Think forward, Move Forward: Planning for the Next 25 Years

April 22nd, 2014 No comments

It’s time The Rio Grande THINKS and ACTS like a region. Research and development is where we need to be headed. 

McALLEN, April 21 – McAllen Economic Development Corporation believes the new ideas coming out of the KAIST research park in Daejeon can lead directly to good paying manufacturing jobs in the Rio Grande Valley.

McAllen EDC leaders have just returned from a visit to South Korea’s fifth largest city. They were invited to visit the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology to explain their concept of rapid response manufacturing, which means getting a product from design to marketplace in as short a time period as possible.

They were also on hand to see a memorandum of understanding signed by the City of Daejeon and the City of McAllen.

“Close your eyes and picture a 381-acre research park that employs 10,000 professionals with PhDs. This is what is happening at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology,” said Keith Patridge, president and CEO of McAllen EDC.

Here is the wording of the agreement:

The City of McAllen, a major advanced manufacturing center for North America, and Daejeon Metropolitan City, a global leader in science and technology, have agreed to work together in a spirit of friendship to promote closer partnerships in the fields of economy, science and technology. The cities will work together to provide economic opportunities in business, trade and investment based on a principle of reciprocity. The cities agree that this initial MOU from the mayor’s letters between the cities on May 11, and May 27, 2011 is the first stage of developing closer relationships between the two cities in the years to come. 31 March, 2014.

KAIST was formed 40 years when the South Korean government decided to make Daejeon its national research center. It is now one of the leading research universities in the world and only accepts the top one percent of graduates. Its research park sits on 381 acres. In 2012, KAIST issued 1,381 patents.

In a lengthy interview with the Guardian, Patridge said MEDC wants to engage with the residents of the Valley to see if university research, coupled with rapid response manufacturing is the way to go. If so, he believes, the Valley can learn a lot from KAIST and Daejeon. He said a collaborative agreement McAllen and Daejeon that was signed during the trip to South Korea could be the first step.

“Is this what we would like for our region? We want to know what our citizenry thinks. What we are doing now at McAllen EDC is not for today. It is for 40 years from now.”

Patridge said McAllen made a long shot bet on the maquila industry 30 years ago and it paid off handsomely. He wonders aloud if its leaders today want to make the same long term commitment on advanced manufacturing and allied research. If so, he said, the Valley could benefit from the ties McAllen and the University of Texas-Pan American are making with the City of Daejeon and KAIST. He said KAIST officials have identified ten or 12 Korean companies that would be a logical fit for the McAllen area.

“While we were there, the folks at KAIST said, look, we do a real good job of coming up with ideas, of discoveries but we do a lousy job of commercializing them. We discover something, it goes on the shelf and then we go on to discover something else. They said you guys (in McAllen) are focused on applied research and commercialization. We would like to form a cooperative, commercialization agreement with McAllen and UTPA,” Patridge explained.

“Universities all over the world have been trying to get this kind of relationship with KAIST. A lot of it has to do with the relationship Miguel has. We worked with them. We developed this agreement and we signed it. The goal is to bring new technologies and technology companies from Korea to McAllen and then as we develop commercialization and new companies we take them from here to Korea. It becomes a two-way fertilization of ideas. It is a natural fit.”

The Miguel Patridge refers to is Professor Miguel Gonzalez, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at UTPA. Gonzalez accompanied the MEDC officials on the trip.

Patridge explained the rationale for developing relations with KAIST.

“We have been rightly focusing on education and training and UTPA and STC do excellent job. But, if we keep doing a good job with our educational institutions but there are no jobs it is a zero sum game. Forty years from now we will still be in the same place we are today.

“If we start producing PhDs and we do not have research for them, we are going to be spending a lot of money for nothing. We will lose those students. We need research and the opportunity to create new companies. We are putting the building blocks in place now. We are fortunate to work with Korea, with one of the leading institutions in the world. Everyone would like to have the relationship but we have the relationship.”

