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Edinburg EDC, as part of its Business Retention and Expansion Program, and Grindstone Coworking launch application process, with deadline of June 1, 2017, for second round of innovative entrepreneurship development initiative known as the Hive Effect

Featured, from left: Luis Martínez and Christopher Galicia with Bob’s Steak & Chop House in Edinburg join Juan Luis Mussenden, General Manager/Wine Director of Bob’s Steak & Chop House, as they perform some of their key administrative duties on Friday, May 19, 2017 at Grindstone Coworking, located at 506 W. University Drive. The multi-million dollar Bob’s Steak & Chop House is currently under construction at The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg.

Photograph By DANIEL RIVERA

Providing the resources needed by residents to successfully start and run a small business is one of the many services provided at no charge by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. To that effect – both figuratively and literally – the Edinburg EDC and Grindstone Coworking of Edinburg have kicked off the second round of the Hive Effect, an entrepreneur development initiative aiming to help business from the Rio Grande Valley thrive. The Hive Effect is part of the Business Retention and Expansion Program of the Edinburg EDC, which is the jobs-creation of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. (http://edinburgedc.com/services-we-offer/) Applications are being accepted through June 1, 2017 that will offer 15 business owners the opportunity to grow their respective businesses through curriculum, coworking and mentorship. The application process is available online at: http://www.hiveeffect.com/apply. Coworking is generally defined as the use of an office or other working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge. Coworking, which is a cutting-edge approach for sole proprietors and small business owners, is one of the strategies being promoted by the Edinburg EDC to create more successful firms in the city. Even Harvard Business Review gives the concept two thumbs up in a September 2015 article titled “Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces”.  (https://hbr.org/2015/05/why-people-thrive-in-coworking-spaces) “We’re proud of what we accomplished with Hive Effect since its launch last September 2106,” said Daniel Rivera, Director of Grindstone Coworking and Hive Effect. “Our coursework, mentorship and implementation of the coworking concept have helped 10 entrepreneurs achieve great things for their respective businesses and we’re looking forward to introducing a new set of members to our growing community.” Gus García, the Executive Director for the Edinburg EDC, is a leading champion for the Hive Effect. “Small businesses are a staple to helping our economy thrive and with Hive Effect we can help entrepreneurs not only be successful but also contribute to the local economy.” 

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Increased fee planned by Texas Department of Agriculture would hurt small business exporters of citrus and rose products, says Rep. Canales

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Featured: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, on Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at the Medical Education Building in Edinburg, which is a major component of the School of Medicine for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Canales was a cosponsor in 2013 of Senate Bill 24, authored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and sponsored by Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, which created a full-fledged medical school for deep South Texas.

Photograph By ALEX RÍOS

Under a measure being proposed by the Texas Department of Agriculture, which is being opposed by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, small business citrus and rose nurseries throughout Texas would pay dramatically higher fees to the state for exporting their products to the rest of the nation. Canales is the only Valley lawmaker among the 28 state legislators calling on TDA Commissioner Sid Miller, a Republican, to eliminate a proposed fee increase by the state agency for the issuance of phytosanitary certificates, which helps guarantee that plants and plant products exported by Texans are pest-free. The proposed fee increase would especially hurt small business owners, the House District 40 lawmaker noted.

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Senate awaiting action by House of Representatives on $4.6 billion tax cut package endorsed by Sen. Hinojosa

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Featured, center, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, along with Roxanne De La Garza, who serves on Hinojosa’s legislative and McAllen district staffs, greet Alex Ríos, District Director for Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 prior to the groundbreaking of The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley’s $54 million Medical Academic Building in Edinburg, the first new construction for the UT-RGV School of Medicine.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

