Select Page

South Texas International Film Festival (www.stxff.us) bringing to clear view the potential value – through local productions of movies and videos for television – on economic development for Edinburg and South Texas

Photograph By DIEGO REYNA

Featured, from left: Letty Reyes, Director of Business Development and Public Affairs, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Jonathan Torres, Production Specialist and Event Coordinator, City of Edinburg; and Leticia S. Leija, Director of Library and Cultural Arts, City of Edinburg, who are among the Board of Directors of the South Texas International Film Festival, which will be held on Friday, August 21, and Saturday, August 22, at several prime locations in Edinburg. The other members of the Board of Directors of the South Texas International Film Festival are: Magdiel Alfonso, Arts Coordinator, City of Edinburg; Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Letty González, President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Dahlia Guerra, Dean, Department of Arts and Humanities, The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg; José Alberto Navarro, Consul for Political & Cultural Affairs, Consulate of Mexico in McAllen; Imelda Rodríguez, Director of Tourism for the Edinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau; Valente Rodríguez, Actor, Producer, Director, former star of The George López Show; Larry Safir, Member, Board of Directors, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, and former Executive Vice President, Entravision Communications Corporation; and Luis Enrique Suner, Filmmaker and Journalist, El Mañana;
Photograph By DIEGO REYNA

Known as the “Movie Capital of the Valley” in the late 1960s, Edinburg’s cultural life has been seen as a symbol of the city’s vitality and ingenuity. From the movie theaters in the 1930s and 1940s to the TV revolution in the 1950s, then advancing with cable TV, personal computers, the Internet, the cellphone and electronic tablet innovations, Edinburg’s creativity transforms and re-forms with the changing times. The informal title as “The Movie Capital of the Valley” was built on a rich history of film venues in Edinburg going back decades, and the visual arts continue even stronger today, with the impressive, 84,000-square-foot Carmike 20 Cinema, the groundbreaking Cinemark Movie Bistro, and the upcoming inaugural South Texas International Film Festival (www.stxff.us), which is set for Friday, August 21, and Saturday, August 22, at several prime location in the city. The South Texas International Film Festival will bring into clear view the potential value, in terms of economic development, of increasing local productions of movies and home videos in Edinburg and the Rio Grande Valley. The South Texas International Film Festival– of which the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is a sponsor – will showcase the abundant regional talent of filmmakers, producers, actors, and related professional staffs, and promote the city and the region as a premium site for national and international movies to be filmed. The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, of which Mayor Richard Garcia is President of its five-member Board of Directors, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. In addition to the EEDC, the other major sponsors and organizers of this landmark two-day event include The City of Edinburg, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, Edinburg Arts, and the Consulado de México en McAllen (Mexican Consulate in McAllen). Why consider feature films, documentaries, and other visual works of art as economic development tools? Agustín “Gus” García, the Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, explains the potential links between Hollywood, the home of the U.S. motion picture industry, and American hometowns, such as Edinburg. The many positive benefits of clustering creative businesses was explained by Jamie Bennett, Director of Public Affairs for the National Endowment for the Arts, said Gus García (no relation to the mayor), who cited the following perspectives: “A theater has 1,000 people show up at eight o’clock and leave at eleven o’clock. A museum might have 1,000 visitors spread out over the course of an eight-hour day. A rehearsal studio might have 30 people coming and going every hour over 12 hours,” said Bennett. “You put the three different organizations in proximity to one another and, all of a sudden, you have a full day of positive foot traffic on a street — feet that belong to people who need to eat meals, buy newspapers, go shopping and take public transportation. You have every mayor’s dream.” Investing in human capital “is immeasurable,” Gus García continued, and that is why the Edinburg EDC is a champion for developing human capital and in supporting projects that help a community prepare its future leaders. Mayor García contends that the role of arts and culture in shaping community-wide prosperity is a priority for the city. This includes the direct and indirect employment effects of the arts and culture. “Today’s workforce seeks certain characteristics in the places they choose to live. Places with entertainment options, public interaction, lively streets, and recreational and educational amenities are preferred, along with arts and culture activities and amenities,” the mayor said. “Leaders in the field of planning and economic development are developing noteworthy, creative approaches to making places of any scale more satisfying to this workforce, while increasing economic viability and competitiveness. This new collaboration between business owners is resulting in increased economic vitality and sense of community between merchants as well as residents, and Edinburg EDC, the Edinburg City Council, and our many partners in the public and private sectors want to capture them all.”

