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April NEWS UPDATE FROM STEPHEN IAN VOGLEWEDE, INTERIM PRESIDENT & CEO OF THE EL PASO CHAMBER
April NEWS UPDATE FROM STEPHEN IAN VOGLEWEDE, INTERIM PRESIDENT & CEO OF THE EL PASO CHAMBER

April was an important month for us. The Chamber has always maintained an important role as an advocate for business across the region, but over the past month, we’ve ramped up our advocacy efforts in support of four key areas in our strategy: transportation, military and veterans affairs, advanced manufacturing, and electrification.

Since the passage of NAFTA, international commercial trade at our region’s ports has expanded by about 400%. The growing commercial trade in our region, annually close to $100 billion in imports and exports, supports the local, state, and national economies. The state implementation of enhanced safety inspections placed at the beginning of April harmed local businesses and the region’s economy in a way we haven’t seen since the closures of March 2020. Commercial wait times for northbound traffic halted to a snail’s pace with wait times of more than five hours. After surveying our members, we estimate the local economy lost around $100-150M in revenue. We understand the history and perils of the crossing of contraband and believe that public policy should be pragmatic and tailored in its application. To that end, we wrote a letter to Governor Abbott respectfully requesting support for more modern solutions. You can read the letter here.

As an strong supporter of the military and our veterans, our goal is to make the El Paso metropolitan region a post of choice, both inside and outside of the bases. In 2020 Fort Bliss alone contributed over $24 billion to the regional economy, making Our neighbors at Fort Bliss, Holloman Air Force Base, and White Sands Missile Range an integral part of our economy, community, and region. Near the beginning of the month, we had the pleasure of working with Ben Miranda, TMPC Commissioner and EPC Board of Directors Member, to host the Texas Military Preparedness Commission (TMPC) for their quarterly meeting. The 13 commissioners, appointed by Governor Abbott, represented their respective military installation within Texas. With backgrounds ranging from retired flag officers, senior enlisted leaders, and public officials to economic development, public relations, and law professionals, commissioners worked together to discuss how the state can have a stronger impact on Fort Bliss and the surrounding community. Thank you, Ben Miranda, for presenting us with the opportunity to welcome the commissioners and for being an integral partner to the Chamber.

In line with the port of entry and infrastructure efforts, we continue to fight for our fair share of resources in Austin. Just last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Texas Transportation Committee Hearing and testify in support of I-10 Segment 2 along with MPO Director Eduardo Calvo and City Representative Peter Svarzbein. The El Paso Chamber will continue play a lead role in serving as the convening organization for public officials, non-profit leaders, and the business communities from the region to ensure that transportation planning and advocacy is strategic and coordinated.

At the beginning of the month, the House Committee on Appropriations began accepting community project funding requests for FY23, allowing entities in the El Paso County to request direct funding for eligible projects. We submitted a funding request to be vetted by Congresswoman Veronica Escobar for our Airport Advanced Manufacturing Carbon Footprinting Initiative. The Chamber will work in partnership with GM, The City of El Paso, El Paso Electric, and TimberRock to provide local advanced manufacturing operations with carbon footprint data located at the El Paso International Airport Advanced Manufacturing Campus and Innovation Factory. To continue to grow in manufacturing in our region in the coming century, we must be able to incorporate emissions into cost and benefit calculations and continuously improve the efficiency of operations, particularly with regard to production of emissions, or risk obsolescence as supply chains around the world look to reduce their carbon emissions. This initiative will increase awareness local manufacturing capabilities, bringing more American jobs, and making El Paso more globally competitive. We are enthusiastic in our pursuit of this funding.

The El Paso Chamber is held in the public trust to drive smart public policy decision making for business and our community and will continue to be El Paso’s leading voice for business.

Ian