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Featured, from left: René A. Ramírez, Founder and President, Pathfinder Public Affairs of McAllen; Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya; Edinburg City Councilmember Richard Molina; Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City; Ramiro Garza, Jr., City Manager, City of Edinburg; and Edinburg City Councilmember J.R. Betancourt, at the State Capitol in Austin for Rio Grande Valley Day on Tuesday, February 10.

Photograph by DIEGO REYNA

With heavy equipment and hundreds of jobs soon to descend upon Edinburg following the Thursday, February 26 groundbreaking for the $68 million Bert Ogden Arena, legislation was filed on Monday, March 2, to bring another major new facility to Edinburg, and with it, the opportunity for more South Texans to become part of one of the highest-paid professions in the nation. House Bill 2097, by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, could lead to the construction of the $50 million Interdisciplinary Engineering and Academic Studies Building at The University of Texas-Pan American, which will be renamed The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in the fall of 2015, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. Canales’ measure is consistent with the long-standing role played by the Edinburg City Council and the EEDC in promoting economic development and a higher quality-of-life through more advances in higher education in the city, said Mayor Richard García, who also serves as President of the EEDC Board of Directors. “We in the Valley have the talent, ingenuity, drive, and intelligence for any profession, job, trade, career, occupation, vocation, employment – you name it, we will excel at it,” said Mayor García. “In the case of the $50 million Interdisciplinary Engineering and Academic Studies Building, it is vital not only for our region, but for all of Texas, which is experiencing a statewide shortage of engineers.” The Texas Workforce Commission has projected that Texas will need 88,000 more engineers and computer scientists over the next decade to continue to attract new businesses and new jobs that will keep the state’s economy healthy, the UT System Board of Regents announced on Thursday, August 24. The $50 million Interdisciplinary Engineering and Academic Studies Building would be built on the campus quad – its open-air courtyard – west of the Edinburg campus’ main library. With engineering among the lucrative professions in the nation, the facility for Edinburg would also meet powerful demands both in the Valley and throughout Texas, said Canales. “The student enrollment in the College of Engineering and Computer Science on the Edinburg campus has increased by 41 percent since 2010 and is on the rise, according to university leaders,” said Canales, whose House District 40 includes the UT-Pan American/UT-Rio Grande Valley and a School of Medicine now under initial construction. “The current engineering building on the Edinburg campus was built to accommodate 1,370 students and enrollment in the college is more than 2,200 students.” Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, said the EEDC and the Edinburg City Council would continue to be champions for UT-RGV and its UT medical school, not only before the UT System Board of Regents, but also at the state legislative levels. “Edinburg’s top leadership, featuring the Edinburg City Council and the EEDC Board of Directors, has a long and distinguished history of proven support and effectiveness for higher education, not only in our community, but Valleywide,” said García. “We know the legislative system in Austin, we benefit from an outstanding state legislative delegation, and we have friends and allies in key places in the UT System. We will be partners in the continuing transformation of UT-RGV into a university of the first-class.” Gus García and Mayor Richard García are not related.

••••••

With construction to begin on $68 million Bert Ogden Arena, Rep. Canales, Edinburg City Council, EEDC now focusing on $50 million engineering building at UT-RGV in Edinburg

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

With heavy equipment and hundreds of jobs soon to descend upon Edinburg following the Thursday, February 26 groundbreaking for the $68 million Bert Ogden Arena, legislation was filed on Monday, March 2, to bring another major new facility to Edinburg, and with it, the opportunity for more South Texans to become part of one of the highest-paid professions in the U.S.

House Bill 2097, by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, could lead to the construction of the $50 million Interdisciplinary Engineering and Academic Studies Building at The University of Texas-Pan American, which will be renamed The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in the fall of 2015, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

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

His legislation, which calls for state approval of a financing mechanism, known as tuition revenue bonds, is part of the state legislative agenda for the city council and EEDC that includes UT-Pan American, UT-Rio Grande Valley, and the UT-RGV School of Medicine, among their top priorities.

The $50 million Interdisciplinary Engineering and Academic Studies Building would help prepare more engineering students at the Edinburg campus while also addressing space requirements for other academic disciplines as needed, according to a synopsis of the project provided by the UT System.

With engineering among the lucrative professions in the nation, the facility for Edinburg would also meet powerful demands both in the Valley and throughout Texas, said Canales.