The City of Daejeon has a population of 1.5 million people, not much more than the Valley. However, it is much wealthier. It has an annual budget $2.8 billion a year. Its gross domestic product is $27 billion. “The national government has put a lot of money into research in Daejeon,” Patridge said.

Patridge said the City of Daejeon only has about two Sister City agreements. “They are very guarded about who they enter into agreements with. We feel honored to have been selected.” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and UTPA President Robert Nelsen had hoped to be on the trip to Daejeon but were prevented from doing so by pressing matters at home. They hope to go on a future trip. Darling did appear in a video about McAllen that was presented to Daejeon officials.

The City of McAllen and McAllen EDC have been making regular visits to Korea since 1990. On the first trip were then McAllen Mayor Othal Brand, then McAllen City Commissioner Jan Klinck, then McAllen EDC President Mike Allen, and Patridge. Patridge said it was because of the beautification of the Korean cities they visited that made Brand insist on his city be spruced up by its parks and recreation department.

“Korea was much different back in 1990. It was an emerging country. It was still a bit wild and wooly. We were told not to drink the water in the hotel room. But it was absolutely beautiful, as clean as can be. It was just after Korea hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics,” Patridge remembers.

The relationships forged on that and subsequent visits are starting to pay off now, Patridge said. In fact, one of the reasons for the latest trip was so that Korean officials could learn about the rapid response project being undertaken by the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative, which McAllen EDC and UTPA are part of.

“There is a whole strategic plan behind this that I am not going to get into but it would make a lot of sense if we could tell you about it. The folks from KAIST come over once a year, bringing companies that may be interested in building a manufacturing operation here, and then, once a year, we go over there and take our companies to see Daejeon,” Patridge said.

So what comes next?

“We have to develop our research park. We have to have a top quality university, which we are developing, and we have to have a research component. And, we have to get our first building for the research park. It costs money and so the question is, how do we fund it? It is unlikely that it will come from the federal government. How do we get the citizenry of McAllen to invest in this? How do we explain we could be the KAIST of Texas?

“We have to tell people what the potential is and see if they want it. This is another of those watershed moments, like the maquila concept. It is up to the citizenry of this region but we believe it is an investment in our grandkids. That is what we have got to think about it,” Patridge added.



3,000 Jobs added in McAllen MSA

April 21st, 2014 No comments


  • Unemployment rate in Texas dropped 5.5 % in March
  • The unemployment rate in Texas remains below national rate of 6.7%
  • Last years jobs in private sector: 278,400 (growth rate: 3%)

Article from The Monitor:

AUSTIN — On Friday, the Texas Workforce Commission revealed that the unemployment rate in Texas dropped to 5.5 percent in March — down two-tenths of a percentage point from February’s unemployment rate of 5.7 percent (seasonally adjusted). The unemployment rate in Texas remains well below the national rate of 6.7 percent.

Our state has continued its pattern of strong job growth and the Lone Star State continues to be ranked among the best places to live, work and do business. In Texas, we acknowledge that it is our employers, both small and large, that are the economic engine of this great state. Private employers added 278,400 total jobs over the last year for an annual growth rate of 3.0 percent.

This past year, the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan statistical area added 3,000 jobs.

During the past year, all 11 of the major industries experienced annual job growth, with five industries posting rates that exceeded 3 percent.

Employment in Texas continued to grow across a wide range of industries, with seven of the 11 major industries adding jobs in March. Professional and business services added 5,600 jobs in March — more than any other major industry. The information industry also posted strong monthly growth with 2,300 jobs added in March. This was the best start to a year for the information industry since 2000, with 2,400 jobs added in the first quarter of 2014.The industry grew by 3.2 percent over the year and added 6,400 jobs.

As these numbers demonstrate, our Texas economy continues to lead the nation. Now more than ever, a skilled workforce is essential to maintaining our economic competitiveness and our workforce system must be market-driven, effectively meeting the needs of both workers and employers.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a highly successful Industry Day event at one of our Texas community colleges. Students, educators, employers and community partners all came together to discuss the future of our workforce in Texas. Teachers and counselors heard directly from area employers about their workforce needs and the high-wage, high-demand opportunities that exist for our young Texans. We learned that labor market information is a crucial tool for counselors as they help our students make informed decisions about their education and career goals.

