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Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured center, standing, on Saturday, March 24, was honored for his legislative achievements and contributions by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which bestowed its Golden Eagle Award for 2012 on the veteran state lawmaker. The Golden Eagle Award is presented every year to an individual who has excelled in promoting the best interests of the Rio Grande Valley. Hinojosa received the honor during the chamber’s annual Noche de Gala, held at The Legacy Event Center in Edinburg. Featured, seated from left: Eli Ochoa, founder, president and CEO of ERO Architects, who was chosen as Business Man of the Year; Melisa Smith representing Frank Smith Toyota, which was selected Medium Corporation of the Year; and Lucy and Armando Regalado, owners of Collision Center, named Small Corporation of the Year. Standing, from left: Ronnie Bernal, general manager for  Frank Smith Toyota; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, the 2012 Golden Eagle Award recipient; and Eloy Cruz representing HEB, which was named Large Corporation of the Year. Not shown are Val LaMantia Peisen, a member of a prominent McAllen family which owns L&F Distributors, who was named Business Woman of the Year; and Mr. and Mrs. Lee and Illiana Cabrera, honored as Volunteers of the Year. See story on Sen. Hinojosa later in this posting.

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On Wednesday, March 7, Edinburg Mayor Richard García, flanked by video screens at the City Auditorium, delivered the annual State of the City Address, which featured highlights of major activities and successes by the Edinburg City Council and its jobs-creation arm, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, during 2011. “What a year we’ve had in Edinburg,” the mayor proclaimed. “If I had to choose one word to describe the activity that occurred in our city in 2011, that word would be success, which leads me to believe that either someone up there likes us or we’re doing something right.” The full text of his presentation, plus comments from other business and community leaders who were featured in news videos during the mayor’s presentation, are included at the end of this posting.

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Freddy González Elementary Principal Arnoldo F. Benavides, a 47-year veteran educator at the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, was recently named one of 10 regional finalists in the 2012 H-E-B Excellence in Education Elementary Principal Award category. An H-E-B delegation paid a surprise visit to Freddy Gonzalez Elementary to recognize Benavides as a regional finalist. Each regional finalist is awarded $1,000 plus $2,500 for their respective school. The regional secondary and elementary principal finalists will be interviewed by a panel of judges in May, during the H-E-B celebratory dinner in Houston. Two grand-prize winner principals will be chosen from among the 10 regional finalists. Each winning grand-prize principal — one elementary school and one high school — will each receive $10,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for their schools. Created in 2002, the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards are designed to honor outstanding public school professionals and to thank them for their dedication and commitment. Through this program, H-E-B seeks to pay tribute to those educators who go the extra mile each and every day to serve their students and their communities and who inspire others to do the same.

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Dr. René Gutiérrez, superintendent for the Edinburg school district, on March 9 presented a framed letter of appreciation to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan during a visit in San Antonio by Gutiérrez and a delegation of 15 other school district superintendents from Region One Service Center in Edinburg, which represents the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo. The letter was from Daniela Galván, a fourth grade student at Guerra Elementary, recognizing Duncan’s support for education and technology. Galván is the daughter of Laura Aguirre and Javier Cerda. The session, hosted at Fox Technical High School in San Antonio, featured discussions on a wide range of educational issues spanning topics “from cradle to grave.”

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Edinburg North High School Principal Ramiro Guerra, a 32-year veteran educator at Edinburg CISD, has been named one of 10 regional finalists in the 2012 H-E-B Excellence in Education Secondary Principal Award category. An H-E-B delegation recently paid a surprise visit to ENHS to recognize Guerra as a regional finalist. Guerra has served as ENHS principal for seven years, and previously served as ENHS assistant principal for six years. Each regional finalist is awarded a $1,000 plus $2,500 for their respective school. Featured participating in the $1,000 check presentation, from left: Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent of Schools; Robert Pena, Jr., Edinburg school board trustee; School Trustee; and the H-E-Buddy look on proudly. The regional secondary and elementary principal finalists will be interviewed by a panel of judges at the H-E-B celebratory dinner in Houston in May who will then select the two grand-prize winner principals from among the 10 regional finalists. Each winning grand-prize principal—one elementary school and one high school—will each receive $10,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for their schools. Created in 2002, the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards are designed to honor outstanding public school professionals and to thank them for their dedication and commitment. Through this program, H-E-B seeks to pay tribute to those educators who go the extra mile each and every day to serve their students and their communities and who inspire others to do the same.

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The Women’s Business Center – in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Wells Fargo Bank, H&R Block, PRIME and ZERHIN — on Saturday, March 31, hosted a first of its kind event, the “Business Plan Boot Camp,” which provided one-on-one business consultation for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners who sought to learn the process of putting together a business plan. The “Business Plan Boot Camp”,  which included two sessions, was held at the Women’s Business Center headquarters located at 2314 West University Drive, Suite 230 in Edinburg. Featured, standing from left: Rolando Fernández De Lara with Wells Fargo Bank; Oriol Zertuche with ZERHIN; Abel González with ZERHIN; Thalia Hernández with the Women’s Business Center; Javier Hinojosa with ZERHIN: María Pérez with the U.S. Small Business Administration; and Bret Mann with PRIME. Seated, from left: María Mann, executive director with the Women’s Business Center; and Jocelyn Olmedo, Marcela Salinas, and José Enríquez with the Women’s Business Center. Not shown are Judi Flowers from Wells Fargo Bank and Gayle Rice from H&R Block. See story later in this posting.

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The McAllen Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors on Wednesday, April 18, will host a business luncheon with leaders of Reynosa’s Chambers of Commerce and Industry to continue fostering the relationship between both groups and their constituents. The event will be held at the McAllen chamber’s headquarters, 1200 Ash Avenue. “The McAllen and Reynosa chambers share common interests and problems,” said Luis Cantú, vice president of Inter American Relations for the McAllen chamber. “Providing the opportunity to our board members to meet some of the chamber leaders from Reynosa is also a very important step towards improving our chamber international relations.” Featured promoting the event are Karen Valdez, Chairman of the Board of Directors, McAllen Chamber of Commerce, and Luis Cantú. Additional information on attending the luncheon is available by contacting Cantú at 956/682-2871.