“The student enrollment in the College of Engineering and Computer Science on the Edinburg campus has increased by 41 percent since 2010 and is on the rise, according to university leaders,” said Canales, whose House District 40 includes the UT-Pan American/UT-Rio Grande Valley and a School of Medicine now under initial construction. “The current engineering building on the Edinburg campus was built to accommodate 1,370 students and enrollment in the college is more than 2,200 students.”

His legislation also provides that if sufficient funds are not available to the UT System Board of Regents to meet its obligations under this proposal, “the board may transfer funds among institutions, branches, and entities of The University of Texas System to ensure the most equitable and efficient allocation of available resources for each institution, branch, or entity to carry out its duties and purposes.”

$50 MILLION UT-RGV FACILITY PART OF CITY COUNCIL, EEDC PRIORITIES

As a result of Senate Bill 24 from 2013, authored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville – and cosponsored by Canales – UT-RGV has access the the Permanent University Fund, which is a $14+ billion asset dedicated to the UT System and Texas A&M System for the purpose of paying for extraordinary facilities and programs not funded through through the Texas Legislature.

SB 24 was one of the key legislative victories for the Edinburg City Council and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation during the 83rd Regular Session of the Texas Legislature two years ago.

Canales’ measure is consistent with the long-standing role played by the Edinburg City Council and the EEDC in promoting economic development and a higher quality-of-life through more advances in higher education in the city, said Mayor Richard García, who also serves as President of the EEDC Board of Directors.

“We in the Valley have the talent, ingenuity, drive, and intelligence for any profession, job, trade, career, occupation, vocation, employment – you name it, we will excel at it,” said García. “In the case of the $50 million Interdisciplinary Engineering and Academic Studies Building, it is vital not only for our region, but for all of Texas, which is experiencing a statewide shortage of engineers.”

The Texas Workforce Commission has projected that Texas will need 88,000 more engineers and computer scientists over the next decade to continue to attract new businesses and new jobs that will keep the state’s economy healthy, the UT System Board of Regents announced on Thursday, August 24.

The $50 million Interdisciplinary Engineering and Academic Studies Building would be built on the campus quad – its open-air courtyard – west of the Edinburg campus’ main library.

“This project (Interdisciplinary Engineering and Academic Studies Building in Edinburg) would create an additional 124,304 GSF (gross square feet) with 80,798 assignable square feet of much needed space. The spaces will include a large lecture auditorium with a 250-seat capacity, several 150-seat lecture halls, 60-seat classrooms, and faculty offices,” noted a UT System synopsis of the project. “The project will also include an outdoor pavilion to be used as a gathering area and study space to relieve pressure on more expensive indoor space and also to support academic events.”

If the tuition revenue bond funding for the Interdisciplinary Engineering and Academic Studies Building is approved by the Texas Legislature later this spring, UT-RGV would provide the $7.5 million balance to reach the projected $50 million cost of the proposed 124,304 GSF (gross square feet) complex.

Once the funding plan clears the Legislature, facility programming would begin in October 2015, with design development approval scheduled for August 2016, leading to occupancy by August 2018.

PROPOSED FACILITY LATEST BIG PROJECT RESHAPING EDINBURG UT-RGV CAMPUS

Canales noted this latest project is in addition to several major facilities already underway at the Edinburg campus.

“In 2013, the UT System authorized funding for the construction of a $70 million Science Building Annex at UT-Pan American and $54 million for a UT medical school academic building next to the Edinburg campus,” Canales said. “This is in addition to the $42.6 million, 1,000-seat Academic and Performing Arts Center at UTPA, also already funded, which is well on its way to being completed.”

Canales’ HB 2097 represents the second major legislation filed so far this session that seeks state approval for the Interdisciplinary Engineering and Academic Studies Building in Edinburg. Senate Bill 21, which includes the funding request not only for that complex in Edinburg, but also for dozens of new construction projects statewide.

The Edinburg lawmaker said he filed HB 2097 in order to have another legislative option in case SB 21, by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, does not make it out of the legislative process. In 2013, Zaffirini filed similar, statewide legislation, only to have it fail at the last minute due to legislative technicalities that were not her fault, said Canales.

“I will support her measure this session as well, because it would include millions of dollars for UT-RGV in Brownsville, as well as billions of dollars in TRB authorization for dozens of new, needed academic facilities in all of our major higher education campuses throughout Texas,” Canales explained. “But by filing my own legislation specific to Edinburg, it provides us another very important option in case statewide politics once again derail Sen. Zaffirini’s excellent proposal.”

