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County Commissioners Examining Foreign Travel Expenses For Economic Development

Eileen Pace
TPR News
Bexar Co. Commissioners Court Tuesday Jan. 21, 2014.

The county’s policy covering international travel for economic development is under the microscope. Bexar County Commissioners will be taking a closer look at the county’s policies for approving trips to Japan, China, Germany, Mexico and other foreign destinations.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Adkisson brought up the issue at this week’s commissioners court meeting because the item didn’t get on the agenda last week as he had requested.

"We ought to determine what is the threshold amount beyond which they need to come into this court and get our permission," Adkisson said.

"The thing about foreign economic development is that the wins are hard to get, they’re expensive," said Economic Development Director David Marquez. "But if you hit the win, it can be really huge."

Marquez said the original trips to Japan helped to seal the deal with Toyota, which resulted in the creation of thousands of jobs. He said once that happened, the county formalized an economic development department.

Marquez said foreign business development is an art and is worth the trip, even though the excursions could cost $10,000-$20,000 each, or more. 

“Because the wins are so big," Marquez said. "It’s brand new capital into the U.S. The forty companies (from Japan) that I mentioned and the billions of dollars and the tens of thousands of jobs they represent over the course of 25 years happen because someone began planting seeds 25 years ago."

Adkisson at first said amounts over $2,500 dollars should go before the court but later said that figure was arbitrary.

Adkisson denied allegations that bringing attention to the foreign travel budget is a political move, saying the issue has been in the forefront since last year before he filed as a candidate for the county judge’s seat.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.