Events like this help to strengthen the conversations between industry and education. These relationships, as well as the strong commitment that many of our Texas employers have made to develop our future workforce, are crucial to our continued success. I am confident that reinforcing these partnerships will serve our state well as we transition to the jobs and industries of the future.


10 Most Dangerous Cities in America

April 4th, 2014 Comments off
From 24/7 Wall St., based on the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

1. Flint, Michigan

Violent crimes per 100,000: 2,729.5

Population: 101,632

2012 murders: 63

Poverty rate: 40.6%

2. Detroit

Violent crimes per 100,000: 2,122.6

Population: 707,096

2012 murders: 386

Poverty rate: 40.9%

3. Oakland, Calif.

Violent crimes per 100,000: 1,993.1

Population: 399,487

2012 murders: 126

Poverty rate: 21%

4. St. Louis

Violent crimes per 100,000: 1,776.5

Population: 318,667

2012 murders: 113

Poverty rate: 27%

Percent of adults with high-school diploma: 83.9%

5. Memphis, Tenn.

Violent crimes per 100,000: 1,750

Population: 657,436

2012 murders: 133

Poverty rate: 27.2%

Violent crimes per 100,000: 1,548

Population: 299,105

2012 murders: 71

Poverty rate: 25.8%

7. Birmingham, Ala.

Violent crimes per 100,000: 1,517.8

Population: 213,266

2012 murders: 67

Poverty rate: 32%

8. New Haven, Conn.

Violent crimes per 100,000: 1,439.2

Population: 129,934

2012 murders: 17

Poverty rate: 30.1%

9. Baltimore

Violent crimes per 100,000: 1,405.7

Population: 625,474

2012 murders: 219

Poverty rate: 25.1%

10. Cleveland

Violent crimes per 100,000: 1,383.8

Population: 393,781

2012 murders: 84

Poverty rate: 34.3%

-So why does McAllen and Reynosa get the dirty headlines of being an “unsafe” war zone area? Because the media likes to sensationalize and make things seem worse than they typically are, unfortunately. Either way, the proof is in the pudding and we are happy that the stats show the reality of what cities are like or not like.

source below:

McAllen: as seen by a Huffington Post Writer

March 21st, 2014 Comments off

From the eyes of a Huffington Post journalist

who visited the Rio Grande Valley


(McAllen, Texas) – We flew down on a cold January day. A dome of Canadian air that seemed to collapse from the arctic top of the world had reached all the way to the sub-tropical region of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Nothing kills in the tropics as efficiently as freezing temperatures. Our camera crew drove the roads that stitched together the orange and grapefruit groves and stopped to record the ruined fruit and the tall Washington palms that were certain to also die.

And then we began to contemplate the coming economic sadness.

In the ’80s, the lower valley kept getting knocked backwards by circumstance. Average unemployment was 27 percent and in Starr County it had reached as high as 60. There were two deadly freezes in a matter of a few years, and the peso in Mexico, which made it affordable to purchase American products, was consistently being devalued. There were no jobs, and little reason for optimism.

The struggles of the valley have not ended but the reference to the border by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who recently used the term Third World as a descriptive of the region, offended those of us who love la frontera. The GOP candidate for governor, Abbott described the border as practically being destroyed by corruption, although there are no statistics to support his critique.


There is, in fact, no evidence of disproportionate wrongdoing along the border. In fact, Abbott, who is a member of the board of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), and others involved with the multibillion-dollar fund, have been the target of a Travis County grand jury investigation over inappropriate awards of research grants and startup investments.

Which might prove to be corruption on a grand scale.