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Sen. Lucio says “medical education district” could help finance Valley UT medical school

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Promising that more details should be ready to be made public in about two months, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, on Wednesday, March 28, told McAllen business leaders that he is working on a proposal to create a “medical education district”, which could provide regional ?nancial support for a planned UT medical school in the Valley.

Lucio suggested that the medical education district could reduce any immediate need for a hospital district, which is a governmental entity in Texas that can raise money, including through the collection of local taxes, to provide medical care to residents, especially the poor and uninsured.

Providing local ?nancial resources for the planned UT medical school – whose construction in Cameron County could begin as early as 2015 – could help rally state legislative support for the Valley’s hopes to have its own full-?edged medical school sooner rather than later.

“I will be proposing and working on trying to see if we can all get behind the creation, not of a hospital district, but of a MED – a medical education district,” Lucio said. “That will send a clear message to Austin and to the Legislature that the people of the Valley are ready to step up to the plate.”

Plus, under the legislation approved by state lawmakers in 2009 that authorized the creation of the University of Texas Health Science Center – South Texas and its major component, the UT Medical School – South Texas, no state money or state resources can be used to build, operate, and maintain a teaching hospital.

A teaching hospital, which is usually with a medical school, is a facility where students receive practical training, and area residents can receive medical care. Hospital districts often provide funds for the construction, maintenance, and operation af?liated of a teaching hospital.

Speed up transformation to UT health science center

Lucio said he is working out the details for his vision of a medical education district, part of his strategies to also generate political support from fellow state lawmakers and the UT System Board of Regents for investing tight state resources into such a monumental project.

“It is a big challenge, it will take a great commitment, but yes, it would be a major step for us to consider establishing a medical education district,” he added. “That certainly would position us to become a health science center a lot quicker.”

In Texas, a health science center involves a group of schools – such as a medical or dental school – that provide training in health-care ?elds, and are af?liated with private and/or public hospitals.

Lucio said he is already working with the non-pro?t Lower Rio Grande Valley Academic Health Center Foundation to generate business and political support, including contacting key elected of?cials and civic and business leaders throughout the Valley.

“We are in the process of putting all of that together. In the next month or two, we will be calling a major gathering so we can unveil – I’m already unveiling it to you – but we will go into more speci?cs at the time,” he said. “I want people to understand that each one of you will be playing an integral role in making this happen.”

The medical education district, Lucio believes, “is the key to be able to broaden the foundation we already have. I am already working on my schedule to travel around Texas to talk to many well-to-do people who have excess money, who would rather give or invest rather than pay taxes. It is important for us to reach out to try ?nd those who have the ability to help us to reach this goal.”

Potential multi-billion dollar economic impact

He offered The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston as an example of how a health science center/medical school complex can dramatically improve life in a major population center such as deep South Texas.

“Drive around and look at what is happening in Houston, and how that community has been be transformed. One of the most important economic facilities is the health science center in Houston,” said Lucio. “You will be absolutely fascinated on what they are working on there, especially in research. We can have that right here in the Valley.”

Founded in 1972 by the UT System Board of Regents, the Houston-based medical center boasts 10,000-plus faculty, staff, students and residents. Economically, it is responsible for a $2.3 billion annual, indirect economic impact on the Houston metropolitan region, according to its website.

Currently, the UT System maintains three major campuses in the Valley: the Regional Academic Health Center Medical Education Division in Harlingen, the Regional Academic Health Center Medical Research Center in Edinburg, and the Regional Academic Health Center School of Public Health in Brownsville.

The Regional Academic Health Centers were created under legislation – Senate Bill 606 –authored in 1997 by Lucio and sponsored in the House by then-Rep. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

In 2009, Lucio was the author of Senate Bill 98 (Hinojosa and Sen. Judith Zaf?rini, D-Laredo, were coauthors), which was sponsored in the House by his son, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito, and by Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, and Rep. Rose Ríos Ybarra, D-Port Isabel. Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, was a co-sponsor.

SB 98 authorizes the transformation of the UT Regional Academic Health Centers into the much larger UT Health Science Center – South Texas.

Legislative provisions for creation of health science center

According to the bill analysis of SB 98:

• SB 98 amends the Education Code to authorize The University of Texas System board of regents to operate The University of Texas Health Science Center — South Texas as a component institution of the system with its main campus and administrative of?ces in Cameron County and which may consist of a medical school as well as other health-related degree programs and facilities that the board of regents considers appropriate.

The bill authorizes the board of regents to include facilities located in certain South Texas counties in the health science center and to operate programs and activities and provide related services in those counties. If the health science center is established, the bill authorizes the establishment of The University of Texas Medical School — South Texas as a component of the health science center and as a component institution of the system.

• SB 98 entitles the health science center and the medical school, if either institution is established, to participate in the available university fund and to receive funds from the permanent health fund for higher education; makes the health science center’s establishment subject to the availability of funding, either through appropriations or from another source; and authorizes the board of regents to enter into agreements under which additional facilities may be provided by a public or private entity.

The bill provides that a teaching hospital considered suitable by the board of regents for the health

science center may be provided by a public or private entity but prohibits the use of state funds for the hospital’s construction, operation, or maintenance.

• SB 98 authorizes the board of regents to convert the Lower Rio Grande Valley Academic Health Center into The University of Texas Health Science Center — South Texas and to establish The University of Texas Medical School — South Texas at the health science center as soon as the board considers appropriate, considering available resources and the best interests of the system and the people of Texas and the South Texas region.

• The bill transfers the permanent endowment fund established for the bene?t of the regional academic health center to the bene?t of the health science center and its component institutions when the health science center is established and establishes that bonds authorized or issued for the academic health center are considered to have been authorized or issued for The University of Texas Health Science Center — South Texas and its component institutions if the health science center is established.

• SB 98 prohibits funds for a ?scal biennium ending on or before August 31, 2015, from being appropriated for the purposes of the health science center.

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Sen. Hinojosa bestowed Golden Eagle Award by RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Saturday, March 24, was honored for his legislative achievements and contributions by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which bestowed its Golden Eagle Award for 2012 on the veteran state lawmaker.

The Golden Eagle Award is presented every year to an individual who has excelled in promoting the best interests of the Rio Grande Valley.