•••••• (more…)

Edinburg retail economy from January through May 2015 up more than six percent over same period last year, according to Texas comptroller

Edinburg retail economy from January through May 2015 up more than six percent over same period last year, according to Texas comptroller

Featured, from left: City Councilmember David Torres; City Councilmember Richard Molina; Mayor Richard Garcia; Richard Ruiz, President, RMR Inc., dba Ruiz Sales; Laura S. Ruiz, Accounts Manager, Ruiz Sales; Mayor Pro Tem Homer Jasso, Jr.; and Councilmember J.R. Betancourt, on Tuesday, June 2, at Edinburg City Hall.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Edinburg’s retail economy from January through May 2015 was 6.19 percent better than the same period last year, generating $11,748,113.94 in local sales taxes, compared with $11,062,277.87 from January through May 2014, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. The EEDC, led by Executive Director Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. This latest showing is the second-best – in terms of the rate of improvement – among all of the Valley’s major cities for the first five months of 2015, based on the findings of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, which on Wednesday, July 8, released statewide figures, which represent the most up-to-date data information by that state agency. Among its many duties, the Texas Comptroller’s office is the state’s chief tax collector, accountant, revenue estimator and treasurer. For the month of May 2015, the Edinburg retail economy generated $1,561,948.68 in local sales taxes, up 2.88 percent over the May 2014 showing of $1,518,208.18. Mayor Richard García (no relation to Gus García, Jr.), who is President of the EEDC Board of Directors, explained that the amount of local sales taxes collected helps reflect the strength of an economy, along with construction activities, per capita income, education, historical performances, and related trends. The local sales tax is used in Edinburg to help pay for many city services, while the EEDC uses its one-half cent local sales tax to help generate economic development in the city. 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). The sales tax figure represents monthly sales made in May by businesses that report tax monthly, sent to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts in June, and returned as sales tax rebates to the respective local government entities in July. The positive growth by the Edinburg economy reflects the importance and impact of family-owned businesses in the community. On Tuesday, June 2, the Edinburg City Council honored one of the many pioneer families whose firms have have succeeded, both as a business and as a leader in community service. Ruiz Sales, distributor of fresh fruits and vegetables, located at 1902 West Canton Road in Edinburg, is the creation and legacy of a family with more than 100 years of experience in that profession. “We specialize in tropical fruits such as mangos and limes, which are available year around from Mexico and South America,” according to its website, http://www.RuizSales.com. “We work with only the best growers and shippers to bring you only the best fruits and vegetables available on the market today.” Richard M. Ruiz and has wife, Laura S. Ruiz, both attended the city council session in early June to receive the city proclamation recognizing their family business. For details of the May 2015 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

•••••• (more…)

South Texas International Film Festival in Edinburg to help the film arts become major economic generator for the city and Valley

South Texas International Film Festival Board of Directors

South Texas International Film Festival Board of Directors featured, from left: Letty Reyes, Director of Business Development and Public Affairs, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Magdiel Alfonso, Arts Coordinator, City of Edinburg; Leticia S. Leija, Director of Library and Cultural Arts, City of Edinburg; Jonathan Torres, Production Specialist and Event Coordinator, City of Edinburg; Dr. Dahlia Guerra, Dean, Department of Arts and Humanities, The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg; Luis Enrique Suner, Filmaker and Journalist, El Mañana. Not pictured are Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; José Alberto Navarro, Consul for Political & Cultural Affairs, Consulate of Mexico in McAllen; Letty González, President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; and Imelda Rodríguez, Director of Tourism for the Edinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. Photograph By DIEGO REYNA

