REDCo and the Paso del Norte Group are merging into one organization that, starting in January, will handle the recruitment of new business to the El Paso region as well as efforts to retain and grow local businesses.
Acting separately last Monday, the boards of the two non-profit corporations voted to move their organizations, functions and assets to the new non-profit Borderplex Bi-National Economic Alliance.
The new corporation, still in formation, has no board yet. A 13-member steering committee headed by businessman Woody Hunt is organizing the Borderplex Alliance.
Hunt said the chief criticisms of the Regional Economic Development Corp., or REDCo, the PdN Group and the city's former Department of Economic Development have been that they were duplicative and not effective enough.
Another problem cited has been that neither REDCo nor PdNG have operated well on a truly regional basis, to include Juárez, Southern New Mexico and Las Cruces in their efforts.
The organization of the Borderplex Alliance, he said, is based loosely on the Greater Houston Partnership, which merged an economic development organization, the Houston World Trade Center and the Houston Chamber of Commerce in 1989.
"They were coming out of the collapse of oil and gas and the resulting collapse of real estate, so they were at the bottom and needed a plan to get out of it," Hunt told El Paso Inc. "Now, Houston competes as a region against the top cities of the world.
"The world increasingly competes as regions rather than political units, and that's the model we envision - to operate together as three cities, three states and two nations."
He also noted that PdNG, with 300 dues-paying members, has been better at raising money to finance its operation than REDCo.
In addition to taking over REDCo's industrial recruitment function and the city's business retention efforts, the Borderplex Alliance will engage in data research and regional advocacy as it deals with prospective clients as well as policy issues in Austin and Washington, D.C.
The new organization, Hunt said, will be privately financed by its members and run by a 60-member board with a 21-member executive committee.
A national search for a chief executive officer is underway, he said.
Mayor John Cook said the new organization is intended to address the problems cited in a 2011 study by Edward Feser, who identified key weaknesses in the city's economic development and business recruitment efforts.
In recommending the formation of a new regional economic organization, Cook said, Feser expressed concern about the PdNG's culture of secretiveness and whether that would continue with the new organization, especially if public funding is involved.
Feser, who wears many hats and works with academic institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, is a professor of enterprise and innovation and head of the Division of Innovation, Management, and Policy at Manchester Business School in England.
Cook said the creation of the Borderplex Alliance will pose challenges for both the city, which had had an economic development role, and for the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce.
"But the chamber does a good job of advocacy, as it did with the Base Realignment and Closure process and in creating legislative agendas for the region," the mayor said.
Bob Cook, REDCo's executive director, said Borderplex Alliance will begin operations Jan. 1 but won't require anyone to move, since REDCo and PdNG have been neighbors on the 17th floor of the Chase Bank Building since 2004.
He said he would be leading the economic development division along with the staff he has now.
"Under Borderplex, our mission is going to expand to not only recruitment of business but also working with existing businesses and industry to assist their expansion," REDCo's Cook said.
The merger was announced publicly Friday in a statement that said, "The new regional alliance is made up of business leaders from Las Cruces, El Paso, and Ciudad Juárez as a single region, with a population of 2.6 million people."
REDCo chair Russ Vandenberg said, "The merging of the Paso del Norte Group and REDCo is just one component of a much larger effort.
"This initiative is not about overtaking any single entity, but rather bringing the talent, functions and other assets together under one roof."
Email El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622.