Hinojosa received the honor during the chamber’s annual Noche de Gala, held at The Legacy Event Center in Edinburg. Previous recipients include Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and the late Michael Allen, former member of the South Texas College Board of Trustees.

Noche de Gala, a fundraiser for the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, included dinner, dancing, silent and live auction, a Las Vegas Style Casino, and an open bar.

In addition to the state senator, the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also publicly honored area business leaders and firms, including:

• Business Woman of the Year – LaMantia Peisen, a member of a prominent McAllen family which owns L&F Distributors, a beer distribution company, and which are lead investors in a planned $23 million horse race track in Hidalgo County;

• Business Man of the Year – Eli Ochoa, PE, AIA, the founder, president and CEO of ERO Architects of McAllen, a McAllen-based firm which specializes in the design of public facilities. His firm has been leading a special citizens advisory panel, appointed by the Hidalgo County Judge and Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, which has been reviewing the possibility of building a $50 million new county courthouse;

• Small Business of the Year – Collision Center Auto Body and Glass, with facilities in McAllen, Weslaco and Harlingen, owned by Armando and Lucy Regalado.

• Medium Business of the Year – Frank Smith Toyota of Pharr; and

• Big Business of the Year – HEB.

“We were truly elated to have so many honorees under one roof” said Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO of the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “This brought so much more to our annual event.”

But it was the state senator who drew the limelight.

Born in McAllen, Hinojosa is the eldest of eight children born to Juan de Dios and Esperanza Hinojosa. He attended Mission ISD schools as a child and worked as a farm worker during his teen years. He led the Mission Eagles football team as their quarterback, and after graduating, Hinojosa volunteered to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps.

In Vietnam, Hinojosa served as a squad leader from 1966 to 1968 before returning home to continue his education. Hinojosa graduated with honors from the University of Texas-Pan American with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He completed his legal studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

After returning to South Texas, Hinojosa served as staff attorney for the Legal aid Society of Nueces County and later as an assistant attorney General for the Texas attorney General. In 1980, Hinojosa began his own private practice in McAllen, where he continues to represent clients in both civil and criminal matters.

Hinojosa was first elected into office in 1981, serving in the Texas House until 1990 and again from 1997 to 2002. During his tenure in the Texas House, Hinojosa passed landmark legislation, such as the establishment of the Regional academic Health Center (RAHC) which promotes physician training on the Texas/Mexico Border. As the Chairman of Criminal Jurisprudence, Hinojosa sponsored the Texas Fair Defense act, reforming procedures for providing court-appointed defense counsel to indigent defendants, and carried DNA legislation that has resulted in freeing many wrongly convicted citizens.

Since his election to the Texas Senate in 2002, Hinojosa has secured more than $84.7 million for new construction at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and at the University of Texas-Pan American.  Hinojosa’s efforts have brought millions in funding to support the growth of Senate District 20, composed of Brooks, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, and Nueces Counties.

Hinojosa is currently the vice-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and he also holds seats on the Senate’s agriculture and Rural affairs, Criminal Justice, Jurisprudence and Natural Resource Committees. Hinojosa is in his second term on the Sunset advisory Commission, a bipartisan panel that reviews the effectiveness of state agencies. The panel decides to continue agencies or abolish unnecessary and duplicative state entities.

During the 2007 legislative session, Hinojosa authored Senate Bill 103, reshaping the state’s troubled Texas Youth Commission after investigations by the Texas Rangers found instances of sexual and physical abuse of youth in state facilities. SB 103 made a number of fundamental changes, including ending the practice of housing children with adults and creating a parent’s Bill of Rights, guaranteeing swift and accurate access to information about caseworkers’ duties and the agency’s grievance policies.

Hinojosa championed legislation to rein in rising university tuition costs and he has worked with a bipartisan group of legislators to allocate more than $120 million on training and technology for border security.

Hinojosa has received a number of awards for his public service during his more than 20 years as an elected representative of South Texas. Twice he has been named one of Texas’ “Top 10 Legislators” by Texas Monthly magazine, and the National Organization of Women named him their “Legislator of the Year.” In 2005, he was recognized as a Legislator of the Year by the Justices of the Peace and Constables association of Texas and also received the John Henry Faulk award from the American Civil Liberties Union.

In 2006, Hinojosa was presented with the public Servant of the Year award by the Texas Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, and Capitol Inside has twice named Hinojosa to their Top Ten Legislator list. He has also been a co-recipient of the James Madison award given by the Freedom of Information Foundation and the TAMACC Government Hispanic Business Advocate of the Year awarded at the 2009 Annual Convention and Business Expo held in McAllen.

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Public/private partnership, at no risk to Edinburg taxpayers, could pave the way for $12 million housing/retail development

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

A public nonprofit entity, which would answer to the Edinburg City Council, was created on Friday, March 9, during a joint session of the city council and its jobs-creation arm, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, as part of a strategy to bring a $12 million student housing development to the University of Texas-Pan American.

That proposed multi-story housing structure would also feature retail establishments, including a national chain restaurant, and a hotel, according to Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, who addressed the city leadership in his role as a private individual representing one of his clients, Corplan Corrections, Inc.

Lucio appeared on behalf of James Parkey, founder and president of Corplan Corrections, Inc., based in Denton County, because bad weather prevented Parkey from making a flight to Edinburg for the joint public session. Lucio is president of Rio Consulting.

The continuing enrollment growth at UTPA, which last fall reached a record 19,041, plus financial limitations facing higher education institutions statewide make it important for local governments and the private sector to join forces to help fill crucial needs, Lucio reflected.

“First of all, there is a need for student housing. That was our original focus,” the Brownsville lawmaker said. “It has been a lot easier for private/public partnerships to approach projects, in terms of setting up local government corporations or public facilities corporations, to be able to issue revenue bonds that would be paid with the revenues realized by the operation of these student housing units.”

The creation of the Local Government Corporation of Edinburg provides Corplan Corrections, Inc. with the financing mechanism to pay for its planned development. Next are final negotiations between the developer and UT-Pan American for the use of the land, located at the intersection of West University Drive and Dr. Miguel Nevárez Drive.

Lucio did not immediately have a timeline for construction and completion of the project. However, the state senator was confident that the new development will materialize, serving as a model for other Texas colleges and universities.