In the case of Zaffirini’s SB 21, the $50 million complex in Edinburg is part of a package of proposed major renovations or new facilities at nine UT System campuses, totaling more than $1.5 billion, that also includes UT-Arlington ($310 million), (UT-Austin $205 million), the Brownsville campus of UT-RGV ($155.7 million), UT-Dallas ($194 million), UT-El Paso ($235 million) UT-Permian Basin ($68.4 million) UT-San Antonio ($157.5 million), and UT-Tyler ($76 million).

Most of the money for the UT System’s statewide academic institution projects would come from tuition revenue bonds, which is money generated from tuition charges levied against students or universities. As more students are enrolled, more money from tuition is generated that is used to repay the debt from tuition revenue bonds.

Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, said the EEDC and the Edinburg City Council would continue to be champions for UT-RGV and its UT medical school, not only before the UT System Board of Regents, but also at the state legislative levels.

“Edinburg’s top leadership, featuring the Edinburg City Council and the EEDC Board of Directors, has a long and distinguished history of proven support and effectiveness for higher education, not only in our community, but Valleywide,” said García. “We know the legislative system in Austin, we benefit from an outstanding state legislative delegation, and we have friends and allies in key places in the UT System. We will be partners in the continuing transformation of UT-RGV into a university of the first-class.”

Gus García and Mayor Richard García are not related.

Canales’ measure reads as follows:

By: Canales
H.B. No. 2097

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT

relating to authorizing the issuance of revenue bonds to fund an interdisciplinary engineering and academic studies building at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1. Subchapter B, Chapter 55, Education Code, is amended by adding Section 55.17827 to read as follows:

Sec. 55.17827. THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SYSTEM; ADDITIONAL BONDS.

(a) In addition to the other authority granted by this subchapter, the board of regents of The University of Texas System may acquire, purchase, construct, improve, renovate, enlarge, or equip property and facilities, including roads and related infrastructure, for an interdisciplinary engineering and academic studies building at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to be financed through the issuance of bonds in accordance with this subchapter, including bonds issued in accordance with a systemwide revenue financing program and secured as provided by that program, in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $42.5 million.

(b) The board may pledge irrevocably to the payment of bonds authorized by this section all or any part of the revenue funds of an institution, branch, or entity of The University of Texas System, including student tuition charges. The amount of a pledge made under this subsection may not be reduced or abrogated while the bonds for which the pledge is made, or bonds issued to refund those bonds, are outstanding.

(c) If sufficient funds are not available to the board to meet its obligations under this section, the board may transfer funds among institutions, branches, and entities of The University of Texas System to ensure the most equitable and efficient allocation of available resources for each institution, branch, or entity to carry out its duties and purposes.

SECTION 2. This Act does not affect any authority or restriction regarding the activities that a public institution of higher education may conduct in connection with a facility financed by bonds authorized by this Act.

SECTION 3. This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution. If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2015.

Under Zaffirini’s SB 21, the Brownsville campus of UT-RGV had the following projects approved for inclusion in the UT System statewide campus construction plan:

• $50,600,000

Multipurpose Academic Center
UT-RGV, Brownsville Campus

The project will add an academic facility with a total of 177,527, GSF. The facility will include 132,527 GSF for much needed classrooms for science, biology, chemistry, environmental sciences, and physics and an additional 45,000 GSF will provide space for general purpose classrooms.

294,955 GSF is currently being leased from Texas Southmost College and other private property owners. The lifespan of the leases is between two and six years; therefore, UTRGV Brownsville campus has an urgent need to begin to construct new buildings for classroom space, science labs and student support services to meet current enrollment needs.

• $50,400,000

Fine Arts and Classrooms Building
UT-RGV, Brownsville Campus

This project will construct a Fine Arts and Classroom building with a total of 155,174 GSF to provide music education teaching space and general purpose classrooms. This space is needed to replace space that is currently being leased from Texas Southmost College. It will provide some additional space to accommodate student enrollment. The facility will include 30,000 GSF of flexible learning spaces to serve not only music education but other disciplines as well.

• $54,700,000

Student Success and Administrative Building
UT-RGV, Brownsville Campus

This project will construct 181,715 GSF for a Student Success and Administrative Building. A total of 154,282 GSF is needed to replace space that is currently being leased from Texas Southmost College and provide additional space to accommodate student enrollment in the areas of student support and services.

Included will be 27,433 GSF for learning enrichment spaces that would include collaborative spaces equipped with technology to interact with students located in any of the locations of UT-RGV.

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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, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, and Steven Edward Cruz, II. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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