When I first lived on the Texas border, there were real third world problems. Incomes were the lowest on average in the nation, child mortality rates were higher than normal, unemployment lingered at painful levels, literacy was very low, and so was per capita income. These issues had less to do with the enterprise and aspirations of the people who live along the border than it did with the policies of state government in Austin. Historically, the border, and in particular, the valley was a political afterthought. The sheer inertial energy of population increase and economic growth has changed the political calculus down here in a place where the wind and the innovators remain restless.

McAllen, one of the three main cities that comprise the valley metro centers, briefed community leaders on a vision that offers what was once a largely unimaginable future. The McAllen Economic Development Council (MEDC), which began work on transforming the local economy 26 years ago, showed off the city’s new winged “M” logo and described a plan to make their community “the most strategic advanced manufacturing area in the world.”

Political candidates like Abbott, who talk about increasing security on the border by hundreds of law officers, are certain to prompt concern among the communities down here that have grown healthier based upon the free flow of people and businesses on both sides of the river.

2014-03-19-homeimage.jpgWhere Everything Grows

“We’re one community that happens to have a river running through the middle of it; it just so happens ours is an international border,” said Keith Patridge, chairman and CEO of the MEDC. “But it does not stop the flow of commerce, it does not stop the flow of families, it does not stop the flow of commerce back and forth across the river and we all have to embrace that.”

In fact, McAllen’s economic vitality is directly related to the Mexican border city of Reynosa. By helping the development of maquiladoras on the other side of the Rio Grande, McAllen and other parts of the valley have grown. The “twin plant” concept allows for the manufacturing of products in Mexico with their assembly and shipment occurring on the U.S. side of the river. There is probably not a car that comes off of an assembly line in Detroit that does not have parts from maquiladoras.

While there are still issues over fair wages in Mexico and the migration of jobs from the states, the North American Free Trade Agreement has enabled the twin plant operations and aggressive marketing by McAllen has led to 153,000 new jobs and 657 companies coming to Hidalgo County over the past quarter century. Civic leaders do not even consider it to be hyperbolic when they suggest they can have the same kind of international economy and vitality as Singapore and Hong Kong.

And even Austin has begun looking southward.

The state has funded a new medical school, which is already under construction in Edinburg, just north of McAllen, and a new university is being formed by the combination of the University of Texas system campuses in Brownsville and UT Pan American. McAllen’s South Texas College, which grants two year associates degrees, will continue to serve the region with more than 32,000 students in annual enrollment. In nearby Brownsville, Elon Musk is being courted to bring his Space X launch center to a city that has the lowest per capita income in the U.S. in the hopes that tax breaks from the state and municipal governments, which total $20 million, will create even more jobs.

There is no shortage of problems, however, along the border. In Hidalgo County, one out of every three people is believed to still live in a colonia, an unincorporated and unregulated development with limited, and sometimes no public services. Immigrants rush to buy any affordable piece of land to make a stake in America, even if they find themselves outside of the law, and the delivery of basic needs like sewer and water and electricity. No one has found a simple answer on how to manage this difficult growth dynamic, but talk of more border guns and clampdowns leaves people here unsettled. They have their own ideas about the future. And they do not envision a third world.

They see opportunity.

Also at: Don’t Grow Texas

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McAllen: Ready for Mexico’s ‘Eagle Ford Shale’

March 11th, 2014 Comments off

McALLEN, March 11 – The Rio Grande Valley stands ready to benefit economically from Mexico’s version of Eagle Ford Shale, which lies just south of Rio Bravo.

This is the view of Mike Willis, executive director of the South Texas Manufacturers Association.

“Eagle Ford Shale does not end in Laredo. There is a mirror image of it just south of here, south of Rio Bravo,” Willis explained. “Mexico is investing the bulk of PEMEX’s budget over the next two years in northern Mexico. So, we have a good opportunity to be a jumping-off point for drilling companies and sand and fracking materials and all of that in the Valley – the companies that will be serving northern Mexico will be staging their operations here.”

Willis said he is seeing a lot of interest in Mexico’s version of Eagle Ford Shale through the ports of Brownsville and Corpus Christi. “Mexico has changed its Constitution, which was a radical breakthrough and much-needed. Mexico’s revenue has been so dependent on PEMEX over the years and their productivity has gone down because they have not kept up with technology. So, they have recognized the need to form partnerships. They are still working out what that will look like without the companies actually owning the oil in the ground.”

