Port tables deal with TSTC: Navigation District holds off on MOU with Harlingen campus

BROWNSVILLE — The Brownsville Navigation District board voted Wednesday to table a memorandum of understanding between the Port of Brownsville, the Texas A&M University System and Texas State Technical College in Harlingen, following criticism from Texas Southmost college.

The MOU, regarding collaboration on workforce development training for companies located at the port now or in the future, caused consternation among TSC officials, who held a press conference before Wednesday’s vote to argue that Brownsville’s community college should be the port’s “primary partner for workforce training.”

Jesus Roberto Rodriguez, TSC president, addressed commissioners at the start of the BND meeting, as did TSC Board of Trustees Chairwoman Adela Garza and Sylvia Atkinson, TSC executive director of high school programs and services, in support of the college being part of workforce training at the port. A number of other TSC representatives were also on hand.

The MOU’s nonbinding Article 1 outlines the plan to collaborate on creating a new workforce training facility on BND property to be built and operated by BND. Under the article, the Texas A&M system, through its Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, and TSTC would provide workforce training and other educational programs per the desires of BND or companies located at the port.

Area employers would work with the educational institutions and BND to design training programs to meet the need of current and future industry, mostly in Cameron County but including the rest of the Rio Grande Valley, according to the MOU. Programs would be provided by Texas A&M and TSTC based on individual contracts with employers or BND.

The education institutions would provide equipment, faculty and staff for programs conducted at the port’s training facility, according to the MOU, which also gives BND the right to lease the facility to another entity to maintain it and coordinate training programs on behalf of BND.

Article 1 also states that “nothing in this MOU precludes BND from making the Facility available to users other than (Texas A&M) or TSTC, such as public-school districts, community colleges, and workforce development providers in and around Cameron County.” Article 2 stipulates that the MOU “does not create a partnership or joint venture between the Parties.”

Rodriguez said after the meeting that he was glad the commission voted to table the MOU agenda item, and that he’s looking forward to a conversation with BND.

“I’m extremely pleased with the commission’s decision, because I’d like to move forward and try to find a win-win situation for all the parties involved,” he said. “It’s very encouraging, the decision that was taken today. I’m very happy. It’s about collaboration.”

Port Director and CEO Eduardo Campirano said he doesn’t know what will happen with the MOU now or if it will come up for a vote at later date in its present form, or whether the language will be changed.

“It depends on what the other party wants to do,” he said. “At this point it’s tabled. The way I see it, we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve always worked with TSC and we’ll continue to work with TSC.”