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Nelda T. Ramírez, a proven leader, accepts three-year contract to continue leading Edinburg Economic Development Corporation

An eight-story, 254,000 square foot new courthouse, featured here in this preliminary draft rendition by ERO Architects of McAllen, could become a major county and city landmark in downtown Edinburg. Prompted by serious overcrowding issues facing the existing Hidalgo County Courthouse, a 30-member advisory committee, appointed several months ago by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, has been charged with contributing their vision for an ideal courthouse facility that would encompass the current needs and projected growth anticipated in the next 10 years, as well as take into consideration all fundamental and desired elements of design, structure and function. ERO Architects is preparing a comprehensive review and analysis of what to do with the existing, almost 60-year-old Hidalgo County Courthouse, which would remain in use. The Hidalgo County Courthouse Master Plan Committee is scheduled to hold its next public meeting on Wednesday, January 18, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the International Trade and Technology Building at the University of Texas-Pan American. The work of the committee, including historical background, general project documents, and photographs, is available free and online to the public by logging on at: https://sites.google.com/site/hcchmasterplan/

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Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, featured front row, fourth from right, on Wednesday, December 21, was joined by area elected leaders and other constituents from his House District 36 for the official grand opening of his legislative district office, located at 121 E. Tom Landry in Mission. The ribbon-cutting ceremony doubled as an open house for the office, which has been open to the public since mid-January 2011. Among the dignitaries joining Muñoz were, to his right: Mission Mayor Norberto Salinas; and to his left: Mission Mayor Pro Tem Leo Olivarez, Sr.; Mission Councilman Rubén Plata; and Mission Councilwoman Norie González Garza. Muñoz believes the next legislative session, which begins in January 2013, should have a balanced approach to tackle key issues related to jobs, education and health care, and work together to provide a better future for communities and families. More information on Muñoz is available on his legislative website: http://www.house.state.tx.us/members/member-page/?district=36

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South Texas College has partnered with two Mid-Valley manufacturing companies to provide job training using a $234,629 Skills Development Fund Grant from the Texas Workforce Commission. The business partners include Rio Grande Container Inc. and Wood Crafters Home Products, L.L.C. “This is a great day for Weslaco and STC. The college is committed to creating jobs, economic development, and one of the strategic directions of the college is to serve as the catalyst for regional economic prosperity and social mobility,” STC President Shirley A. Reed said. “That means bringing jobs to the Mid-Valley and helping you be prepared to take advantage of those jobs so that you can really earn a good living for you and your family. That’s really what South Texas College is all about.” Featured at the check presentation, first row, from left: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Ronald Congleton, TWC Commissioner Representing Labor; Weslaco Mayor Miguel Wise; STC President Shirley A. Reed; and Samuel Lugo, WoodCrafters Executive Vice President of Finance. Back row, from left: Wanda F. Garza, Executive Officer for North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative (NAAMREI); Jesse Villarreal, Member, South Texas College Board of Trustees; Monte Churchill, Campus Coordinator, STC Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco; Teresa Rodríguez, WoodCrafters Corporate Social Responsibility Manager; and Gary Gurwitz, President, Board of Trustees, South Texas College. See story later in this posting.

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Valley veterans on Thursday, December 22, met in Harlingen with Lawrence A. Biro, Network Director of the Heart of Texas Health Care Network, and Danna Malone, Interim Director of the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System, for updates on federal legislation designed to secure funding for an inpatient VA Hospital for deep South Texas. “Many South Texas veterans were hoping for good news on the Veterans Administration Hospital issue. No luck,” reported Arturo “Treto” Garza, one of the veterans who participated in the gathering. “However, we did get straight talk from Biro.” Biro, as network director of the VA Heart of Texas Health Services, manages the local VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health System Services (VATVCBHS). As such, he is overseeing the expansion of the surgical center in Harlingen. Featured, from left: Lawrence A. Biro; Danna Malone; Arturo “Treto” Garza; Joe Ibarra; Pete Prax Garza; and Rubén Cantú. Garza, a columnist for http://www.Rio Grande Guardian.com, offers more details on the December 22 session later in this posting.

