and some other cities in the valley might join forces and visit the countries that Governor Abbott is currently traveling to.

“So I think it would be stronger… because I’m thinking about whether we can bring Edinburg, Brownsville and other communities with us. Because actually it’s like… we’re thinking about RioPlex now, we’re thinking about our area. So if we do it more as an area rather than an individual city, it’s much stronger. The governor is out there, he’s opening doors, so we have to take advantage of that.”

Experienced broadcaster Ron Whitlock from Ron Whitlock reportsasked Villalobos whether the governor had contacted McAllen to invite local politicians to come to his door.

“I have not received an invitation. I don’t know anything about other governments,” Villalobos replied.

Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza also attended the South Texas Alliance of Cities press conference. In response to questions about Governor Abbott’s trip to Asia, Garza replied:

“Let me say this very briefly on economic development: I think we all agree here that we are committed to the interests of this region when it comes to economic development.”

“We had that economic summit. The governor came, you remember that. We’re going to pursue that as a region. As I mentioned, we’re 50 cities in our region. So that’s something we’re going to continue to work toward.”

“But I agree with Mayor Villalobos. The governor is opening doors. It’s up to us to make sure we follow up on that. And since this is about the whole state, the whole region, we have to capitalize on it ourselves. And I think we all agree that we’re doing that.”

Laredo Mayor Victor D. Treviño also attended the South Texas Alliance of Cities press conference. His assistant Jose Ollervides, who accompanied him to Brownsville, confirmed that the city of Laredo is not represented on Governor Abbott’s Asia tour. He said perhaps Laredo-based IBC Bank and/or the Laredo Economic Development Corporation are on the tour. However, according to a press release from Governor Abbott, they are not represented.

Editor’s note: The Guardian has contacted the governor’s press office to ask whether the Valley’s leaders have been invited to the Asia tour. We will publish the press office’s response when it is received.