“The same needs exist at Texas A&M University at Kingsville and Texas A&M International University at Laredo. We can approach those projects in the same manner, having their economic development corporations and city commissions come together to form these partnerships with the local universities and private entities,” Lucio said. “We can look at the financing taking place and the projects being set up a lot quicker.”

Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the EEDC Board of Directors, was appointed by the city council as president of the Board of Directors of the Local Government Corporation of Edinburg.

“There is a group of investors who do this sort of thing, and they are looking to come to our downtown corridor to build. They have been in talks with the university to build high-caliber housing in our downtown corridor, right by the university, to build a hotel, and to bring an anchor restaurant,” the mayor said. “That is what this is all about.”

The city and EEDC are implementing major plans to improve and transform the downtown region – stretching from the Hidalgo County Courthouse and county square to UT-Pan American – into a major center of business, culture, transportation, and tourism.

In addition to the economic impact of the planned complex, Edinburg would receive other financial benefits from the developers, he added.

“The good news is they just need our blessing, and to issue bonds through this local government corporation, but there is no financial obligation for the city. Beyond that, what the investors do are give the city incentive money,” García said. “Our intent is to use that money to have free transportation in our downtown corridor – like the trams at Disney World, where passengers can get on and off – perhaps connecting our university to our downtown square. That is what we are looking at developing.”

Mayor Pro Tem Gus García, Jr. praised the proposed development and the financing mechanism put into place by the city and EEDC.

“Any project such as this one is going to bring more people to Edinburg, who would shop in our community. Any time we have a project like this that doesn’t cost the city anything, I am definitely on board to give them a shot,” the mayor pro tem said.

“They talked about a conference center, and the big one Sen. Lucio talked about, that I really liked, was a hotel. Those hotel tax dollars are huge,” Gus García, Jr. added. “We can have more events here, which means more people coming into Edinburg and shopping here.”

Councilmember Elias Longoria, Jr. took particular note of Lucio’s prediction that the Edinburg housing/retail development would set a high standard.

“Sen. Lucio said Mr. James Parkey wants to use this as a model for future similar projects in other parts of the state. It is nice to see that Edinburg was chosen as the place to start,” Longoria said. “It is going to create jobs, which we always want, and will enhance a property in the city that will add to our downtown improvement.”

Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr., appointed to the LGC Board of Directors by the city council, said the legislative and economic development policies being championed by the city council and EEDC continue to prove their effectiveness.

“Having the right leadership in place is key,” contended Jasso, who will serve as the secretary for the LGC Board of Directors. “What we have with our mayor and city council, coming together and working with other entities to open doors, it makes a big, positive impact.”

Jaime Rodríguez, the newest member of the EEDC Board of Directors who was named by the city council as treasurer for the LGC Board of Directors, said Lucio’s presentation also gave a strong indication of Corplan Correction’s commitment to the idea.

“This is going to open more opportunities which we couldn’t previously consider, which gives us more endeavors to pursue,” Rodríguez said of LGC’s creation. “They (Corplan Corrections, Inc.) have done their due diligence, and for them to come to us and to set up other meetings, they feel very optimistic that this is a great project for them.”

Joining the mayor, Jasso and Rodríguez on the LGC Board of Directors are:

• Felipe García, named LGC board vice president, who also serves as a member of the EEDC Board of Directors; and

• Fred Palacios,  who also serves as secretary/treasurer for the EEDC Board of Directors and serves on the Edinburg Planning and Zoning Commission.

According to the House Research Organization, which is the legislative research arm of the Texas House of Representatives:

A Local Government Corporation is a corporate entity formed by a municipality or  county to act on its behalf. LGCs fund transportation, water and sewer infrastructure, economic development ventures, and other projects  intended to benefit the public.

In 1989, the 71st Legislature authorized local governments to create nonprofit corporations to act in conjunction with what is now the Texas Transportation Commission. The purpose of local government corporations (LGCs) was to provide an incentive for landowners to donate rights-of-way to local governments. By donating to the corporations rather than to the governments themselves, landowners could receive federal tax deductions.

In 1999, the 76th Legislature enacted House Bill 2684 by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, which, among other provisions, broadened LGCs’ scope beyond transportation to include any governmental purpose of the entities that created them.

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Dr. Glenn Martínez as Vice-President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, Felipe García, and Jaime A. Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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Women’s Business Center successfully hosts “Business Plan Boot Camp” in Edinburg

By ELIZABETH MARTÍNEZ

The Women’s Business Center – in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Wells Fargo Bank, H&R Block, PRIME and ZERHIN — on Saturday, March 31, hosted a first of its kind event, the “Business Plan Boot Camp,” which provided one-on-one business consultation for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners who sought to learn the process of putting together a business plan.

The “Business Plan Boot Camp”,  which included two sessions, was held at Women’s Business Center headquarters located at 2314 West University Drive, Suite 230 in Edinburg.

The Women’s Business Center is partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the corporate sector and the community at large.

Twenty-four entrepreneurs attended the March 31 event and received one-on-one consultation from professionals in the areas of marketing, finance and management.

Each entrepreneur was given the opportunity to spend some time with each professional to further discuss the type of information expected in that section of the business plan. The process went very smooth and the entrepreneurs showed a sense of excitement to learn about the business plan process and how their business dream idea could become to reality when put together in a more formal business model.

The attendees were very diverse. Some came in with a business plan that needed polishing and same came in ready to begin with just their idea in tow. The business plans varied from a law practice, restaurant, photography, tutorial services, vending franchise, boutique, real estate development, printing business, architectural firm, heavy construction, electronics and health care.

“Coming to the event really put a lot of their ideas on paper and helped them evolve their idea even to so much more,” said María “Charo” Mann, executive director of WBC. “Our goal is to spur economic development. We hope that by helping them open their business and in turn create new jobs here in the Valley.”

The WBC is a program that provides technical assistance to entrepreneurs that want to start or expand a business. The Business Plan Boot Camp is an example of how the WBC provides those services.

“Why the Business Plan Boot Camp?” Mann asked, then explained, “Because it allows aspiring entrepreneurs to come to one single event and experience the business plan process and leave with a more formalized business idea.”