On Friday, August 21, and Saturday, August 22, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation – which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council – will host the South Texas International Film Festival, which will “showcase the work of visionary filmmakers from all over the world, and feature local, regional and international films that have a unique voice and style,” said Mayor Richard García, who serves as President of the EEDC Board of Directors. “We are bringing a home to the film arts in our region, and in doing so, proudly display the tremendous homegrown talent we have in South Texas, provide the educational courses, know-how, and generate the business connections to foster creativity in our local film industry, which can help our economy continue to flourish and diversify,” the mayor explained. From 2008 to 2012, there was $147 million spent in Texas by the movie industry, and that financial impact is expected to continue growing significantly, according to the Texas Film Commission. The Texas Film Commission (TFC) was created in 1971 by then Gov. Preston Smith, who found that it was “in the social, economic and educational interest of Texas to encourage the development of the film-communication industry,” according to the Office of the Governor. Since then, the TFC has expanded to include the television, commercial, video game, animation and visual effects industries. “Part of our goals for the South Texas International Film Festival is to lay a strong and enduring foundation that will help bring millions of dollars in new investments to our home region from U.S. and international film production companies of all sizes,” García noted. “The Valley has a wide range of terrain, beautiful beaches, isolated stretches of land, the Gulf of Mexico, and a perfect climate to make movies.” Equally important, the mayor emphasized, Edinburg and the Valley are bilingual and bicultural, and are a modern metropolitan region of more than 1.4 million residents,“guaranteeing that movie stars and the films’ production staffs from English- and Spanish-speaking nations would feel right at home in deep South Texas.” Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation goes on to further explain the direct link between filmmaking – which is part of what is known as the “creative industries” – and job-creation and prosperity in a community or region. “‘Creative industries’ provide direct economic benefits to states and communities,” said Gus García (no relation to the mayor). “They create jobs, attract investments, generate tax revenues, and stimulate local economies through tourism and consumer purchases. These industries also provide an array of other benefits, such as infusing other industries with creative insight for their products and services and preparing workers to participate in the contemporary workforce. In addition, Gus García continued, because creative industries such as filmmaking enhance quality of life, the arts and culture are an important complement to community development, enriching local amenities and attracting young professionals to an area. “The arts and music are vital to Edinburg’s and the Valley’s economic health. When we talk about the importance of the arts, we have to mention the ripple effect of a strong, vibrant creative economy — one rich in cultural diversity and artistic excellence,” he said. “Creative communities attract creative residents, and businesses reap the benefits of a creative workforce. CEOs and hiring managers overwhelmingly identify ‘creativity’ as a vital skill when recruiting new employees.” Throughout history, the City of Edinburg has always been an advocate for the arts as they adapt and mold into an ever-changing society of social and cultural conditions,” the EEDC Executive Director reflected. “Today, Edinburg finds itself well-positioned to continue serving the needs of our artists and audiences,” Gus García noted. “As the pace of change accelerates, the Mayor, Edinburg City Council, and Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors and staff are prepared to maintain our commitment to the arts, and to continue to play a leading role in our cultural community.” All events will be held in three high-profile locations in Edinburg, including at the Edinburg Municipal Auditorium, the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Performing Arts Complex, and the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. The schedules and updates for the film festival are available online at http://www.stxff.us

•••••• (more…)

New law, championed by Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and Rep. Canales, to help bring more jobs and benefit businesses

 

Photograph By DIEGO REYNA

Featured from left: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; and Carlton Schwab, President and CEO, Texas Economic Development Council, earlier in the spring in the Extension of the Texas Capitol.
Photograph By DIEGO REYNA

