|McALLEN, June 1 - Texas Enterprise Fund should be used to lure companies to regions such as the Rio Grande Valley not just the big metropolitan areas like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.
This is the view of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. On a visit to McAllen on Monday, the state senator from Fort Worth said job creation and job training will be key issues for her as governor.
“As a city council person in Fort Worth, I distinguished myself as someone who worked with the business community to help grow and create jobs in the city that I lived and loved and worked in for so long,” Davis told the Guardian.
“I believe in using those economic development tools at the state level as well. But we haven’t used them, unfortunately, to help strengthen the economies of some of the communities that need it the most.”
The Texas Enterprise Fund comprises money given to the Governor’s Office by the Legislature to lure companies to Texas. According to the Texas Wide Open for Business website, the TEF is “the largest ‘deal-closing’ fund of its kind in the nation.” It says the fund is “a cash grant used as a financial incentive tool for projects that offer significant projected job creation and capital investment.” The website says it is used when and where a single Texas site is competing with another viable out-of-state option.
“What we have seen is our money from the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund go to land big whales, big projects that many times also happen to be big donors to the campaign war chests of the folks who in charge,” Davis told the Guardian.
“What we haven’t seen is the use of those tools to create and grow jobs in areas like the Rio Grande Valley, where we know we have some very real needs. Needs for good job training, needs for making sure that small business loans are made available through those funds; and, needs to attract some of those big whales to look at the Rio Grande Valley and not just into the urban areas of our communities.”
All this will change if she is elected governor in November, Davis said. Her Republican opponent for Governor is Greg Abbott, the current attorney general.
“Those are things I will work very hard on as this state’s next governor. I believe that I understand the use of these tools in a way that Greg Abbott does not. He’s been a judge. He’s been an attorney general. He has never been a policy maker, he has never been a businessman and these are things that are the backbone of who I am,” Davis said.
“I started a small business myself. I understand the needs of keeping our costs low and our regulations fair in order to keep and grow a strong economy but I also know that in some areas where we haven’t seen investment there are tools that we can use to help stimulate that and I intend to do so.”
In her interview with the Guardian, which was conducted at her campaign office in McAllen, Davis also spoke about the importance of trade with Mexico.
“Our security efforts need to be focused on human and drug trafficking and, of course, our federal partner ought to be doing its job, acting responsibly in a way to achieve those goals so that Texas taxpayers aren’t left holding the tab,” Davis said.
“But, when we think about our border relationships, unfortunately Republican leaders, certainly the ones running for office right now, stress only the need for security and completely ignore and seem to not understand the importance of the economic partnership between Texas and Mexico and that our borders serve as the points of ingress and egress, they are ports of entry, just as a maritime port would be and deserve our support to move goods quickly so that those economic relationships can grow stronger through that support.”
Asked if a governor can make a difference on border trade, given that much of the responsibility for international ports of entry rests with the federal government, Davis said: “Absolutely. I think with the leadership that we have had in place and a lot of the people like Greg Abbott who are asking to be the next leaders, that is not a focus for them. They don’t seem to even comprehend that our efforts need to be focused on strengthening that symbiotic relationship that we have with Mexico and growing more jobs, creating more jobs as a consequence of the fact that we are strengthening the economic partnership that we have.”
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part story on Wendy Davis’ plans for Texas, should she win the governor’s race. The second part, on education, will be published tomorrow.