The WBC plans to coordinate this event on a quarterly basis.

Promoting growth of women-owned businesses

The mission of the Women’s Business Center (WBC) is to promote the growth of women-owned businesses by providing business training and technical assistance, helping with access to credit and capital, and identifying federal contract and trade opportunities.

The WBC serves the Rio Grande Valley, an area that includes the counties of Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr and Willacy. These are the four, southern most counties in Texas, covering a 4,240 square mile area, with a combined population of 1,170,776.

As evidenced, since its inception in 2004, the WBC has assisted a total of 98 clients in either starting or expanding their businesses, and trained an additional 2,921 clients.

Dedicated to advancing disadvantaged women

The WBC is committed to advancing the success of all women. Among the thousands of women living and working in the Rio Grande Valley, there is a large number of women who are socially and economically disadvantaged. These are women whose families live in housing projects, colonias (shanty towns), and other low-income housing. Many are single heads of household and struggle to make ends meet.

According to 2007 U.S. Census figures, there are approximately 64,176 female households with no husband present who live below poverty levels in the Rio Grande Valley. In addition, there are approximately 63,165 women in the area that are over 25 years of age and who do not have a minimum of an associate’s degree.

Additional statistics by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission indicate that as of December 2008, approximately 72,110 women over the age of 18 years were receiving Medicaid, 123,572 were receiving food stamps, and 11,815 were on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Despite these figures, many of these women have marketable skills. Some of these talented and determined women beat the odds and succeed in establishing business enterprises. Once started, their businesses face enormous financial, managerial and marketing challenges. Because of their socioeconomic status and, in many cases, language, educational and cultural barriers, these women can most benefit from the services of the WBC.

For more information please contact The Women’s Business Center at 956/380-2800 or email cmann@wbc-rgv.org.

They are also online at: http://www.wbc-rgv.org/

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Edinburg City Council nominates South Texas Health System for state economic development project

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

The Edinburg City Council has nominated a project involving more than $5 million in capital improvements to three local hospitals, operated by McAllen Hospitals, Inc. (South Texas Health System) for state financial incentives available through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Edinburg Regional Medical Center, Edinburg Children’s Hospital and South Texas Behavioral Health Center were designated a state Enterprise Project by the mayor and city council during its regular meeting on Tuesday, February 20.

If approved by the governor’s office, the designation “would not be at any cost to the city nor would the city lose local sales taxes,” explained Acting City Manager Shawn Snider. “The city would benefit with the increase in the tax base and the retention of jobs.”

An enterprise zone is an economic development tool that allows a community to partner with the state government to offer local and state tax and regulatory benefits to new or existing businesses in economically-distressed areas, Snider further explained.

Legislation that created the Texas Enterprise Zone program was passed in 1983 and carried by Rep. (now Sen.) Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Héctor Uribe, D-Brownsville.

Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, applauded the planned investment by STHS in their Edinburg facilities, which feature a combined staff of 533 full-time employees and generate combined annual revenues of $84 million.

The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

“We have developed a major medical community in Edinburg that prominently features South Texas Health System,” the mayor said. “South Texas Health System and other local hospitals, private medical practices, medical education facilities, and thousands of other medical and health professionals have found their home in our city, which has become a leader in medical care and education in South Texas.”

About $1.1 million will be invested by STHS for the implementation of a Cerner electronic medical record system (EMR) to serve the Edinburg facilities, with the rest of the money dedicated for upgrades of the heating, air conditioning and cooling systems, equipment replacement and some structural renovations, said Lorenzo Olivarez, Jr., STHS’ chief financial officer. The capital investments will be made during the period of January 2012 through March 2017.

“The Cerner EMR system is one of South Texas Health System’s big investments this year,” Olivarez said.

The technology, developed by Cerner Corporation, is designed to improve administration, reduce costs, and enhance patient safety by enabling physicians, nurses and other authorized users to more effectively share vital medical data, according to the company’s website. For example, the electronic medical record system provides up-to-date patient information, in real time, with decision-support tools for physicians and nurses. Simple commands on portable digital display notebooks, which are linked to the system, allow swift and accurate ordering, documentation, and billing.

EMR is a trend in today’s healthcare industry, which more and more hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare providers are moving toward.

Olivarez added the planned $5.6 million investment is but the latest example of the hospital system’s commitment to prosper with Edinburg.

“We spend a lot of money in our facilities, and this is a way for us to show the city and others in our community how much we spend in this community to improve health care,” he said. “Being nominated by the mayor and city council as an enterprise zone project helps us retain those positions.”

South Texas Health System also operates Edinburg Regional Rehab Center, McAllen Heart Hospital, and McAllen Medical Center, and has a joint venture with local area physicians at Cornerstone Regional Hospital.

South Texas Health System is a wholly owned subsidiary of Universal Health Services. UHS, founded in Pennsylvania in 1978, is one of the nation’s largest healthcare management companies, and is rated as amongst the highest in the hospital services industry.

Through its subsidiaries, UHS operates 231 acute care hospitals, behavioral health facilities, and ambulatory centers throughout the nation. UHS employs more than 65,000 people nationwide.

UHS also participates in supply chain operations that involve oversight of over 100 facilities and and more than 5,000 licensed beds.

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Dr. Glenn Martínez as Vice-President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, Felipe García, and Jaime A. Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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Congressman Hinojosa announces grant of almost $600,000 for science, engineering scholarships at UT-Pan American

By PATRICIA GUILLERMO

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, on Tuesday, February 28, announced that the University of Texas-Pan American was awarded a grant for $597,640 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide 20 four-year scholarships and 12 three-year scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields of computer engineering, computer science, civil engineering, and mechanical engineering.

“This grant will have a direct and positive impact on STEM students who attend UTPA,” said Hinojosa. “This project will serve as a model for other Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI’s) like UTPA, and other minority serving institutions including African Americans, Native Americans and women in the STEM fields.”

The project, entitled A Focused Student Recruitment and Support Model for Attracting Top Achieving Scholars, is under the direction of Arturo Fuentes. It will be used to assist students who are academically talented and students who have financial needs. The goals of the project are to improve educational opportunities for students by combining student preparation with mentoring, tutoring, and research opportunities.