The House of Representatives is considering a $4.6 billion tax relief package, approved by the Senate on Wednesday, March 25, which its supporters, including Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, say is designed to benefit homeowners and small businesses. Hinojosa is a joint author of Senate Bill 1, Senate Bill 7, and Senate Bill 8, which would give many Texas homeowners a bigger break on their school property taxes, and provide more small business owners with relief from the amount of franchise tax they must pay. “I am proud to joint-author these tax relief bills giving our hard-working families and small business owners much-needed tax cuts,” said Hinojosa. “These bills make good economic sense and will provide critical tax relief on a statewide level for our Texas families so they will be able to keep more of the dollars they earn.” The first measure, SB 1 by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, would decrease school property taxes for homeowners by increasing the homestead exemption, a move which lowers the value of a home for the purpose of paying those property taxes. The result would be reducing school property taxes on the primary residence by about $220 a year over the next two years, according to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Houston. During that period, school districts would be entitled to additional state aid to the extent current formulas do not fully reimburse them for the local tax revenue losses from SB 1. The state would use more than $2.1 billion from the state budget surplus over the next two years to make up for the revenue losses by local school districts. Property tax in Texas is a locally assessed and locally administered tax, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Texas law allows a variety of partial or complete exemptions from local property taxes. A partial exemption removes a percentage or fixed dollar amount of the property’s value from taxation. An absolute or total exemption excludes the entire property from taxation. Currently, all school districts in Texas are required to offer a $15,000 exemption on residence homesteads. But under SB 1, as approved by the Senate, the homestead exemption for school district taxes would significantly improve from its current $15,000 level to 25 percent of Texas home median market value. The exemption amounts are estimated to be $33,625 in 2016 and $35,979 in 2017, according to Hinojosa. “SB 1 will specifically benefit homeowners with immediate and long-term economic relief by raising the homestead exemption and decreasing the property taxes homeowners will have to pay,” Hinojosa said. If SB 1, and a related measure, Senate Joint Resolution 1, also by Nelson, are approved by the Legislature and the governor, a statewide election would be held on Saturday, September 12, 2015, which would give Texas voters the final say on more than doubling the school property tax exemption for homeowners. SJR 1 is the constitutional amendment required to implement SB1, and like all proposed amendments would put the question of the new exemption before the voters in September, according to Texas Senate News, the public information arm of the Texas Senate. SJR 1 also contains language to exempt the state money necessary to cover the cost of the tax cut from the state spending cap. The state constitution forbids the state budget growing faster than the state economy, which Nelson has said in the past hinders the ability of lawmakers to cut taxes. In addition, SJR 1 would constitutionally prohibit the establishment of any tax on real estate sales, thus preventing future Legislatures – without another statewide election – from taxing the sales of homes in order to generate more money for the state government, Hinojosa added. Nelson, who serves as Chair of the Senate Finance Committee – on which Hinojosa serves as Vice-Chairman – also filed legislation to make all tax cuts and debt relief appropriations exempt from the spending cap, but SJR 1 is only a one-time exemption for the estimated $2.1 billion needed to cover the cost of SB 1. The two other tax-relief proposals being championed by Hinojosa are SB 8, which establishes a $4 million total revenue exemption from the state’s business franchise tax for small businesses, and SB 7, which reduces the franchise tax rate by 15 percent for those over the $4 million threshold. “SB7 and SB 8 will similarly give small business owners a tax reduction. Small businesses create jobs and drive our economy; they are the backbone of our Texas economy. For many small businesses struggling to survive, the franchise tax represents an unnecessary and burdensome tax that limits job growth and economic investment,” Hinojosa explained. “SB 8 will exempt more than 61,000 small businesses in Texas that would otherwise pay the franchise tax. These small businesses represent over 52 percent of all businesses in Texas required to remit payment under the current franchise tax structure.” The Texas franchise tax is a privilege tax imposed on each taxable entity formed or organized in Texas or doing business in Texas, with the exception of most sole proprietorships. The owners of businesses which pay the franchise tax receive key benefits, such as liability protections under the state law, where their personal assets can be shielded against potentially-devastating legal judgments against their businesses. A sole proprietorship, on the other hand is an unincorporated business with one owner who pays personal income tax on profits from the business, according to Investopedia.com. With little government regulation, they are the simplest business to set up or take apart, making them popular among individual self contractors or business owners.

