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The first step in creating a world class advanced manufacturing region starts with creating a talent pipeline. That pipeline is flowing through the Rio South Texas region thanks to the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative.
"We’re developing human capital to form the talent pipeline," explains Wanda Garza of South Texas College, who serves as executive officer for NAAMREI, a network that stretches across seven Mexican border counties.
The region’s community colleges, universities, public schools and other education entities are developing a talent network focused on advanced manufacturing. More than 60 private and public sector groups form the NAAMREI alliance, which includes economic development corporations, manufacturers, workforce agencies, and city and county governments.
"We see ourselves as a world leader in rapid response manufacturing," Garza said, adding that the goal is to dramatically increase the manufacturing base that already exists in the region.
By "rapid response," Garza means speeding up the time it takes to turn ideas into finished products. The focus is to help companies develop next-generation products for aerospace, automotive, industrial, medical, consumer electronics and other key markets.
Keith Patridge, CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, says NAAMREI is helping area manufacturing companies compete in the global arena.
More manufacturing opportunities mean more jobs for the region, says Patridge, which leads back to the need for a skilled workforce.
South Texas College’s Technology Campus, located in the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone, houses the NAAMREI headquarters. For the past nine years, STC has worked with area manufactures to provide workforce training in precision manufacturing, welding and other needed trades.
The Rapid Response Manufacturing Center at The University of Texas-Pan American is another education component. The center provides services and expertise in research, development and demonstration; education; and innovation and technology based entrepreneurship and business incubation.
NAAMREI’s talent pipeline doesn’t stop at the Mexican border. Talent also comes from neighboring border cities and other parts of Mexico.
Future plans include a research park for the region. The network approach has helped regional partners leverage $22 million in start up funds, including a $5 million U.S. Department of Labor WIRED grant and a $3 million Texas Workforce Commission Skills Development grant.