EL PASO, Texas - Mayor Oscar Leeser has made it a point to focus on economic development and bringing more businesses to the borderland. This week one of his goals materialized through what's called a "familiarization tour."
Leeser put it like this: you can't write a letter of recommendation for someone you don't know, so how can we expect businesses to have a good opinion of El Paso if they've never been here? This week he's inviting people to come check out the "sun city" for themselves.
A group of 30 filled Anson 11's swanky upstairs, to be wined and dined by El Paso's mayor.
"We want to show them our community," Leeser said. "We want them to see the expansion, the growth."
Consultants from all over the country flew in Tuesday and they will stay until Friday. These men and women are taking in the city's sites. This week they attended a ballgame, visited the Plaza Theater, and Fort Bliss. Then they'll prepare a summary of the borderland and present it to businesses looking for a new home.
The notion that we had was that it was a city ridden with crime," said Ray Watson of MAXIMUSalliance. "It was an area that was unsafe. We didn't really look at El Paso as an opportunity to place businesses."
Despite the misperception, Dallas consultant Watson accepted Leser's invitation, just like Philadelphia Tribune lifestyle and leisure reporter Bobbi Booker.
"But when I shared with my media friends that I was going to El Paso, they said, WHY?," Booker said.
She thought her first trip to Texas would be to artsy Austin. But now booker says she's more impressed with El Paso.
"You can tell that this city is not on a rebound, but on a real quiet level of explosion," Booker said. "And it's that energy that's I'm feeling. And it's one I'm going to share with my readers."
As they sipped fine wine and savored juicy steak, they talked about the possibilities.
"What we learned today was the actual draw for the actual area is a 2.6 million person town," Watson said. "Not only do you have El Paso but you have Las Cruces, New Mexico and Juarez."
The mayor took them to UTEP Wednesday, showing them the university's research and the potential workforce, particularly the engineers. Watson said he's thinking this will attract manufacturing companies. Lesser said he's confident the atmosphere of El Paso is just as attractive
"It's hard to describe but the energy and excitement they're feeling is incredible," Leeser said.
Those delicious steaks were not on the taxpayer's dime. In fact this entire "Fam Tour" was paid through donations from the chamber of commerce and local businesses.