Asked how far away the Valley is from seeing direct benefits from oil and gas exploration in northern Mexico, Willis said: “From what I hear, it is moving forward. Companies are already positioning themselves to be ready to start working with drillers and PEMEX in northern Mexico. I think we are going to see a lot of opportunity in the Valley, working through the Port of Corpus Christi and the Port of Brownsville.”

Willis said drilling companies that work in both Eagle Ford Shale north of Laredo and northern Mexico may choose to make the Valley a staging post.

“For some of these drilling companies, now, perhaps, we are a good location for serving Eagle Ford Shale and northern Mexico. I think we will see some of the EDCs trying to capitalize on that going forward. I have talked to Eddie (Campirano), over at the Port of Brownsville. I have spoken with the folks at the Port of Corpus Christi. They are telling me they have got clients that are bringing materials into the Port of Corpus Christi that need to service northern Mexico.”

Asked what type of operations may be located in the Valley, Willis said: “I think we will see opportunities for storage facilities, staging facilities. If I were a CEO of a company, I think I would want to keep my expensive materials here until it is time to take them to the drill site, instead of storing them somewhere in the frontera of northern Mexico.”

Willis is also director of business partnerships for Workforce Solutions, which handles jobs training in Hidalgo and Starr Counties. In his January report on the Valley labor market for Workforce Solutions, Willis wrote:

“We are seeing opportunities develop to take advantage of our location when PEMEX begins opening up the southern half of the Eagle Ford Shale to exploration in 2014. Our ports anticipate an increase in energy-related business as materials begin to flow into our region before being routed into northern Mexico. While the RGV is not taking part significantly in the drilling activity, energy-related companies are actively recruiting our workforce, and we could soon play a significant role in the distribution/logistics sector by supporting the energy work taking place both north and south of the RGV. Laredo continues to benefit strongly from the drilling activity taking place all around them.”

Willis said that for the first time in 25 years, employment in manufacturing is up slightly in the Valley. He was interviewed at a check presentation at South Texas College’s technology campus in south McAllen. There, the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative (NAAMREI) received a $500,000 grant from the Wagner-Peyser program administered through the Governor’s Office.

Carlos Margo, NAAMREI’s interim executive director, said the Wagner-Peyser program is a federally funded initiative that matches employers with qualified job seekers. Through this project, Margo said, a total of 675 individuals will receive specialized training in areas including robotics, mechatronics, programmable logic controllers and other advanced topics.

“These funds will help NAAMREI continue to build its prominence in promoting advanced manufacturing in the South Texas region,” Margo said. “It will ensure NAAMREI adds to its current inventory of cutting edge automation technology equipment, supports the development and expansion of curriculum and innovative programs and provides training, instruction and credentials that will have global appeal.”

Asked if South Texas College and NAAMREI are ready to assist with oil and gas exploration and production in northern Mexico, Margo told the Guardian: “We certainly have the capacity to do so and we certainly will have the funding to develop programs in those fields. We currently are not doing training directly, simply because the activity tends to be a little bit further north of where we are. But, as the activity moves further south, as Mike said, into Mexico, we can certainly develop programs. We are primed, if you will, to be able to react quickly to develop. If industry changes, we are right there with them.”

At a news conference held last week to announce a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Pharr and the Port of Corpus Christi, there was discussion about Mexico’s version of Eagle Ford Shale. The MOU will see Pharr and Corpus Christi help promote each other’s trade facilities. Pharr Bridge Director Juan Guerra and Port of Corpus Christi board member Richard Valls told the Guardian that the MOU was important because of increased oil and gas exploration and production in northern Mexico.

Source & story, see below:

$1.2 Trillion of Economic Activity Expected for Border Towns

February 18th, 2014 Comments off

According to Marcial Nava, an economist at BBVA Compass, border towns should be expecting $1.2 trillion dollars worth of economic activity.