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Leti Nava, featured second from left, recently collected a $16,000 check in lieu of a 2011 vehicle as her grand prize during a recent raffle sponsored by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In addition, the Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Vannie Cook Cancer center each received a $1,000 donation from proceeds from the local chamber’s Fall Raffle. Profits generated from the event will help with the new Program of Work that the RGVHCC has planned for 2012. More workshops to assist small and women-owned businesses are scheduled as well as health, education and cultural events. Additional information on the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce may be obtained by calling their office at 956/928-0060 or by visiting their website at http://www.rgvhcc.com. Present for the check presentation are, from left:  Ronnie Bernal, RGVHCC Vice Chair of Small Business and Economic Development and chairman of the Fall Raffle; Leti Nava, Fall Raffle grand prize winner; Ray Cantú, accepting for Vannie Cook Cancer Center; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and chief executive officer, RGVHCC; and Iván Quiñonez, accepting for Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation.

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Regal Beloit Corporation (Regal Beloit) of McAllen recently received the Employer Award of Excellence for the Texas Workforce Solutions (TWS), Lower Rio area, which includes Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy counties, during the Texas Workforce Commission’s 15th Annual Texas Workforce Conference. The Employer Award of Excellence honors employers that are actively involved with their local workforce board and have made a positive impact on employers, workers and the community. Regal Beloit is a global manufacturing company with an advanced manufacturing facility that specializes in die casting and metal stamping of rotors and stators for electric motors. Featured, front row, from left: Mike Willis, Executive Director, South Texas Manufacturers Association; Yvonne “Bonnie” González, Chief Executive Officer, TWS; Lupita Almasri, Human Resources Manager, Regal Beloit; Elsa de Alba, Plant Manager, Regal Beloit; and Dalinda Guillen, Chair, Board of Directors, TWS. Back row, from left: Edna Posada, Member Representing the Private Sector, TWS; Noel Benavides; Board Member Representing Adult Basic Education, TWS; Dr. Ida H. Acuña-Garza, Board Member Representing Adult Basic Education, TWS; Aurelio “Keter” Guerra, Board Member Representing Public Assistance, TWS; and Irma Hulen, Board Member Representing the Private Sector, TWS. Texas Workforce Solutions (TWS) comprises the Texas Workforce Commission, a statewide network of 28 Workforce Development Boards for regional planning and service delivery, their contracted service providers and community partners, and the Texas Workforce Commission unemployment benefits tele-centers. This network gives customers local access to workforce solutions and statewide services at numerous TWS offices and six tele-centers. See story later in this posting.

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Some of the latest works of area artist Paul Valadez from his In the Age of Mascots efforts will be on display in Edinburg on Friday, January 13, as part of January’s Jardín del Arte, sponsored by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation – the jobs creation arm of the Edinburg City Council – and The City of Edinburg’s Cultural Activities Board. Valadez, who is a full-time lecturer in the Art Department at the University of Texas-Pan American, will be joined by Kim Snyder of Keytar Dreamz, plus a dance performance by Dancer’s Creative Motion, an organization at UTPA. The January 13 gathering, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the City Hall Courtyard, 415 W. University.  Food and beverages will be sold by participating Edinburg restaurants such as El Jinete, Corina’s Tea Room, La Pesca, and La Cocinita. They will feature tamales and hot chocolate, fajita tacos, shrimp cocktails, and much more. See story later in this posting.

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Douglas A. Matney, group president for South Texas Health System based in Edinburg, has been re-elected to the Texas Hospital Association’?s Board of Trustees, effective Sunday, January 1. This will be his second three-year term. Matney, who has more than three decades of health care experience, has been in his current position since 2007. He previously served as chief executive officer of Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso. In addition to previously serving on the THA Board of Trustees, Matney served on THA?’s Council on Policy Development. A member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, he received the Senior Level Healthcare Executive Regent?s Award in 2004. Matney earned a bachelor?s degree in health systems from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He also attended the University of Florida in

Gainesville where he earned a master?s degree in health science and a master?s degree in business administration.

