Gov. Abbott attends groundbreaking for Texas A&M facility in Brownsville

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Gov. Greg Abbott and officials break ground on the future home of the Texas A&M RGV Advanced Manufacturing Hub on Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at the Port of Brownsville. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

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Gov. Greg Abbott joined a “who’s who” of Rio Grande Valley officials at the Port of Brownsville Tuesday for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the $30 million Texas A&M RGV Advanced Manufacturing Hub.

The new, 30,000-square-foot workforce-training facility will include a mix of indoor classrooms and lab space as well as outdoor learning space. Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), which is already providing advanced manufacturing workforce training at a small facility at the port, will continue providing programs at the new facility, which is expected to be complete in mid-2026.

Texas A&M University (TAMU) System Chancellor John Sharp, delivering comments during the ceremony, said the existing training facility has already trained approximately 10,000 young men and women in the Valley in advanced manufacturing skills.

“But with this new facility and the kind of equipment that’s going to be in there, you can train anybody for anything, exactly what Gov. Abbott instructed us to do, and particularly instructed (TAMU Regent) Mike Hernandez to do six years ago,” he said.

Gov. Greg Abbott makes his remarks during a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, April 2, 2024, at the future home of the Texas A&M RGV Advanced Manufacturing Hub, part of the Texas A&M Engineering program that will enhance skills in demand by the advanced manufacturing sector in the Rio Grande Valley. Administered by TEEX, the hub prepares RGV residents for technical workforce careers while stimulating the local economy. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

Hernandez, a Brownsville native who 10 years ago helped start a nonprofit trade school in Brownsville to help meet the needs of manufacturers, was appointed to the TAMU board by Abbott in 2019 and put in charge of connecting TAMU with the Valley and, in doing so, expand education and economic opportunity in the region.

“(Abbott) said here, take this Texas A&M University System toolbox and you make the best of it, and that’s what we’ve been able to do,” Hernandez said. “And the main thing he wanted me to be is a voice on the board of Texas A&M board for South Texas and the Valley, and I think that’s what I’ve tried to do.”

Jobs of the future across many industries will heavily rely on robotics, and when robots break they need someone who can fix them, which is where the new training facility comes in, he said. Engineers will always be needed but also will “hands-on people that have IT skills and can also turn a wrench and fix something,” Hernandez said.

“That’s a very new skill set that has come about due to all the technology changes and advancements that we’ve had,” he said. “Texas A&M is here to make sure on the workforce training side that we’re on the cutting edge of that.”

Part of the new facility will also be dedicated to research and development for the companies already here and those that will come, Hernandez said, adding that his hope is that the facility will help create an economic development boom starting at the port.

Abbott expressed gratitude to everyone who helped push the project, which involves a three-way partnership between the state, TAMU and the port. He particularly thanked Hernandez for his efforts.

“We know can see how important projects like this are to the future of the RGV, to the future of the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “You all are on the precipice of extraordinary economic opportunity, economic opportunity in literally every subsection of our economy. Definitely robotics is one. Definitely space is another. I’m proud of the collaboration between A&M and the port, and grateful to everyone present who helped make it happen.”

While the port is already doing big things, what’s coming “is going to be absolutely extraordinary,” he said.

Abbott said the goal is to provide a pathway to a better education and economic opportunity for every child in the state, and noted that TAMU is playing a lead role in helping Texas advance in the space industry and is in the process of developing a space engineering degree.

“You all who live in Cameron County in the Brownsville area, you’ve been able to see … some of the ways in which your community is transformed before your very eyes with the growth of SpaceX here,” he said. “Whenever there’s any company like SpaceX … whenever we have large companies like that take root in a region, we have satellite business that come along.

“Because of what SpaceX is doing, for one, you are at ground zero of what’s going to be the next generation of what will be happening in the world of space.”

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