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Nelda T. Ramírez appointed Interim Executive Director for Edinburg Economic Development Corporation

A virtual ribbon was cut by South Texas College administrators, officially launching the college’s sixth state-of-the art campus in early August. Although the new virtual campus doesn’t feature beautiful green spaces or ambitious new architecture, what it does offer is something equally exciting and fitting for a new digital age. STC’s newest campus is one of the edgiest of its kind because it is an online virtual campus. STC’s new eSTC Virtual Campus went live on Tuesday, August 9, allowing the college’s over 30,000 students to enroll in one of more than 500 course sections toward earning one of 15 degrees and five certificates – available to earn all online. “The dawn of the Internet in daily life more than two decades ago meant the advent of a new era in the way we live and work; it has transformed every facet of our lives,” explained STC President Shirley A. Reed. “In a brave move that few colleges have dared to take, we are offering every service available to our traditional campus students – all online.” See story later in this posting.

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South Texas College on Thursday, July 28, received approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to offer a third university-level degree: the Bachelor of Applied Technology in Medical and Health Services Management. The new baccalaureate degree prepares graduates for entry to mid-level management positions at health care or medical facilities. Course work focuses on health care facility management principles, technological innovation in delivery of health care services, health information processing technology and government regulations related to health care services. Featured in Austin moments after the state board’s approval are, from left: STC President Shirley A. Reed, Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Mission, and STC Vice President for Academic Affairs Juan Mejía. See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, featured here on January 28 during a legislative tour at the University of Texas-Pan American, on Friday, August 5, announced her bid to seek a fifth two-year term as the state legislator for House District 40, which includes much of Edinburg. “Over the past seven years, I have had the honor and privilege of working for and with people from all different backgrounds, occupations and perspectives,” Gonzáles noted. “I am also grateful for the support I have received from my law firm, friends and residents of Hidalgo County, which make my public service possible. I look forward to continue building upon these relationships and creating new ones to ensure that the next legislative session is a success for District 40.” From right, following last January’s legislative tour’s presentation on border control technology, are: Fred Schwien and Lee Moss with the Boeing Corporation; UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Rep. Gonzáles; and Ray Prewett, Texas Citrus Mutual.” See story on her election bid later in this posting.

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Some of the underwriters and sponsors of the Hobo Hap’nin Reunion, set for Saturday, September 17, recently gathered at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce train depot to finalize the details of the event. Levels of support range from $500 to $5,000, with many benefits and recognition for support extended to enhance the historic train depot that was constructed in 1927. Featured promoting the upcoming event are, seated from left: Letty González, president, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Elva Jackson Garza, representing sponsor Edwards Abstract and Title Co.; and Maggie Kent, representing sponsor General Dentistry Center & RDS. Standing, from left: Marty Martin and Flo Prater, members of the Depot Restoration Committee; Naomi Perales, representing sponsor Texas Gas Service; Sandra Casas, representing sponsor H.E.B.; Edna Peña, representing sponsor Gotta Lovette; and Edinburg City Councilmember Elías Longoria, Jr., member of the Depot Restoration Committee. See story later in this posting.

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Plans are well underway for the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Hispanic Heritage Fiesta & Cook Off scheduled for the Friday, October 7 and Saturday, October 8 at the RGV Livestock Show Grounds in Mercedes. The event will include a sanctioned IBCA cook off with cash prizes totaling more than $10,000. Items to cook are brisket, pork spare ribs, chicken, pan de campo, beans and chef’s choice. In addition, live entertainment will be available all day, vendor’s selling their food, services and goods and a Kiddie Land area. Also, SPI Bikefest will hold a poker run, bike skills contest, and bike show. Featured accepting the sponsorship check from Superior Health Plan are, front row, from left:  Ronnie Bernal, vice chair of Small Business for the RGVHCC; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO of the RGVHCC; Mary Lou Cavazos with  Superior Health Plan; and Marti Miller, vice chair of membership for the RGVHCC. Featured back row, from left: Hari Namboodiri, member of the Advisory Board for the RGVHCC; Rick Álvarez, vice chair of Government Issues for the RGVHCC; and and Brent Smith, treasurer for the RGVHCC. See story later in this posting.

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The Leadership Edinburg steering committee is currently accepting applications for Class XXIII.  All interested applicants should call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974 to register. Leadership Edinburg (LE) is a nine-month program which gives its class members the opportunity to practice their leadership skills and brush up on different community topics that include history, education, healthcare, politics, and quality of life plus a fundraising session and a community service project in which all members of the LE willingly give back to the community. More than 520 graduates have taken the Leadership Edinburg Challenge. Individuals who want more information about Leadership Edinburg may call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974. Featured promoting Leadership Edinburg are members of its steering committee, from left: Jay Flores; Adelita Ozuna; Imelda Rodríguez; Cindy Castillo; Letty González; Flo Prater; and Marty Martin.

