The senior staff from the British Consulate in Houston made its stop to the Permian Basin on Tuesday in Odessa as part of its two-week multi-city tour.
The reason for the tour is for the British delegation to try and promote investment opportunities between Texas and the U.K. with exports from Texas to Great Britain amounting to over $10 billion in 2018.
The tour includes a combination of events helping to support a range of U.K. interests across business, trade, defense, education and other sectors.
The consulate set up a small camp for the afternoon at the parking lot at UTPB, across from the Kirk Edwards Family Human Performance Center.
“We’re covering as much of rural Texas as we can because my job is to understand what makes people tick in the state and I can’t do that sitting in an office,” Consul-general Richard Hyde said.
Coming 180 years after the U.K. Government first appointed a representative to Texas, the tour is also a chance to mark the United Kingdom’s continuing commitment to enduring relationships, mutual prosperity and extensive security cooperation with long-standing and close allies.
“Texas is like a country,” Hyde said. “It’s a country-size state with close to 30 million people,” Hyde said. “It’s diverse. Every region of Texas is a little diverse. There’s a huge Hispanic population. There’s a lot of immigration from south Asia and east Asia. There’s a real mixture of people across the state. My job is to find out what drives people and what makes business work. You really have to go and meet people to understand that.”
Hyde also spoke about the energy sector in West Texas.
“This particular region in West Texas, everyone knows this is underground,” Hyde said. “It’s the energy that has fueled the world for the last hundred years. But there’s a huge amount of talent above ground and it’s the people above ground that I have come to talk to. I talk about interesting issues like energy transition. We all talk about energy transitions. There’s no part of the United States that’s been more impacted by talk of energy transition than the Permian Basin. It’s really important to talk to people who have been directly impacted by that here in the Permian Basin.”
Another aim of the tour was to focus on cities outside of the “Texas Triangle” (Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio).
“The goal for us to do this road trip was to engage on a local level because we’re well known in San Antonio and Houston and we really want to make sure we engage with the communities across the state of Texas and understand what those opportunities are and what they’re trying to grow, sector-wise,” regional director for South Central U.S. Jon Marrs said who also works for the department of international trade.
“We work closely with economic development agencies across the different states and get an understanding of what the different investment opportunities are and the type of sectors and companies that they’re trying to attract into their areas,” Marrs said.
Hyde said they hope to demonstrate that the United Kingdom is a modern and dynamic partner of Texas, and a leading center of culture, music and sport and a world class center of innovation and science.
“With the U.K. and the U.S., there are no two countries with a closer relationship,” Hyde said. “We’re allies. Our men and women fight side-by-side all around the world and have for over a hundred years. No two countries have been so closely aligned.”
Hyde also spoke about the changes that have occurred with the United Kingdom and trade especially now that Brexit has officially taken effect with the U.K. breaking apart from the European Union.
“Brexit has directly impacted that because we haven’t negotiated a free-trade agreement in a generation because as part of the EU, that was done as a bloc,” Hyde said. “Now, obviously, negotiating free trade agreements on behalf of 27 or 28 countries is quite a complex process. When you have 500 million person bloc like the EU trying to negotiate with 320 million people in the US, that becomes really complex … What we hope now is for an economy where we do similar things with similar wage levels and similar levels of education, science and capabilities that we should mesh those two economies (U.S. and U.K.) together more easily. … hopefully we can start the process of getting to an FTA again.”
Hyde and his staff said they enjoyed their stop in Odessa.
“It’s great,” Hyde said. “One thing that’s really interesting is that in this part of the world, you guys have a lot of space. When driving in, you can see miles and miles. I come from the U.K. and there, everyone has to build up because land costs a fortune. Here, you can enjoy space and outdoors and I look at it with envy. Also, you have a better climate. It’s a lot cooler. In Houston, you just melt so the lifestyle seems great here and to me, that’s what Texas is all about.”
The consulate will continue with its tour of the state and will also make a stop in New Mexico as well.
The tour will include stops in El Paso on Wednesday, Las Cruces, N.M. on Thursday and Van Horn on Friday before making stops in Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville next week.
The route will cover about 2,300 miles, nearly three times the length of the United Kingdom.
Odessa Chamber of Commerce President Renee Earls was happy that the British Consulate-General in Houston chose to make a stop in Odessa.
“Anything that we can do to connect people from Odessa, the Permian Basin region with those overseas is great,” Earls said. “They might be doing business or it might be tourism issues. Anything we can do to offer our hospitality and show off our community, we want to do that. We have so many exciting things happening here. We’re full of opportunities and we want to show that to the rest of the world.”