The United States is Mexico’s largest natural gas supplier, providing 80% of imports. More than 60% of the natural gas supplied comes from Texas through pipelines that link the Lone Star state with its southern neighbor. In 2012, the Mexican government only authorized the drilling of 3 shale oil and gas wells, a stark contrast to the 9,100 in the U.S. for the same period.

The reforms will remove the limitations that prevented international investment from developing Mexican shale plays, especially in the Burgos Basin, which is the portion of the Eagle Ford Shale that extends into Mexico. This play could hold more than 300 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas, while Mexico’s other shale plays the Sabinas, Tampico, and Veracruz Basins – those are estimated to hold more than 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.



Maquila. Assoc. (INDEX) Welcomes New President

February 11th, 2014 Comments off


The Maquila Association also known as (INDEX) and the McAllen Economic Development Corporation met the morning of February 11 to introduce INDEX’s new president, Carlos Vera (Plant manager at Brunswick in Reynosa) for 2014 and update the community on the recent Mexican tax reform.

McAllen EDC commented on indicators of positive growth for the Reynosa/McAllen area due to the large auto supplier base in the McAllen/Reynosa area and the expansion of the auto industry in general. Security was also addressed and both organizations (MEDC/INDEX) expressed their diligence towards constant communication between maquiladora managers and government.

The new INDEX president, Carlos Vera also stated that they are hosting more meetings to be better prepared and brainstorm ideas to keep safety certain among parks.

MEDC asked Carlos Vera a few questions:

MEDC: How has and will the tax reform impact McAllen and Reynosa?

Carlos Vera, INDEX: It did not affect us the way we thought it perhaps could.  All the modifications to the decree alleviate most of the impact and i do not think at this moment it will impact us in the future. Our position at the national level is stronger and we will keep working to strengthen our relationship with the authorities for future lobbying on fiscal or labor reforms. To be blunt, Mexico has to switch to a friendlier model to do business for foreign corporations before anything. After that is laid as the foundation we will soon see the positive impact any reform could have on the manufacturing/maquiladora industry. As for McAllen, they will be affected positively when the mid level people choose to purchase their home supplies in the USA instead of Mexico based on the tax rate increase from 10% to 16%.

MEDC: What is your vision as president of INDEX?

Carlos Vera, INDEX: My vision is to have a very strong association with active members bonding joints internally and externally with the communities of Reynosa and McAllen, helping to grow the society, culturally and educationally.


Presidential decree published on December 26, 2013

•Allows for the deduction of an addition 47% of exempt benefits from the payroll
•Two-year time limit to fulfill the requirement that at least 30% of M&E should be the property of the non-resident. For companies who had been complying with 216 Bis since before Dec/31/09.
•Immediate crediting of IVA vs withholding payment for non-resident sales to the company with the IMMEX or automotive program in  Mexico (no VAT flow).
•Income Tax incentive of October 30, 2003 repealed

Miscellaneous rules published on December 30, 2013

•Enforcement of the requirement of no sales in Mexico in order to be considered as a Maquiladora for tax purposes has been deferred for 6 months.
•Specification of the definition of income from productive activities stemming from Maquiladora operations

Published on January 1, 2014

•Three certification modalities: A, AA and AAA
•More As means greater additional benefits, both fiscal and foreign trade, (e.g. IVA refunds in 20, 15 and 10 days respectively), and also means having to comply with more additional requirements.
•ALCALCE will resolve certification applications in no more than 40 days (as of the date when all the requirements have been met).
•Validity periods for IVA would be A= 1 year, AA= 2 years and AAA 3= years
•The general requirements are basically fiscal, foreign trade and contractual compliance, as well as an initial on-site inspection by AGACE. For the AA and AAA , the compliance requirements include their suppliers.
•Certification must be requested in accordance with a calendar that corresponds to the tax address, considering  the ARACE circumscription:

- Companies certified with Rule 3.8.1., NEEC and tax  warehouses.-   April 1   through 30

- Northeast (including Reynosa).- June 3 through July 3

- North Pacific.-  April 15 through May 15, North Center.- July 7 through   August 7, Center.- August 7 through    September 8, West and South.