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The Edinburg Cultural Activities Board (CAB) has scheduled its first monthly Jardín del Arte for Friday, August 12, beginning at 6 p.m. at Edinburg City Hall, 415 West University Drive. The event, which is free and open to the public, is designed to connect the community to vibrant art, music and culture. Refreshments will be available during the gathering, which will last through 9 p.m. More information about Jardín del Arte, including how artists can submit an application to display and sell their work, can be found at http://www.edinburgarts.com. Anyone looking for information can also call Letty Leija, committee member and Director of the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library, at 956/383-6246.

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Dr. Larry Balli, health care and economic leader, honored for life’s work by Gov. Perry, Legislature

 

Every year, Texas Monthly publishes much-anticipated reviews of some of the state’s best medical, legal, and community leaders, based on a strict and independent research process that identifies Texans who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Dr. Larry Balli, one of the area’s most influential dentists, has long enjoyed a stellar reputation in Edinburg. Late last year, he was bestowed the coveted honor of "Super Dentist" by Texas Monthly, a major statewide magazine with a national following. Now comes news that his professional and civic contributions to the region have earned him praise from Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Legislature, which have approved a legislative resolution publicly recognizing him for his efforts in the Lone Star State. See lead story later in this posting. 

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As the veto period came to a close on Sunday, June 21, Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured here during a McAllen Chamber of Commerce legislative update on Wednesday, June 17, announced final approval of 59 measures that he authored or sponsored. Hinojosa’s legislative package includes bills on transportation, natural resources, criminal justice, infrastructure, and health care issues, benefitting South Texas and the entire state.  See story later in this posting. 

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SOCIALIFE News Magazine, the five-year-old creation of South Texas entrepreneur Pepe Cabeza de Vaca, featured here with Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, has been honored by the Texas House of Representatives for its vital role of promoting a positive image of the Rio Grande Valley and by helping charitable organizations in the state and nation.  The honor, contained in House Resolution 2283 filed by Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, was unanimously approved by House of Representatives on May 25. See story later in this posting. 

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The laboratories at McAllen Heart Hospital and McAllen Medical Center were accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP) after site inspections on April 1 and May 1. Both laboratories received complimentary remarks by CAP inspectors on the quality of patient testing, documentation and organization. The laboratories also received  exemplary marks on their standard of laboratory practices. Featured here are some of the employees of McAllen Medical Center and McAllen Heart Hospital who are instrumental to the quality of care and services the laboratories provide. From left, first row: Dr. Feliberto Cavazos, pathologist; Sobie Treviño, system assistant director; Grace Garza, system lab director; and Robert Tamez, hospital administrator. Second row, from left: Dr. José Luis Valencia, pathologist; Norma Rodríguez; and Lester Alvarado. Third row, from left:  Denisha Niño; Aida Galván; Diana Villarreal; Janice Milford; and Jennifer Ríos. Four row, from left: Elisa Díaz; Mylene Trasmonte; Becky Flores; and Sylvia Aguinaga. Fifth row, from left: Virgil Zuñiga; Robert Hockaday; Alejo Romero; Andy Romero; and Aydee García. See story later in this posting. 

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Hundreds of future South Texas College graduates, such as these featuring during this spring’s commencement exercise, will benefit from a major grant, to be dispersed over the next three years, for expanded development education programs. On Monday, June 22, STC leaders announced that the college has been named as one of 15 national recipients – and only four in Texas – of a new grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MDC, Inc. Together the groups are giving $16.5 million to community colleges across the nation, $743,000 of which will come directly to South Texas College. “At STC we are so happy to receive the funds because it will help us institute a change to the respective course contents in our developmental programs to create learning connections for students among the three developmental education disciplines through contextualization of the curriculum,” said Dr. Ali Esmaeili, dean of developmental studies for STC. “We plan to implement a robust case management student support framework to ensure a consistent and reliable contact experience for all of our developmental students.” See story later in this posting. 

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