A last-minute parliamentary move by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, will result in the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in property tax payments that will now be invested into jobs-creation and business development in the city, Mayor Richard García has announced. Although the number is not immediately available of the economic development corporations in Texas which had been paying property taxes, as of Fiscal Year 2013, there are more than 700 nonprofit corporations in Texas which collect and administer their respective one-half cent economic development sales tax, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The new law goes into effect on September 1. The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, governed by a five-member board of directors which features the mayor as president, is led by EEDC Executive Director Agustín “Gus” García, Jr. (no relation to the mayor). “When Gus came on board as EEDC executive director, one of the first projects he brought to the city council and the EEDC Board of Directors was the need to remove the EEDC, which is a public entity, from having to unfairly pay property taxes to other local governments,” the mayor said. “The state law that required the EEDC to pay property taxes was vague, so we supported Gus’ decision to have legislation filed to clear up that confusion. One government entity should not be paying property taxes to another government entity.” The payoff for the EEDC, which derives much of its revenue from the local one-half cent economic development sales tax, will be significant, said Gus García. “In 2012, the EEDC was paying more than $440,000 in local property taxes. This immediately triggered the question, ‘Why’?” Gus García explained. “I made some inquiries, and quickly discovered the law wasn’t clear on whether we – a government entity – should be paying property taxes.” The EEDC executive director took his findings to the city’s top elected and appointed leadership, seeking their support to have state legislation filed to resolve the controversy. “I visited with everyone of our board members, the city council and city manager,” Gus García said. “We make it a point to keep lines of communication open so that we are all on the same page when it comes to the legislative needs of the community.” The Hidalgo County Appraisal District, the government entity headquartered in Edinburg, whose powers include determining the market value of taxable property, has the authority to rule on exemptions and special valuations authorized by local entities and the State of Texas. Rather than wait until legislation could be filed, Gus García convinced the Hidalgo County Appraisal District to determine that the EEDC did not have to pay property taxes after all. “We visited with the appraisal district last year, and they were very interested in helping us. They, too, understood the contradiction of paying taxes with taxes,” he said. “As a result, in 2014, we saved approximately $330,000 because we did not have to pay property taxes.” But the uncertainty of the language in state law meant that legal challenges could still be filed against the appraisal district’s action favoring the EEDC, so the Canales’ legislation – House Bill 2305 – would still be needed, Gus García contended. With the help of René A. Ramírez, owner of Pathfinders Public Affairs, which is the EEDC’s and Edinburg City Council’s state legislative consulting team, the Canales’ measure was coordinated for drafting and filing for action by the Texas Legislature in early spring. But the measure remained stalled before the House Ways & Means Committee, with the necessary committee public hearing never being scheduled because that House panel was overwhelmed with 394 other bills requesting action. As Canales worked on dozens of other major issues, ranging from setting up a branch campus of South Texas College in the Delta Region to helping secure almost $100 million in new funding for the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine in Edinburg, the state lawmaker kept a sharp eye on amending other state legislation to include the goals of HB 2305. An amendment involves adding new language to a bill, which is an especially difficult challenge on the House or Senate floors during the final days and hours of the legislative session. But Canales was tracking House Bill 1905 by Rep. Drew Springer, R-Gainesville, which proposed eliminating certain other state and local taxes, and HB 1905 was almost certain to beat the legislative deadlines. “I went to Rep. Springer, explained the goals of HB 2305, he agreed with us, and he allowed me to add the key language of HB 2305 to his HB 1905,” Canales reported. “The need for change that was brought up by the EEDC, specifically by Gus García, drew overwhelming support in the Texas Legislature, and on Saturday, June 20, this very important piece of legislation, with statewide impact, was signed into law by the governor.”

