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Photograph By PAUL CHOUY

Featured, from left: William H. McRaven, Chancellor of The University of Texas System; Janet Ogden Vackar and Robert “Bob” C. Vackar, owners of the Bert Ogden Auto Group, which began in Edinburg and spread Valleywide; and Dr. Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, on Wednesday, May 18, 2016. The UT System and UTRGV were celebrating a donation of $15 million by the Vackars to UTRGV by naming its business college the Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship. The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, along with the City of Edinburg, also promotes the best interests of UTRGV and the UTRGV School of Medicine through its extensive legislative lobbying efforts before the UT System Board of Regents, the Texas Legislature, and Congress.

Photograph By PAUL CHOUY

Edinburg’s retail economy during April 2016 had the best rate of improvement – 3.05 percent – over the same month last year among the Valley’s major cities, while by comparison, cities statewide reported a combined average decrease of 1.2 percent in April 2016 compared with April 2015, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. A growing economy in the city is influenced by the hard work ethic of the community and by the generosity of business success stories in the city, such as the Vackar family, whose last name on wife Janet’s side of her family, is set to grace the Bert Ogden Arena currently under construction in southeast Edinburg, and which will be the largest entertainment venue in South Texas.The Vackars – owners and principal dealers of the Bert Ogden Auto Group, which includes 13 dealership locations housing 16 individual franchise lines across the Valley – both grew up in the Valley, the children of entrepreneurs who owned Edinburg-based businesses and inspired dedication to hard work and community service.

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Edinburg’s retail economy registers best monthly rate of improvement among Valley’s major cities for April 2016, reports Edinburg EDC Executive Director Agustín García, Jr.

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Edinburg’s retail economy during April 2016 had the best rate of improvement – 3.05 percent – over the same month last year among the Valley’s major cities, while by comparison, cities statewide reported a combined average decrease of 1.2 percent in April 2016 compared with April 2015, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

These figures are based on sales made in April 2016 by businesses that report tax monthly.

The local sales tax figures are among the latest economic barometers showing positive growth in Edinburg, and are featured included in a detailed summary provided by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, which released retail sales figures on Wednesday, June 8, 2016.

Among its many duties, the Texas Comptroller’s office is the state’s chief tax collector, accountant, revenue estimator and treasurer.

The local sales tax is used in Edinburg to help pay for many city services, while the Edinburg EDC uses its one-half cent local sales tax to help generate economic development in the city.

The amount of local sales taxes collected also helps reflect the strength of an economy, along with construction activities, per capita income, education, historical performances, and related trends.

The Edinburg EDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council.

The Edinburg EDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Ruppert as Members.

Among the Valley’s largest cities, Edinburg’s retail economy from January through April 2016 was 3.64 percent better than January through April 2015, with Pharr posting the best rate of increase for that same four-month period, with a 5.85 percent improvement.

Based on local sales taxes generated, McAllen had the best showing in terms of revenue for April 2016 ($4,371,442.69), followed by Brownsville ($2,629,843.14), Harlingen ($1,751,774.02) and Edinburg ($1,631,159.72).

During the first four months of 2016, Edinburg’s retail economy produced $10,557,400.47 in local sales taxes, compared with $10,186,165.26 for January through April 2015, representing an improvement of 3.64 percent.

For April 2016, Edinburg’s retail economy generated $1,631,159.72 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,582,767.61 during the same time in 2015, representing the improvement of 3.05 percent, also according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

The sales tax, formally known as the State Sales and Use Tax, is imposed on all retail sales, leases and rentals of most goods, as well as taxable services. Texas cities, counties, transit authorities and special purpose districts have the option of imposing an additional local sales tax for a combined total of state and local taxes of 8 1/4% (.0825).

HOW OTHER VALLEY CITIES, COUNTIES PERFORMED FOR APRIL 2016 AND JANUARY THROUGH APRIL 2016

Based on the amount of sales taxes generated, according to the state comptroller’s office, the Valley’s major cities ranked accordingly in the following local sales tax figures, both April 2016 and for January through April 2016:

April 2016 compared with April 2015

McAllen: $4,371,442.69, down 8.53 percent compared with April 2015 ($4,779,422.77);
Brownsville: $2,629,843.14, down 7.85 percent compared with April 2015 ($2,854,152.11);
Harlingen: $1,751,774.02, down 0.56 percent compared with April 2015 ($1,761,804.49);
Edinburg: $1,631,159.72, up 3.05 percent compared with April 2015 ($1,582,767.61);
Pharr: $1,429,149.05, up 0.33 percent compared with April 2015 ($1,424,396.56);
Mission: $1,137,783.34, down 3.27 percent compared with April 2015 ($1,176,249.19); and
Weslaco: $921,184.69, down 0.31 percent compared with April 2015 ($924,081.21).