“Striving for educational excellence and providing our students the best opportunities in achieving their goals is our goal,” said Hinojosa. “We are all working to cultivate more Hispanic engineers by increasing our retention rate of students in helping them earn their college degrees.”

The grant is geared to fostering students’ growth and interest in their fields of study.

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UT System regents authorize $1 million purchase of Edinburg business complex to make room for more academics on campus

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

The vacant and former Valley Land Title Company complex, located at 2406 West University Drive in Edinburg, will be utilized to help promote academic goals at the University of Texas-Pan American under a $1 million purchase agreement authorized on Thursday, February 9, by the UT System Board of Regents.

The major goals and best interests of UTPA are closely followed and supported by the Edinburg City Council and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

Valley Land Title Company, which has offices in McAllen, Weslaco, and Sharyland, remains in Edinburg, with its local branch located at 207 West Cano Street.

As part of their quarterly regular board meeting held in San Antonio, the regents approved the recommendation from UTPA President Dr. Robert S. Nelsen to buy the West University Drive property, built in 2002, from Rio Bank, a Texas state banking corporation.

According to the regents’ agenda packet, the almost 11,000 square foot complex, built on an approximately 1.231 acre site, “will be used as administrative offices or other purposes related to UTPA’s mission.”

The vacant facilities feature 6,800 square feet of space on the first floor and 2,000 square feet of space in a mezzanine, a detached building with approximately 2,050 square feet of unfinished climate controlled storage space, and surface parking accommodating 59 vehicles.

The off-campus purchase is designed to help UTPA dedicate more space for academics on campus.

“Current strategic planning efforts have identified a space deficit of over 450,000 square feet on UT-Pan American’s campus,” Nelsen noted in his proposal to the regents. “With a large space deficit and thus no adequate surge space, undertaking future projects to replace or renovate existing buildings on campus can only be done with great difficulty. This building will provide office space for administrative staff and other uses, and will free space on campus for academic uses.”

UT-Pan American will use Higher Education Assistance Fund (HEAF) allocations for the purchase, according to UT System officials.

The property is approximately one-half mile west of the campus – next to BBVA Compass Bank – and is directly linked to UTPA by West University Drive, the major commercial street in and out of the campus, Nelsen explained, adding there are few other office buildings close to campus with adequate parking

The authorized purchase follows related action in January, when – according to UTPA’s Office of Community Relations – the university relocated a number of offices at UTPA’s Administration Academic Support Annex, located at 2412 S. Closner Boulevard in Edinburg, to the Haggar Building, located at 1407 E. Freddy González Drive (northwest corner of Freddy González and Interstate 281) in Edinburg.

The annex will be renovated to house the UTPA Department of Art’s undergraduate and graduate programs. The graduate program is already operating at this location.

Direct access from U.S. Expressway 281 to the Haggar Building is available as well as ample parking adjacent to the building. In addition to the offices, the building will also feature a large multipurpose room and several classroom/meeting rooms.

In late August, the UT System regents gave approval to one of those largest planned construction projects in recent history at UTPA – a $42.6 million, 1,000 seat, 60,000 square foot performance arts center.

The UTPA Fine Arts Academic and Performance Complex had been one of the legislative priorities for the Edinburg City Council and Edinburg Economic Development Corporations, according to Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the five-member EEDC Board of Directors.

The UTPA Fine Arts Academic and Performance Complex, scheduled for substantial completion by October 2014, will replace the aging Fine Arts Auditorium and Fine Arts Annex.

The performance arts center project will involve the demolition of some existing facilities and the renovation of others. The demolition is expected to begin in August 2012 with construction beginning in October 2012.

(Gail Fagan contributed to this article.)

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Dr. Glenn Martínez as Vice-President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, Felipe García, and Jaime A. Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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OSHA announces new national emphasis program to help protect workers employed by nursing homes and residential care facilities

By ADRIANO LLOSA

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday, April 5,  announced a new National Emphasis Program for Nursing and Residential Care Facilities to protect workers from serious safety and health hazards that are common in medical industries. OSHA develops national emphasis programs to focus outreach efforts and inspections on specific hazards in an industry for a three-year period. Through this NEP, OSHA will target nursing homes and residential care facilities in an effort to reduce occupational illnesses and injuries.

In 2010, according to the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing and residential care facilities experienced one of the highest rates of lost workdays due to injuries and illnesses of all major American industries. The incidence rate for cases involving days away from work in the nursing and residential care sector was 2.3 times higher than that of all private industry as a whole, despite the availability of feasible controls to address hazards. The data further indicate that an overwhelming proportion of the injuries within this sector were attributed to overexertion as well as to slips, trips and falls. Taken together, these two categories accounted for 62.5 percent of cases involving days away from work within this industry in 2010. For this NEP, OSHA will target facilities with a days-away-from-work rate of 10 or higher per 100 full-time workers.

“These are people who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are not well. It is not acceptable that they continue to get hurt at such high rates,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “Our new emphasis program for inspecting these facilities will strengthen protections for society’s caretakers.”

Health care workers face numerous serious safety and health hazards, and the NEP will provide guidance to OSHA compliance staff on the policies and procedures for targeting and conducting inspections specifically focused on the hazards associated with nursing and residential care. These hazards include exposure to blood and other potentially infectious material; exposure to other communicable diseases such as tuberculosis; ergonomic stressors related to lifting patients; workplace violence; and slips, trips and falls. Workers also may be exposed to hazardous chemicals and drugs.

The NEP directive can be viewed at:

http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL_03-00-016.pdf.

Information for employers and employees in nursing homes and residential care facilities, including guidance on ergonomics and workplace violence, is available at

http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/nursinghome/index.html

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Key highlights of growth for Edinburg in 2011 featured in annual State of the City Address

On Wednesday, March 7, Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia delivered the annual State of the City Address, which featured highlights of major activities and successes by the Edinburg City Council and its jobs-creation arm, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, during 2011.

His presentation, which was made before a full house at the City Auditorium, follows:

MAYOR RICHARD GARCÍA:

Good morning.

I am truly humbled that so many of you took time out of your busy days to join me  today and learn more about the growth and success of Edinburg. Thank you for being here.

What a year we’ve had in Edinburg. If I had to choose one word to describe the activity that occurred in our city in 2011, that word would be success, which leads me to believe that either someone up there likes us or we’re doing something right.

