The negotiations that led to the creation of a single Rio Grande Valley metropolitan planning organization meant more than being a positive sign of regional goodwill.
It also spurred the Texas Department of Transportation to announce it would spend $1.1 billion over the next decade. The money is solely for highway and mobility projects in the Valley. The state agency believed the merger of three Valley MPOs into a single one meant the region would improve its planning and coordination in presenting projects and requests for funding.
The $1 billion investment from the state will transform Valley highways and transportation systems over the next 10 years. TxDOT will soon gear up and begin to search for contractors and vendors. The Rio Grande Valley Partnership wants to see local companies vie for those construction, supplies and professional services dollars.
Keeping state funds local with RGV First
It’s a key reason why the Partnership has launched what it calls RGV First. The initiative encourages both public entities and private sector companies coming into the Valley to seek local businesses to design, build and equip projects. The expected TxDOT expenditures are one but not the only reason for the RGV First initiative.
“We want public entities and private (sector) companies to invest locally,” said Sergio Contreras, RGV Partnership president and CEO. “The local companies and their owners and employees live and work here and support their communities. We want those funds spent circulating here in the Valley.”
Contreras sees TxDOT, school districts and higher education institutions as public entities it wants to connect with locally-owned companies. In the private sector, RGV First wants franchises and larger corporations coming into the Valley to consider local options. They do not want to see them go exclusively with out-of-area contractors and vendors to construct and equip their facilities.
“When, for example, our region’s public entities provide incentives as part of their policies and procedures, we encourage them to contract locally,” Contreras said.
The beginning stages
Reaching that aspiration means understanding and then navigating the state’s procurement process in putting in bids for state highway construction funds. The Partnership and its RGV First initiative are setting up workshops with TxDOT representatives. Here local companies can learn more about what the state requires in selecting contractors and vendors. RGV First is connecting local companies with entrepreneurs who have taken the franchising model down to the local level. They have done this by using Valley construction and professional service companies.
The Partnership has set up a 15-member RGV First committee. They are leading the efforts for both public and private entities to go local in planning and construction of projects. Contreras said the Partnership and RGV First have ongoing dialogues with 23 companies and public entities thus far in the go local first initiative.
“We’re working to formulate a model that encourages and engages these public entities and the private sector with our local companies,” he said.