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Nelda T. Ramírez, an 11-year-veteran with the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, on Thursday, December 15, was unanimously selected by the EEDC’s governing board to serve as its Executive Director, which will allow her to continue leading that key entity for the next three years. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. Ramírez is featured here following the EEDC board action with Mayor Richard García (left) and Jaime A. Rodríguez, the newest member of the EEDC Board of Directors. She pledged that her performance would continue at the highest levels. “We will continue the momentum with all the projects we have on the table right now,” Ramírez said. “We are hoping to see a lot more announcements in the next year to come, and a lot of big projects that will not only benefit the city, both economically and strategically, but continue to feature Edinburg on the map.” Her selection was unanimously approved by the EEDC governing board, which in addition to the mayor – who serves as president of the EEDC Board of Directors – and Rodríguez, includes Dr. Glenn Martínez as Vice-President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Member.

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Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP has recovered almost $3.3 million in back taxes for City of McAllen in past two years

Alonzo and Yoli Cantú, with Alonzo’s mother Elida Cantú  and sister Elvia Sáenz, established two family endowments at the University of Texas-Pan American in memory of Hilda Cantú Garza and Guadalupe Cantú. Funds from The Hilda Cantú Garza Endowed Scholarship at the College of Education go to assist education majors, while The Guadalupe Cantú Endowed Scholarship at the College of Business Administration goes to help business majors. Featured at a recent luncheon joining scholarship recipients with the donors are, from left: Saúl Tamez of Edinburg, Guadalupe Cantú Endowed Scholar; Zachary Manuel of Edinburg, Hilda Cantú Garza Endowed Scholar; Cantú family members Elvia Sáenz, Yoli Cantú, Alonzo Cantú, and Elida Cantú; and Guadalupe Cantú Endowed Scholars Alheli González of Edinburg, Rebecca Velasquez of Pharr and Alejandra Borrego of Alamo. See story later in this posting.

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Mike Allen, 72, whose extensive credentials and achievements included serving as the District 3 representative on South Texas College’s Board of Trustees, passed away in McAllen on Wednesday, August 25. Allen, featured here during a recent graduation ceremony at STC, lived a remarkable life of service, according to area leaders. Hidalgo County Judge René A. Ramírez credited Allen for doing "so many positive things for the residents of Hidalgo County, the Rio Grande Valley and the entire border region. He spent his entire life advocating for the education, transportation and economic development needs of our region." Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, who was a founding member of STC’s Board of Directors in the early 1990s, also publicly shared his sentiments regarding Allen. “I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend, Mike Allen," said Hinojosa. "I have known Mike for many years. I knew him when he was a priest who was always looking for ways to help people in the community. He was a tireless advocate for economic development and higher education." See story later in this posting.  

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"You guys need a hospital, you really do" Mrs. Dolia González of Edinburg, the mother of Medal of Honor Recipient Sgt. Alfredo "Freddy" González, recently rallied members of the Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley during that group’s meeting on Sunday, August 22, at the ECHO in Edinburg. Mrs. González, featured seated, second from left, is a longtime champion for veterans issues in deep South Texas, and she promised to continue supporting the effort to bring a Veterans Administration Hospital to the Rio Grande Valley "as long as my health allows it." Posing with Mrs. González are some of the members of the Veterans Alliance. Seated, from left: Arturo Treto Garza, co-chair of the Veterans Alliance; Mrs. González; Irene T. Garza, historian for the Veterans Alliance; and Udelia Cortéz. Standing, from left: Mike Escobedo; Adelaido Cantú; Homer Gallegos, chair of the Veterans Alliance; Joe Ibarra; and Rey Molano. More information on the Veterans Alliance is available online at ValleyVets.ning.com. See story later in this posting.  