In all seriousness though, I honestly believe that the hard work of our more than 800 city government employees, along with the  leadership of our City Council and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, are the secrets to our success.

I also believe that we’ve been successful because we offer opportunities: opportunities to attend  one of the best universities in Texas; opportunities to get a job (we welcomed 1,648 new positions last year); and opportunities to set up and operate a business. I am happy to report that many  companies have already taken advantage of those opportunities.

Companies like Don Hugo Produce, which has chosen Edinburg to open an 87-acre produce park that specializes in importing and exporting Mexican produce.

(Transcription follows of video shown to audience)

Narration By Irma Garza,

Director of Public Information

City of Edinburg:

Less than one year after breaking ground and a $15 million investment, the first of four phases  is already complete and operational. Owner and operator José González tell us he’s already contracted with some of the largest produce companies, like Farmers Best, which is the largest  importer and exporter to and from Mexico.

José González

Owner/Don Hugo Produce:

La compañía Westpark Avacado, que es la tercera en volumen en el paiz, la numero una en family owned compañía, ya está aquí con nosotros. Va venir otra compañía, que se llama La  Huerta Productos Congelados de México, le estamos preparando su freezer dónde van estar ellos.”

Narration by Irma Garza

This first phase consists of 227,500 square feet of refrigerated warehouse space and they’ve begun  to hire the first 200 of 1,000 employees who will be needed to operate the planned 1 million square-foot facility. As to why he chose Edinburg, he says this is the opportune location for  anyone wanting to make money and be successful.

José González:

Dicen que la parte más corta entre dos puntos es la línea recta. Este es el mercado más recto a todo el East Coast, a todo el West, a todo el Mid-West, de todo los Estados Unidos. Personas que saben lo que dicen estan dicendo que el 60 por ciento del produce que va por Nogales ahorita para el 2014 van venir aqui, por aqui va a pasar por Edinburg. Aqui va estar por esta área yo se  los dije hace un año se los vuelvo a confirmar ahorita ya se termino el Puente Baluarte el más alto del mundo entre Durango y Mazatlán de sur que se acaba la carretera toda esta mercancía  va estar viniendo por aqui.”

(End of video)

MAYOR RICHARD GARCÍA:

Mr. González, we thank you for choosing Edinburg to expand your already successful business and we’re grateful for the jobs that you are creating.

Another such company is Santana Textiles, one of the top five denim producers in the world.   Construction is now 80 percent complete and they are set to begin producing denim by July or August. This will be Santana’s first plant in the U.S., and we’re glad they’ve chosen Edinburg. As  you’re about to see, much of the outside construction is complete and now the focus is on the inside of the facility, where technicians from around the world are busy assembling the machinery needed to produce and dye the denim.

(Transcription follows of video shown to audience)

Silas Araujo:

Here I can tell you we have the most modern facility in the world. We are bringing to the Edinburg plant machines from Germany, Italy, India, and Japan. We are getting the best equipment and placing them in Santana

Irma Garza:

He says because they will be producing premium denim at this facility that includes the latest in technology and machinery from around the world, it will allow them to produce 60 million meters of denim per year.

As for why they chose Edinburg, he says Edinburg not only provides a quality workforce but it is the ideal location for their type of business.

Silas Araujo:

The strategy is speed to market. The idea to bring (the plant) here is because Texas is the biggest producer of cotton, so we have the gain in logistics. Also, we are going to manufacture premium denim, so this area is very strategic. We can produce jeans at a better cost, and we also can have the  NAFTA/CAFTA agreements that we will use for the next phase of our business.

Irma Garza:

Silas says this plant will serve as a model for future additions as he has no doubt that they will be successful here.

Silas Araujo:

We are working really hard to make it happen. We know how the City of Edinburg is helping  with this project. We know how the people from the Valley are glad to have us here. We’re also very glad, and I can tell you I’m very committed to do this project. We’re going to try to show that a lot of companies can come here. This is just the beginning, so for me, I’m very glad to participate in this project. I can tell you are going to have success here.

(End of video)

MAYOR RICHARD GARCÍA:

Silas, we have no doubt that you are going to succeed here. The City of Edinburg thanks you and  your family for choosing this area. The 800 jobs that Santana is creating for our community are appreciated – as are the 4,000 indirect jobs that your company will create in order to operate.  We have high hopes that by you being here, our area will once again thrive as the leading cotton grower in Texas.

FedEx also recognized the chance for opportunities and brought its ground distribution operations to Edinburg. The delivery company built an $8 million complex at our Edinburg North Industrial Park. The 107,000 square foot facility is home to the company’s entire ground distribution efforts for the Rio Grande Valley, and it quadrupled in size from its previous building in Weslaco. The company employs 120 people and added 60 new positions.

At our airport we are creating opportunities by partnering with U.S. Department of Customs and  Border Protection. In the next few months we will break ground on a Customs Inspections Facility that will allow international passengers and cargo to clear Customs without having to stop  anywhere else. South Texas International Airport at Edinburg, by the way, houses the Texas Department of Public Safety Aircraft Division.

(Transcription follows of video shown to audience)

Irma Garza:

Edinburg is home to The Texas Department of Public Safety’s entire air fleet. DPS runs a fleet of  15 helicopters, one twin-engine helicopter, seven single-engine Cessna’s, and a twin-engine Aero Commander Airplane to protect the area from Brownsville to Laredo.

Lt. Johnny Prince

Aircraft Division

Texas Department of Public Safety

We have a partnership with Edinburg where we use their facilities, fueling and things like these in the Valley. It’s a part of the Valley where we can operate in any direction to the west into  Starr County, where a lot of our operations are conducted, and the western part of Hidalgo County.\\

Irma Garza:

Lt. Prince says the location is ideal for their operations because it allows them to be in the air  within minutes. And that’s important in their line of work. Through its daily operations, DPS has helped boost our Jet-A fuel sales at the airport by more than 600 percent in the last six years.

(End of video)

MAYOR RICHARD GARCÍA:

Thank you DPS. Additionally, GID Express operates daily charter international flights to and from  Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Monterrey and Ciudad Victoria. We also have a flight school out there: Eddie Aviation Services.

