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A conversation with. Aaron Demerson, Executive Director, Office of the Governor of Texas-Economic Development and Tourism

"The fact of the matter is for the fifth year in a row, we are the number-one exporter in the United States. We export over $150 billion in products such as computers and electronics, chemicals, and machinery and transportation equipment. Our top export countries are Mexico and Canada, followed by a host of Asian-Pacific countries."

  • Mali R. Schantz-Feld
Oct/Nov 07
Q. What is the Lone Star State doing legislatively for economic development?
A.
This past legislative session, with Governor Perry's leadership, we received renewed funding of an estimated $200 million for the Texas Enterprise Fund and approximately $165 million for the Emerging Technology Fund. In addition, $51 million was appropriated to the Skills Development Fund for customized job training. The legislative session ended in May.

Economic development in Texas starts at the local level, and the Texas Enterprise Fund is used to "close the deal" after reviewing the particulars of a project as well as the incentives being offered by the city, county, and school district if applicable. We work to create a win-win situation.

A $10.8 million grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) was integral to the new Samsung semiconductor facility in Austin that is bringing 900 new jobs. A $22 million TEF grant was awarded to Rackspace Managed Hosting as part of the state and local efforts to secure the company's expansion and rejuvenate the Windcrest-San Antonio area. Joining the many companies who have headquarters in the Dallas area, Comerica, Inc. is relocating its company headquarters from Detroit to Dallas, making it the state's largest bank holding company with its headquarters in Texas. The company will create more than 200 new high-paying headquarters jobs. Hilmar Cheese Company's state-of-the-art cheese factory in Dalhart is bringing nearly 2,000 jobs to the Texas Panhandle over the next 10 years. The regionalization related to this project is phenomenal. Amarillo, about an hour's drive away, will also benefit from workers shopping and visiting, and we are already seeing results in the form of other industries like milk producers and other industry-related firms.

The Emerging Technology Fund allows us to bring the best scientists and researchers to Texas, thus attracting high-tech jobs and helping startup companies get off the ground faster and remain here in Texas.

Q. Are you using a cluster approach?
A.
In 2003, our legislative body asked us to identify and define industry clusters that are important to the state, and in 2004, the following clusters were identified: aerospace and defense; energy; biology and life sciences; petroleum refining and chemical products; information and computer technology; and advanced technology and manufacturing.

The automotive industry is captured under manufacturing. We have had a GM plant located in Texas for over 50 years, and a few years ago landed a major Toyota manufacturing plant in San Antonio, Texas. We are now seeing continued interest in our state related to that industry as well as other industries.

Q. What about exports and foreign direct investment?
A.
We are excited about what we are doing in the international arena. The fact of the matter is for the fifth year in a row, we are the number-one exporter in the United States. We export over $150 billion in products such as computers and electronics, chemicals, and machinery and transportation equipment. Our top export countries are Mexico and Canada, followed by a host of Asian-Pacific countries. We have maintained an office in Mexico for over 25 years.

NAFTA is very important to us and we aim to take advantage of our strategic geographical location. We are also beginning to experience a high level of activity centered around maquiladora communities as major companies are beginning to revisit the cost and experience of doing business in other countries besides Mexico.

We are continuing to ramp up our recruitment of foreign direct investment to Texas. We recently returned from a successful business recruitment/trade mission to Mexico with our governor, secretary of state, and railroad commissioner, where we were received by the U.S. ambassador to Mexico (who happens to be a Texan). The governor and delegation also met with the minister of energy and a number of governmental officials with an energy-related focus.  In addition, the governor had an opportunity to meet with the president of Mexico about our activities in Texas.

There were over 75 Mexican companies that attended our "Invest in Texas" seminar.

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