DALLAS -- U.S. Treasury and other federal government officials are pushing forward with plans to open the North American Development Bank in San Antonio later this year and are expected to announce board members within the week, sources said.
"The board announcements are imminent," said Albert Jacques, chief of staff for Rep. Esteban Torres, D-Los Angeles, a major bank proponent. "And they are in the process of collecting names for an advisory committee."
Jacques said plans call for naming the secretaries of the State Department, the Treasury, and the Environmental Protection Agency to the board of the development bank.
The bank was established as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement to finance environmental and other projects on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Mexican government also will name three senior government officials to the six-member board.
A nine-member U.S. advisory council, composed of border and investment banking officials as well as other representatives, could be appointed by June or possibly later, Jacques said.
Meantime, other steps are being taken to shape the structure and the staffing for the bank, which is scheduled to open Oct. 1. At that time, the U.S. and Mexican governments will each provide about $56 million in the first of four installments of funds to operate the bank.
Although U.S. Treasury officials who are leading the effort to establish the bank declined to confirm or deny progress reports, sources close to the project said federal and local government and agency representatives are:
* Recruiting an executive director. At least a dozen people have applied for the job, and more are expected later. Selection is anticipated by this fall when money becomes available to pay the salary. An assistant director also could be hired. Likely, one would be a Mexican official and the other a U.S. official to balance representation on the bank.
* Shopping for a temporary site in San Antonio. Earlier this week, four Treasury officials were in San Antonio looking at several office spaces that could hold five to 40 people, said Henry Suvignet, the city's international business manager. "They did not indicate when they would move in," Suvignet said, although he expects a decision to be made in about four six weeks.
* Discussing a permanent site for the development bank in a new building at the south side of San Antonio's convention center. As part of their pledge to get the development bank to locate its headquarters in San Antonio, city officials plan to build a 60,000-square-foot facility to be called the HemisFair Park International Center. The facility, expected to be completed in two years, would provide 10,000 square feet for the development bank as well as space for other institutions such as the Free Trade Alliance and the Mexican Cultural Institute.
* Participating in a conference sponsored by the Southwest Voter Registration Institute starting today and ending tomorrow. The institute, which is heading an informal coalition of Latino and environmental groups, has invited more than 35 federal, state, and local officials as well as investment bankers, bond rating agency representatives, and Mexican officials to discuss the issues and implementation of the development bank.
"The bank is a new kind of entity," said Clarissa Martinez DeCastro, a Southwest Voter Registration Institute policy analyst who is coordinating the effort. "We want to think through the problems ... to give everyone a clearer idea of what the bank will do."
Don Gonzales, an associate director with Rauscher Pierce Refsnes and one of the workshop participants, said he hopes to clarify some of the financing procedures. "One of the things we hope to develop from the conference would be the process by which projects can be identified and criteria established for financing," he said.
Under the enabling Nafta legislation, a Border Environmental Cooperation Commission will recommend projects to be financed by the development bank, which would spend most of its funds on water, wastewater, and other environmental projects on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The 10-member commission, to be located in Juarez, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Tex., also is expected to be created later this year when five members from both the United States and Mexico are appointed.
After project recommendations from the commission, the development bank will use a total of $450 million in funds to be provided by Mexico and the United States during the next four years to leverage up to $3 billion in loans or loan guarantees. The funds also could be used for credit enhancement.
However, many Latino and other officials are concerned that the money should go to the appropriate projects, which cannot get standard financing. For the most part, the loans and guarantees are expected to go for projects on the Mexican side, where tax-exempt bond financing is not available. The projects could be tied in with ones on the U.S. side that are financed with tax-exempt bonds.
"The Latino consensus was clear that the bank should not just be a money-dispersing entity," said Tom Frost, chairman of Cullen/Frost Bankers in San Antonio and head of a committee in charge of recruiting the development bank to the city.
Frost and other bankers said many details need to be worked out on the financing, and they do not expect projects to be funded by Oct. 1.
"Nothing will be in the pipeline right away," said Gonzales, who heads Texas-Mexico border efforts for Rauscher Pierce, one of the region's leading investment bankers. "Hopefully, projects will be reviewed by the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission in the first quarter of 1995."
Although U.S. Treasury officials have not announced a timetable, except to say they aiming for Oct. 1, sources said staff likely would be hired after an executive director is put in place this fall. As a practical matter, they said, that means the bank would not start operating until next year. Estimates of staffing vary anywhere from 10 to 30 people once the bank is located in San Antonio.
Initially, the bank could be housed with the InterAmerican Development Bank in Washington, D.C., until plans are final, sources said.