-September 22 through October 22

3 RGV Schools place within TOP 10 for Preffered Institutions

January 22nd, 2014 Comments off

unnamed (1)Each year the number of young Hispanics enrolling in colleges or universities to achieve a degree is increasing; some colleges are definitely favored more than others by Latinos.

A study on young adults ages 18 to 24, released in 2013 by the Pew Research Center, shows that Hispanic college enrollment rates surpass that of whites.

The amount of young Hispanics enrolled in college increased by 324,000 students between 2011 and 2012, according to the report.

So, what colleges are these driven and aspiring Hispanics enrolling in?

Here are the first top 10 higher education schools that attract the largest percentage of Hispanic students, according the Online College Database.

1. Laredo Community College

Location: Laredo, TX.
Hispanics enrolled: 95 percent
Total enrollment: about 14,000 students

2. Imperial Valley College

Location: Imperial, Calif.
Hispanics enrolled: 94 percent
Total enrollment: over 11,000 students

3. Texas A & M International University

Location: Laredo, TX.
Hispanics enrolled: 94 percent
Total enrollment: over 8,000 students

4. South Texas College

Location: McAllen, TX.
Hispanics enrolled: 94 percent
Total enrollment: about 37,000 students

5. The University of Texas at Brownsville

Location: Brownsville, TX.
Hispanics enrolled: 91 percent
Total enrollment: about 19,000 students

6. The University of Texas-Pan American

Location: Edinburg, TX.
Hispanics enrolled: 91 percent
Total enrollment: over 23,000 students

7. El Paso Community College

Location: El Paso, TX.
Hispanics enrolled: 87 percent
Total enrollment: about 42,000 students

8. The University of Texas at El Paso

Location: El Paso, TX.
Hispanics enrolled: 78 percent
Total enrollment: over 26,000 students

9. East Los Angeles College

Location: Monterey Park, Calif.
Hispanics enrolled: 70 percent
Total enrollment: about 55,000 students

10. Miami Dade College

Location: Miami, Fla.
Hispanics enrolled: 69 percent
Total enrollment: over 99,000 students


Mexico Tax Reform to Drive Business North of the Border

January 8th, 2014 Comments off

A 5% sales tax increase hitting Mexico’s border states is predicted to drive retail sales for some small businesses in Texas.

In October, Mexico’s Congress passed a bill raising the value-added tax from 11% to 16% in the country’s border states. Previously, these states had benefited from lower taxes than the rest of the country, so as to encourage Mexican shoppers to spend their dollars at home.

The tax, which went into effect on Jan. 1, is expected to be a huge boon to businesses in Texas cities like McAllen and El Paso, which already benefit from Mexican residents crossing the border for extended shopping trips.

“Mexican shoppers have always been a critical component to our city and region,” says McAllen Chamber of Commerce president Steve Ahlenius. “They make up about $1 billion in sales just for McAllen alone.”

Just one week into the new year, Ahlenius says business owners are already reporting an uptick in Mexican shoppers – and it will likely become even more pronounced.

“Our surveys show that the middle-class, typical family trip coming out of Monterrey will spend anywhere from $600 to $900 a trip in U.S. dollars,” says Ahlenius. “If they come further away, like from Mexico City, they’ll come here and spend as much as $4,000.”

Retailers, Restaurants and Hotels

Even before the sales tax increase, Mexican shoppers spent $4.5 billion annually in Texas, says UT El Paso economics professor Dr. Thomas Fullerton.

“There’s a lot of anger over the increment in the value-added tax in border regions of Mexico, and that has translated into … protest purchases,” says Dr. Fullerton. As a result, he says Mexican shoppers started making a point of spending their money in the U.S. as soon as the bill was passed in the fall to send a signal to the Mexican government – even though they weren’t yet being taxed at the higher rate.

But American businesses aren’t complaining.

