San Antonio and five other Central Texas cities will take center stage in the Western Hemisphere’s economic development scene as it hosts high-level public officials and business leaders from around the world in the seventh Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ACE) in April 2017.
The initiative, which promises to connect the region with global investors, was announced Friday by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams and Ambassador Neil Parsan.
“This is a great region,” Williams told representatives from the six regions at Alamo Colleges’ Central Texas Technology Center in New Braunfels. “I’m excited about the fact that the communities here are going to have an opportunity to showcase their wares, to showcase their talent and innovation and put that on a global stage … to resonate for many years to come.”
The six-day ACE tour will kick off in San Antonio on April 2, 2017 and travel to New Braunfels, San Marcos, Austin, Fredericksburg, and College Station, focusing on the region’s advanced technology centers, innovation hubs, public-private partnerships, and strategic investments.
In addition to formally exposing the area’s growing industries to international business and innovation leaders, academics, policy-makers, ministers, and ambassadors, the program will facilitate informal interactions with a “broad synergetic diversity coming in here to share what they’re doing in their own spaces,” Parsan told the Rivard Report.
Hosted by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and State, the Inter-American Competitiveness Network (RIAC), and the Organization of American States (OAS), the event will spotlight San Antonio’s growing “key markets – new energy, IT, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, and bioscience,” Councilman Joe Krier (D9) announced at the press conference.
“We have an opportunity to sell ourselves to the world,” he said, emphasizing the importance of regional cooperation. “… The people we would kill to go see are going to come to us.”
Williams likewise described Central Texas’s regional collaboration as a major factor in its selection for the prestigious ACE program.
“You’ve got really great world-class assets in terms of universities, the research institutions, the cultural assets here,” he told the Rivard Report. “A lot of areas around the country have those things. But then on top of that, when you see the level of collaboration both at the highest levels in elected office, through the philanthropic community, through the business community … it just really speaks highly.
“As a country, we want to invite the partners from the Western Hemisphere to see the best of what this country has to offer,” Williams added.
The Central Texas region has spent a year developing its proposal with the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce, which was then presented to a global committee of experts headed by the OAS.
“The growth, especially in some of these smaller cities, and the sense of collaboration taking place in a geographic space that’s maturing … is a great opportunity to showcase to others,” Parsan, who serves as OAS executive secretary for integral development, told the Rivard Report.
The announcement followed the ribbon cutting for a new building at the Alamo Colleges’ Central Texas Technology Center in New Braunfels, which Williams described as a perfect example of the area’s strong regionalism.
Delegates from each of the Central Texas cities chosen will join Williams and Parsan at the sixth ACE at the end of this September in Ontario, Canada.
Krier, who will serve as San Antonio’s delegate, is particularly interested in learning from Ontario’s high tech water facilities. He hopes San Antonio’s water conservation strategies will play a major role in its own ACE tours.
Past ACE conferences have led to expanded trade relationships across the Western Hemisphere and beyond. For example, Lacrosse, Wis., which hosted the third ACE conference, has set up reciprocal trade visits with sister cities Epinal, France, Friedberg, Germany, and Lou Yang, China.
“I believe this is a very good form of diplomacy,” Parsan said. “It’s economic diplomacy, it’s community diplomacy, diplomacy of innovation and entrepreneurship, looking for win-win solutions through knowledge exchange and creative forms of horizontal cooperation where all countries have something to offer.”
Top image: Representatives from the Central Texas region officially accept the opportunity to host the third Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ACE). Photo by Daniel Kleifgen.