January through April 2016

McAllen: $31,478,847.24, down 4.51 percent compared with January through April 2015 ($32,965,628.63);
Brownsville: $18,982,592.46, up 2.57 percent compared with January through April 2015 ($18,506,057.98);
Harlingen: $11,547,366.18, up 2.74 percent compared with January through April 2015 ($11,239,063.95);
Edinburg: $10,557,400.47, up 3.64 percent compared with January through April 2015 ($10,186,165.26);
Pharr: $8,423,276.53, up 5.85 percent compared with January through April 2015 ($7,957,232.36);
Mission: $7,631,374.30, down 0.78 percent compared with January through April 2015 ($7,691,663.99); and
Weslaco: $6,038,093.31, down 3.57 percent compared with January through April 2015 ($6,262,106.16).

All cities in Hidalgo County reported a total of $11,489,220.14 in local sales taxes during the April 2016 period, compared with $11,880,630.13 in April 2015, a decrease of 3.29 percent. Year-to-date (January through April 2016), all cities in Hidalgo County registered $77,804,153.50 in local sales taxes, compared with $78,267,122.71 for the same four months in 2015, a decrease of 0.59 percent.

Hidalgo County government does not collect a local sales tax.

All cities in Cameron County generated $5,337,581.24 in local sales taxes during April 2016, compared with $5,606,854.54 in April 2015, a decrease of 4.80 percent. Year-to-date (January through April 2016), all cities in Cameron County registered $36,672,755.06 in local sales taxes, compared with $35,421,142.39 for the same period in 2015, an improvement of 3.53 percent.

Cameron County government does not collect a local sales tax.

All cities in Starr County produced $399,434.66 in local sales taxes during April 2016, compared with $432,288.91 in April 2015, a decrease of 7.60 percent. Year-to-date (January through April 2016), all cities in Starr County registered $2,815,315.18 in local sales taxes, compared with $2,778,851.47 for the same period in 2015, an increase of 1.31 percent.

Starr County government does not collect a local sales tax.

All cities in Willacy County produced $88,340.20 in local sales taxes during April 2016, compared with $131,918.43 during the same month in 2015, a decrease of 33.03 percent. Year-to-date (January through April 2016), all cities in Willacy County registered $786,958.27 in local sales taxes, compared with $779,809.36 for the same period in 2015, an increase of 0.91 percent.

Willacy County government does not collect a local sales tax.

For details of the April 2016 local sales tax figures for all cities, counties, transit systems, and special purpose taxing districts, locate the Monthly Sales Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports at the comptroller’s website:

http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/allocsum/compsum.html

UTRGV RECEIVES $15 MILLION DONATION – MOST GENEROUS IN VALLEY HIGHER EDUCATION HISTORY – FROM HOMETOWN SUCCESS STORY ROBERT C. VACKAR

A growing economy in the city is influenced by the hard work ethic of the community and by the generosity of business success stories in the city, such as the Vackar family, whose last name on wife Janet’s side of her family is set to grace the Bert Ogden Arena, currently under construction in southeast Edinburg, and which will be the largest entertainment venue in South Texas.

On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, the UT System and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley celebrated a donation of $15 million by Robert “Bob” C. Vackar to UTRGV by naming its business college the Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

The Vackars – owners and principal dealers of the Bert Ogden Auto Group, which includes 13 dealership locations housing 16 individual franchise lines across the Valley – both grew up in the Valley, the children of entrepreneurs who owned Edinburg-based businesses and inspired dedication to hard work and community service.

Many of the country’s leading business schools and colleges have a name tied to them that honors someone who supports the institution’s missions and wants to ensure student success.

On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley joined the ranks of those institutions when it announced it was naming its business college to the Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship, in honor of the South Texas automobile dealership magnate and longtime supporter of UTRGV and its legacy institution, UT Pan American.

The naming of the college marks the university’s gratitude, after receiving a $15 million donation from Vackar, CEO of the Bert Ogden Auto Group, to establish an endowment benefitting the College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

It is the largest single donation in the history of higher education in the Rio Grande Valley.

