South Texas College held its annual event, welcoming the foremost experts who each brought pertinent and relevant information with regards to economic development.

The 5th Annual Binational Innovation Conference (INNO 2017), which took place on Oct. 19 focused on Regional Urban Development and Planning. INNO is the name of the bi-national collaborative effort between STC and El Instituto Internacional de Estudios Superiores in Reynosa, Mexico.

The INNO Conference provides entrepreneurs and the business community with information about the new cross-border economic opportunities that could arise so they are enabled to develop new business plans, and adjust existing strategies to potential opportunities. The conference consisted of speakers and panels all designed to foster cross-border economic development.

“The purpose of this event was to let the community know about all the great projects that are happening in our area,” said Mario Reyna, Dean for Business, Technology and Public Safety at South Texas College. “The reason we decided to feature Regional Urban Development Planning was to make the community aware of what is happening in our region, and as they see what is happening, they will have the opportunity to become a part of that plan.

“If people in our community become aware of all the great things happening here, then maybe they can take the necessary steps to get closer to them,” Reyna said.

Notable speakers at the event included Blake Hastings, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, who gave an economic overview of the South Texas region including the Rio Grande Valley; Laura Warren, President of Warren Group Architects Inc., who spoke on Urban Development in the Valley; and developer Mike Rhodes, who presented on the Tres Lagos Development in northern McAllen.

Keynote speaker during the lunch hour included Dr. Carlos Marin, President and CEO of AmbioTec Engineering Group, talking about the Binational Economic Development Zone (Bi-Ned), an organization created to develop a competitive, innovation driven, advanced manufacturing area spanning and operating seamlessly across the U.S.-Mexico border, according the organization’s website.

“We are not on an island in the U.S. With my presentation, I wanted to explain the opportunities available here, how some U.S-based companies have benefitted, and what is coming in the future,” said Warren.

“It has been an honor to collaborate with such amazing talent and experience,” Warren said. “I have always sought to employ graduates from the college, and I am continued to be inspired by the talent STC has provided. Being here at INNO is my way of giving back, and I’ll be happy to come back any time to help.”

The morning session also included a panel featuring representatives from various municipalities and organizations speaking about past, present and future plans for urban development in the Rio Grande Valley. Featured on the panel was McAllen Assistant City Manager Michelle Leftwich; McAllen Director of Planning, Julianne Rankin; Hidalgo County Economic Development Director Michael Leo; RGV Partnership President and CEO, Sergio Contreras; Hidalgo County RMA Executive Director Pilar Rodriguez; and Starr County Industrial Foundation President as well as STC Board Trustee Rose Benadvidez.

The afternoon panel included representatives from Economic Development Corporations (EDCs) including McAllen EDC President and CEO Keith Patridge; Mission EDC CEO Alex Meade; Pharr EDC Executive Director, Victor Perez; Edinburg EDC Executive Director Gus Garcia; and Leticia Flores, Community Relations Specialist with the office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbot.

“What we try to do is bring the most relevant topics we have in our region,” said Carlos Margo, Associate Dean for Industry Training and Economic Development at STC. “Our Federal Reserve was here talking about different issues from human talent to economics and the blending of our multi-national economy here in the region.

“The INNO conference is essentially bringing the top subject matter experts to bring us the latest information that is pertinent and relevant with regards to economic development,” Margo said.