•••••• (more…)

Edinburg retail economy, for April 2015 and for first four months of 2015, registers 4.45 percent and 6.72 percent improvements, EEDC announces

 

Featured, from left: Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Mark Iglesias, Vice President, EEDC Board of Directors; Mayor Richard H. García, who also serves as President of the EEDC Board of Directors; Harvey Rodríguez, Treasurer, EEDC Board of Directors; and Rolando “Ronnie” Guerra, Sr., Secretary, EEDC Board of Directors, following the State of the City Address by the mayor on Wednesday, May 27 at the Edinburg City Auditorium. Richard W. Ruppert, who rounds out the five-member EEDC Board of Directors, was appointed by the Edinburg City Council in early June and thus not included in this portrait. Photograph By DIEGO REYNA

Featured, from left: Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Mark Iglesias, Vice President, EEDC Board of Directors; Mayor Richard H. García, who also serves as President of the EEDC Board of Directors; Harvey Rodríguez, Treasurer, EEDC Board of Directors; and Rolando “Ronnie” Guerra, Sr., Secretary, EEDC Board of Directors, following the State of the City Address by the mayor on Wednesday, May 27 at the Edinburg City Auditorium. Richard W. Ruppert, who rounds out the five-member EEDC Board of Directors, was appointed by the Edinburg City Council in early June and thus not included in this portrait.
Photograph By DIEGO REYNA

Edinburg’s retail economy for the month of April 2015 was 4.45 percent better than the same month last year, generating $1,582,767.61 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,515,235.89 in April 2014, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC, led by Executive Director Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. This latest showing is the second-best among all of the Valley’s major cities for April 2015, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, which on Wednesday, June 10, released statewide figures, which represents the most up-to-date figures information for that state agency. Edinburg’s rate of improvement also is better than the average of all city economies in the state, which combined showed an increase of 1.2 percent when comparing April 2015 with the same month last year, the state comptroller’s office also reported. Year-to-date, the Edinburg economy is 6.72 percent ahead of 2014, having produced $10,186,165.26 from January through April 2015 in local sales taxes, compared with $9,544,069.69 during the same period last year. Mayor Richard García (no relation to Gus García, Jr.), who is President of the EEDC Board of Directors, explained that the amount of local sales taxes collected helps reflect the strength of an economy, along with construction activities, per capita income, education, historical performances, and related trends. “The EEDC is pleased to report that additional hotels, restaurants and quality-of-life projects are currently in negotiations, and we will have many more announcements to come later this year,” the mayor said during his State of the City Address on Wednesday, May 27. “All these projects will add to the city’s sales tax collection, allowing us to do more for our community, because every penny we get goes right back into ongoing and needed projects through the city.” Throughout Edinburg, the Edinburg City Council and EEDC Board of Directors continue putting in play sweeping plans to keep the local retail economy in an upward swing, including a major project involving mass transit. That vision “will bring us a multi-use transit facility that will be the first-of-its-kind in Edinburg,” Mayor García reported. “The architectural design has been approved, so we anticipate it will move rapidly.” Working with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, the Edinburg City Council and the EEDC secured a $2.7 million federal grant to build that 35,000 square-foot complex, which will be located between West University Drive and 6th Street, which will link Edinburg City Hall and The University of Texas-Pan American (which will be renamed UT-Rio Grande Valley beginning for the Fall 2015 semester). “Once complete, the facility will serve as home to Valley Metro, which is the city’s transit provider, and combine public and private transit service with office space, restaurants, and a potential rail line, as well as parking levels, bringing traffic and life closer to our town square after 5 p.m.,” the mayor said. The multi-use transit facility is part of the dramatic transformation of McIntyre Street, known as “Las Ramblas: Paseo Cultural”, which designates the renovated pedestrian-oriented pathway that links the cultural, retail, educational and governmental landmarks in and near the city’s downtown square. “Las Ramblas: Paseo Cultural is now open and thousands of people have been enjoying it while attending one of the many art and cultural events and festivals that have been held there, such as Jardín de Arte, Festiva, Trio Tardeada, Tree Lighting, Cinco de Mayo, to name a few,” the mayor added. EEDC Executive Director Gus García, Jr. said the transit facility “sets the future in motion by allowing people to use mass transportation so they can save those dollars, get a good paying job, education, and move up. People can have transportation to get here, and then just walk to City Hall. We are going to have stores and shops to promote walkability.”

•••••• (more…)