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Armed with a $50 gift card, a volunteer chaperone, and two hours to make selections; 100 club members from the Boys & Girls Club stormed JC Penney Edinburg on Monday morning, August 30, shopping for clothes for the new school year. Thanks to volunteer shopping buddies from Edinburg Rotary Club, First National Bank, and Azteca Millings, it was easy for club members to pair the right shoes, shirts and pants for the right price. “The kids learn from shopping buddies what things are acceptable for school and what’s not, and they learn to budget,” according to Sabrina Walker-Hernández, Chief Professional Officer. “Also it’s a great way for the kids to spend time with a caring adult.” In this photograph, Edinburg Rotarian Elias Longoria helps club members select the right shoes as a part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV Shopping Spree and Back to School Education Rally. See story later in this posting.

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The 2010 Edinburg Home Buyers and Business Expo, set for Saturday, October 2 at the ECHO, will have a new twist as the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the Expo Committee. All Edinburg chamber members are invited to join the revamped event, which will include services and education for home buyers as well as the perfect opportunity for local businesses to capture a large group of shoppers at one location. The Edinburg Home Buyers & Business Expo committee met recently to begin strategizing and planning details for upcoming event. Featured in this photograph are several Expo Committee members. Seated, from left: Letty González, the president of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Elva Jackson Garza, Vice President/Marketing Officer with Edwards Abstract and Title Co. who is serving as chairwoman of the Expo Committee; and Flo Prater, Rio Valley Realty. Standing, from left: Imelda Rodríguez with the Edinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau; Verónica Guerrero with the City of Edinburg; Marty Martin with Rio Valley Realty; and Edna Peña with Horizon Properties. See story later in this posting.  

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Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 through October 15 in the United States. The McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce traditionally celebrates this occasion with a Student Art Contest for middle school and high school students enrolled in 37 school districts and 24 charter school campuses in Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr, Web, Willacy, Zapata, and Jim Hogg counties. Students must draw a rendition of how they interpret Mi Cultura or “My Culture” on any medium of their choice. A panel of professional art judges will review the art work and judge in both categories of Beginning and Advanced art students. Prizes will awarded in the Best in Show, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place at a reception on October 14. Entries are judged on creativity and talent. The winning art work is displayed in Washington, D.C. in the Capitol offices of Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen. The deadline to submit entries is Thursday, October 7. Details on the competition are available by contacting the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at 956/ 928-0060. Featured, from left, displaying some of the previously submitted art work, are: MHCC board member Yoli González; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, MHCC president and CEO; and MHCC board members Armando Garza; Roxanna Godínez; and Ronnie Bernal. 

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When Valente Rodríguez (featured third from right) graduated from high school, one of his teachers encouraged him to start college right away. But Rodríguez gave his teacher many excuses, including that he did not have the money to enroll in classes. That’s when his teacher helped find him a $100 scholarship from a community organization from Rodríguez’ hometown of Edcouch. "That $100 scholarship introduced me to this whole other world and was the opening of the door that led me to where I am now," said Rodríguez, an alumnus of The University of Texas-Pan American and a Hollywood actor best known for his role as Ernie in the George López Show. He also has appeared in many films including Erin Brokovich and It’s Complicated. He credits UTPA and its faculty with his success and several years ago decided to pay it forward to help university students just like him. Rodríguez, who was back in the Rio Grande Valley this summer working on his master’s degree in theatre and film at UTPA as well as some film projects, recently contributed $10,000 to the university’s Theatre Special Account to help its theatre/TV/film program. Featured, from left: Tom Grabowski, associate professor of communication; Janice Odom, vice president for University Advancement; Dr. Dahlia Guerra, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities; Dr. Marian Monta, professor emeritus of theatre; and Dr. Timothy Mottet, professor of communication and chair of the Department of Communication. See story later in this posting.

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