“To say that this is a historic moment in the history of our university is a dramatic understatement,” said UTRGV President Guy Bailey. “This is a game changer for us.”

Bailey said the donation will allow the university to recruit the best and brightest faculty and students to UTRGV.

“Words cannot express our gratitude as an institution,” he said. “Our gratitude as an institution will be expressed in the success of our students for generations and generations to come.”

The announcement was met with multiple standing ovations from the many well-wishers who attended the announcement at the UTRGV Performing Arts Complex on the Edinburg Campus on Wednesday afternoon, May 18.

VACKAR, OGDEN FAMILIES’ APPRECIATION OF VALLEY AND ITS PEOPLE

Vackar said the donation was a token of his family’s appreciation of the Valley and its people.

He told the story of how his father, who owned a lumber mill in the Valley, and his father-in-law, who owned a car dealership, didn’t have college degrees, but they both had a strong work ethic and the support of the community.

“The reason they were successful is because the people of the Rio Grande Valley embraced both of those gentlemen and made them successful, and we realize that we’re successful because the people in Edinburg and in the Rio Grande Valley embraced us and we love the people in the Rio Grande Valley and appreciate everything you’ve done for us,” Vackar said.

Vackar and his wife, Janet, later would own and expand the Bert Ogden dealership. They have hired many alumni from the university. He said the people he has hired from the Valley are among the most qualified and have a strong work ethic.

It all comes down to the Valley and the people we love,” he said. “We’re very proud to be involved and be at the forefront of the College of Business and Entrepreneurship.”

William H. McRaven, Chancellor of The University of Texas System and a retired four-star Navy admiral, thanked Vackar for his generosity and said this gift will transform the university and the Rio Grande Valley.

“When you think about the people who will graduate here, the generations and generations that will come through the Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship, you realize that today is the start of something special,” he said. “You’ll look back five years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now, 100 years from now, and you will have influenced thousands and thousands and thousands of young men and women. You will have changed and shaped the Valley forever.”

After the event, Dr. Mark Kroll, Dean of the Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship, called the endowment a major milestone for the college and the university.

“Most major business schools around the country are endowed and named,” Kroll said. “We work to keep our costs down for our students, but it also takes resources to build a world-class business school. So you have to bridge those two goals. Gifts like this make it possible to keep costs relatively low, and at the same time, build the quality of the college.”

JANET VACKAR: FATHER’S PASSION “WAS THE STUDENTS”

This is the second gift the Vackar family has given UTRGV this year.

In January 2016, they donated more than $2 million for scholarships.

The gift, presented at a press conference Tuesday, January 12, 2016, at the Performing Arts Center on the Edinburg Campus, will create two scholarship endowments for academically qualified undergraduate and graduate students, who are working while going to school; $1 million will go to each endowment.

“This is very close to my heart because I kind of grew up down the street,” Janet Vackar said during the Tuesday, January 12, 2016 gathering announcing their two scholarship endowments.

“My dad opened his first car dealership on University Drive. I hung out there and knew his passion was the students. They were his great customers. And also the faculty would come and buy from him,” Janet Vackar recalled.

She said the public relations and marketing aspect of their business is her passion, so it was important for her to help mass communication students reach their goals. Her marketing skill has, over the years, branded her father’s long-ago shout out – “Dale Gas!” – as a legendary and long-lasting refrain across South Texas.

“There is a lot of growth here, and we can make this an even better university than it is already,” she said.

Robert Vackar, who early on worked alongside his father at Vackar Lumber & Supply in Edinburg, credited much of the auto group’s recent success to the performance of the many university graduates they have employed, with more than 80 of them hired the past year alone.

“One of the things that has driven us to do this is not just the growth we’ve had, but because of the students we have hired from UTRGV. They have done remarkably well. We have been able to move many of them into jobs that make them 10 to 15 years ahead of where they should be in their careers. They have been exceptional. We couldn’t have done this without them,” he said.

Bob met Janet by chance in Houston, after he had graduated with a degree in business from Texas A&M University, served in Vietnam in the U.S. Army and worked at Shell Oil.

He brought his innovative sales skills and business acumen to the union.

After the death of both of Janet’s parents in an automobile accident, Bob assumed the role of dealership principal and operator in 1992. Since then, Bert Ogden has grown to be the largest automobile dealership in South Texas, with locations in Mission, McAllen, Edinburg and Harlingen and more than 700 employees.

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Jennifer L. Berghom and Gail Fagan contributed to this story. For more information on the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://edinburgedc.com or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

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