AngelouEconomics was hired in June 2014 by a new regional economic development organization located in El Paso, TX to develop a regional economic development strategic plan. That region, the North American Borderplex, is defined as the areas surrounding El Paso; Juárez, Chihuahua; and southern New Mexico, including Las Cruces. The Borderplex Alliance is a private, nonprofit EDO formed in 2012 through a merger between the El Paso Regional Economic Development Corporation and the Paso del Norte Group.
The main economic driver for the region is manufacturing, primarily comprised of maquiladora operations in Juárez. The region was hard hit by the global recession and slower to recover than many southwestern areas, particularly other areas in Texas. Compounding economic problems, Juárez has experienced an internationally recognized murder escalation that began in 2008, peaked in 2010 and has been declining in recent years, but has left a footprint of unease.
The region has been known for decades as an abundant source of low-wage, low-skill workers that migrate to the area from poorer, rural areas of Mexico to work in factories for very low daily wages. It has also developed a reputation for low-quality. Very little industry diversity currently exists in the area. Traditionally, economic development activity occurs in disconnected silos leading to duplication of efforts, aggressive competition and little leverage in international markets. The situation is further complicated by the involvement of two national and three state governments.
In recent years, the North American Borderplex Region has begun to develop centers of excellence in medical research, especially in the area of bio-med. Leverageable assets include:
- Significant international border location with $61 billion annual import/export activity
- Major workforce basin with an estimated 1 million workers
- A major manufacturing hub for both Mexico & U.S.
- Bimodal distribution network
- Three research universities, three medical schools & $233 million in R&D expenditures
- Three military bases comprising the largest contingent military land in U.S.
- Bilingual, bi-cultural population
- Space ports
- Historical convergence – Old West, Old Mexico & Native American
Issues to address that could impact economic development include:
- Insufficient industry diversification
- Insufficient border infrastructure
- Underdeveloped supply chain
- Limited rail access/movement
- Low Workforce skill levels
- Inadequate governmental support
- Inadequate innovation/entrepreneurial support
AE met with stakeholders during interviews & focus groups, and ran online surveys in both English & Spanish. In all, more than 1,000 stakeholders contributed input to the strategic process. AE delivered two preliminary reports, the Market Assessment and the Target Industries Analysis.
Target Industries included:
- Life Sciences
- Business Support Services
- Defense & Aerospace
- Advanced Manufacturing
- Advanced Logistics
Based on those findings, underlying goals for strategic economic development were set, including:
- Improving Skills & Average Wage
- Change Image
Strategic Recommendations were delivered in June 2015. The strategy culminated in three overarching goals:
- Spearhead Regional Collaboration and Planning
- Become Known for Quality
- Spur Innovation & Entrepreneurism