Tuesday, December 22, 2015

BEDC's Jason Hilts Gets Grilling at Economic Development Workshop

Jason Hilts, the BEDC's Big Bag of Wind
An economic workshop that preceded the December 8 City Commission Meeting recently aired on Brownsville TV, Channel 12.

BEDC President Jason Hilts took the podium to introduce BEDC Executive Vice-President Gilbert Salinas, who delivered a year end review of economic development, hyperbolically overstating the role of the BEDC in so-called job creation.

Following the Salinas power point, Hilts fielded a series of revealing, yet probing questions by the three commissioners to the mayor's right, De Leon, Tetreau and Portillo.  All three will soon join the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, traditionally the rubber stamping right arm for all of the BEDC's approved projects.


Commissioner Portillo asked Hilts if there was a "set matrix" for determining how to award abatements to companies wanting to set up businesses in the city.  Hilts admitted there was no established criteria, but that the BEDC  simply reacted to what companies wanted or were being offered by competing cities.


City Commissioner Cesar de Leon
When Hilts cited the lofty platitudes of United Brownsville as guidelines for pursuing business, Commissioner de Leon said:  "We are not United Brownsville.  We are the City Commission.  

De Leon wanted to know how many of the gazillion job creations claimed in Salinas' report were "actual jobs," not just promises or projections, trips and relationships.  "We need to know what the city is getting out of all this money BEDC is spending.

Hilts said:  "I don't have that answer for you today, but will get it to you before the end of the year."

"Much of the new industry, like Spacex, is simply locating here because of geography.  We need to see something tangible," De Leon continued.

Portillo stated that she had learned that Austin's EDC focused on local businesses with "80% of growth" coming from that sector.  She asked Hilts if the BEDC had a program to promote expansion of established local business as opposed to always going for the bigger companies with 5 or 10 year plans.

Hilts stated that the BEDC had tried several years ago to help local businesses to grow, but that the results were not that good.  "Many local companies are reluctant to share three years of financials, tax returns, etc. that we require to establish financial stability," Hilts claimed.

Commissioner Tetreau was concerned about the need for an office to be established and staffed in Colombia, and wanted itemized travel expenses for any city staff or officials accompanying the BEDC on far flung trips to South America and Asia.  Hilts responded that it was Mayor Martinez who usually represented the city.

"In South America, a mayor is viewed like a governor or president.  The meetings we set up are better attended if the mayor is with us," offered Hilts.

Tetreau continued:  "You probably wonder why several commissioners are turning up on the GBIC.  It's because we want transparency.   We want to know where all this money is going."

5 comments:

  1. For years this city and people needing jobs have suffered because of the BEDC being in control of taxpayer money. Why is it that most of the company's who are awarded incentives contract with the employers and law firms of BEDC self appointed members? No fucking accountability. Kudos to these young commissioners who just stepped up for us people who need them to. Audits of the activity of the BEDC need to be done.

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  2. Thank Goodness for Commissioners growing a backbone. Cesar is no one's yes man.

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  3. This guy hasn't done shit for Brownsville, big fking joke.they want to take credit for spacex but they came looking for us

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  4. Brownsville Economic Development= Oxymoron

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  5. Is it legal for the GBIC to have a majority representation by the City Commission? Why don't they simply disband it and take it over? Isn't the whole point of having a separate, appointed Board to lessen the political pressure on this organization which doles out millions of dollars? I commend the commission if their hearts are in the right place, but this could be disasterous for Brownsville...

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