Edinburg is also home to the United States Border Patrol. Our city is the headquarters for the  2,500 men and women in green that help protect our border.

(Transcription follows of video shown to audience)

Chief Patrol Agent Rosendo Hinojosa

U.S. Border Patrol, RGV Sector

Edinburg is the perfect match for our sector headquarters because it’s centrally located in the Rio Grande Valley. Obviously, the city’s donation of the land was a contributing factor on why  we’re in Edinburg, but it serves as the perfect divide for our 316 miles of river responsibility that we and our nine stations have.

Irma Garza:

Located off of U.S. Highway 281 and Trenton Road, the RGV Headquarters is home to the combined 2,700 agents and civilians that make up the Border Patrol in this area. Their unwavering efforts have resulted in increases in alien apprehensions during the last 13 months. Chief Hinojosa attributes their success to the added technical infrastructure, camera systems, and an increase in agents, but more importantly, the partnerships they enjoy with other entities.

Chief Hinojosa:

Well, you know, we’ve had a tremendous relationship with the City of Edinburg. We have  relationships with every city but particularly here. My chain of command was at the old auditorium – we just had a promotion ceremony where we recognized 70 plus employees of Office of Field Operations and Border Patrol for their accomplishments.

You guys have always been a tremendous partner for us. It goes beyond friendships. I think it’s a mutual respect. Edinburg is one of those cities that is on the  leading edge. You see The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley across the highway from us. None of that was here when I lived here. When I lived here, I think the Carmike Theater had just come in. Everything was more in the downtown area. But now we’re seeing a lot of growth, which is great because it gives more eating and shopping options. So we’re glad to be in Edinburg.

(End of video)

MAYOR RICHARD GARCÍA:

Well, Chief, I’m happy to report that you’re about to get even more options because The Shoppes  at Rio Grande is currently adding 90,000 square feet that will be open for business very soon. We have Petco, Ana’s Linens, GNC, Melrose and Party City that will be joining this emerging  shopping center. Since its grand opening in 2008, The Shoppes has contributed more than $3.5 million to our economy.

Also contributing to our economy, but more importantly providing quality health care opportunities, is Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. With more than 3,800 employees and 17 medical facilities, DHR is another one of our great partners. In 2011 we came together to build a  facility that is furthering education as a means to prevent illnesses.

(Transcription follows of video shown to audience)

Carlos Cárdenas, M.D.

Chairman of the Board

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance

This conference center that we’re standing in right now would not have happened had it not been for the vision of the city leadership and other members of the EEDC (Edinburg Economic Development Corporation) in Edinburg, who  made this all possible. I think it’s the ability to come together in a strategic way to form partnerships that make sense for the delivery of health care in the community-at-large. No longer are health care facilities strictly just for taking care of inpatients or people who are in the hospital and are ill, but rather to promote education and to promote wellness that help our entire community. That’s what its all about when you’re a community hospital.

(End of video)

MAYOR RICHARD GARCÍA:

The Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance consists of several conference rooms for break- out sessions, a main auditorium that seats 998 and can handle a touring theater company. It is  also equipped with the latest technology that allows for telecommunication broadcasts. This center will be a catalyst for education and community involvement.

Another great partner to the city is Hidalgo County and Judge Ramón García. We are currently  working on several joint projects that involve drainage, street reconstruction, and public safety, to name a few.

As the county seat for the last 100 years, we are working closer together than ever before to ensure that our residents are well served.

(Transcription follows of video shown to audience)

Judge Ramón García:

We’ve teamed up with the City of Edinburg, the City Council, and their economic development corporation, who have been extremely cooperative and generous, in helping us come up with the  resources that we needed to start working on our courthouse master plan. If things go the way that we’ve been talking about, we should have a new courthouse building that will carry us into the 22nd century, hopefully sometime in the next few years.

(End of video)

MAYOR RICHARD GARCÍA:

Judge García says in today’s economic environment, it’s extremely important to pull our resources together and work in tandem as much as possible. We hear you, Judge, and that’s our philosophy too.

We are currently working with the University of Texas-Pan American on several joint projects. If you haven’t noticed, the area of State Highway 107 right in front of the university has a new look, and we’re building a north/south roadway that will make it easier for the 21,000 students and employees to get on and off campus. This roadway is between the new Dairy Queen and El Pato, and will also alleviate congestion on Sprague and Sugar streets.

(Transcription follows of video shown to audience)

Dr. Robert Nelsen

President

The University of Texas-Pan American:

We collaborate in every way that we possibly can. We’re working right now on the roadway  right out front of us. The city is being very, very helpful so our kids are safe. We work closely with the police department. You and the city, you’re wonderful partners.

Irma Garza:

Dr. Nelsen says the recent renovation of the Haggar Building is another joint project with the  city that is giving them needed office and classroom space.

(End of video)

MAYOR RICHARD GARCÍA:

We’re also working with UTPA and the county in order to revitalize our downtown area in a way

that will benefit everyone who lives and visits Edinburg.

The first phase focuses on McIntyre Street, which is close to UTPA, to the Hidalgo County Courthouse, which is the center of all county administrative functions, and to the headquarters of the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, which serves 31,000 students.

The improvements will merge seamlessly with other improvements planned for the downtown  area, including the future construction of a transit terminal at the corner of 6th and University. I am happy to report that we just received word from the Federal Transit Administration, in  cooperation the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, that we have been awarded a $1.5 million grant for the pedestrian and transit improvements on McIntyre.  The McIntyre Streetscape Project will now make our downtown area a desirable destination.

But our goal goes further than that.

The city council and I are working hard to make all of Edinburg a desirable destination.

As you’ve seen and heard here today, there is a lot going on in this town of 77,100 people.

In the last 30 days, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services affirmed its “AA-” underlying rating on the  City of Edinburg’s existing General Obligation Bonds, and Fitch Ratings affirmed its “AA-” rating on the city’s revenue bonds. The rating agencies commented that the city has good financial  management policies, solid financial performance, very strong financial position and low debt burden.

We vow to you that as your city leaders we will continue to make responsible fiscal decisions on your behalf and we will continue to seek out partnerships that will benefit our city and our citizens.

Thank you for your interest in Edinburg and thank you for being here.

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