Pancho Guerra, general manager of McAllen’s Hampton Inn, says his hotel is currently sold out every weekend, thanks to Mexican residents crossing the border for extended shopping vacations.

“Our mall does really well. There are a lot of clothing stores, toy stores … A lot of what we see is retail,” says Guerra.

“But it’s not just hotels or retail. The shoppers help all of the restaurants and local businesses – it’s extremely important,” says Guerra, who adds that local business owners try to be very welcoming to Mexican shoppers.

And rightfully so. While Dr. Fullerton says a 5% sales increase under normal circumstances might lead to an additional $25 million in retail sales in El Paso County. And thanks to “protest” purchases, U.S. businesses can expect an even larger bump this year.

“The publicity this fiscal reform package received may translate to an additional $50 to $110 million in retail sales in El Paso County alone,” says Dr. Fullerton.

And while Ahlenius says most business owners in McAllen speak Spanish, he says they don’t need to do any heavy-lifting in order to attract their southern neighbors.

“Mexican nationals like the experience of coming in and talking with retailers and having an American experience. They want something that feels like America,” he says.



5 Business Resolutions to consider for 2014

January 2nd, 2014 Comments off

New Year’s resolutions come in all sizes from the grand to the small. Whatever the size, for small businesses sticking to those resolutions can mean the difference between a prosperous year and a lackluster one.

Here are five things for your resolution list this year.

Resolution No. 1: Have a plan

Whether you are looking to grow sales in the New Year or build loyalty among existing customers, small business owners have to have a plan to realize their goals. According to Gregg Landers, lead managing director at CBIZ, a business consulting firm, the plan doesn’t have to be formal but it should be written down.

“It should start with where you see the business in three years as measured by whatever your key measurements are,” says Landers. After that identify the three to five areas of improvement you need to make in order to move toward that long term goal, he says.

“Finally and most importantly, it should list the key action steps you need to do this year to advance yourself one year closer to your longer term plan,” he says.

Resolution No. 2: Make strategic planning a weekly habit

It’s easy to come up with a plan, write it down and then revisit it a year later, but doing that won’t be an effective way to realize your goals for the year. Instead, Bob Phillips, managing principal at Spectrum Management Group says to make strategic planning something you do on a weekly basis.

“A lot of time is usually spent on creating strategic plans that then get placed on a shelf and not reviewed for a year or longer,” says Phillips. “Ongoing planning lets you take stock of what worked and what didn’t work, and helps you set new directions and adjust old goals.” Phillips says to set aside time each week to review your plan, make adjustments where necessary and to look forward into the future.

Resolution No. 3: Set a budget for you plan

It’s great to have a plan and to look over that plan on a weekly basis, but if you don’t have the money to bring that plan to fruition it’s a big waste of time. So Landers says make sure you allocate money to fund the plan, and build into the budget expected revenues and expenses not only to run the business but also to reach the goals of the plan. “Carrying your budget through to the balance sheet is critical because this is how you know the true expected impact on cash,” says Landers. “When it comes to cash you don’t want any surprises.”

Resolution No. 4: Use forecasting in your accounting process

When it comes to accounting, often small businesses use it to get a sense of how they did over a period of time, but Phillips says it can also give a sense of where you are going. The goals set in the strategic planning process should be built into the forecasting model, and you want to look out 12 months with the forecasting.

“With the model, you can begin to compare your anticipated results in the forecast with the actual results achieved,” he says. “You’ll find great operational information doing so, to enhance what is working or to deal with what isn’t.”

Resolution No. 5: Target some of the revenue to come from new products/services

In order for any size business to grow it has to increase its customer’s base via new products and services. One way to keep this top of mind is to target 10% to 20% of revenues coming from new products and services, says Landers. You also want to be on top of all the changes in the marketplace, know who your customers are and how their needs are changing and have a good sense of the competition and what they are doing.

“Sustainability of almost any business, any size, means growing and evolving your service line,” says Landers. “This also helps with intangibles like employee engagement, morale, building a culture of new ideas.”



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