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Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology Week at UTRGV reminds Texas and nation that “Edinburg is the place to be”, say EEDC leaders

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott spoke at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Featured: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott spoke at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg on Tuesday, October 6, 2015, during Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology Week (HESTEC).
Photograph By DAVID PIKE

Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology Week (HESTEC), held October 4 through October 10 at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, drew thousands of visitors to its hometown, and generated positive regional and statewide attention to the city, which helps create more jobs and additional business, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. The EEDC 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. “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Dr. Bernard Harris, the first African American astronaut to walk in space and a medical doctor by trade, journalist Soledad O’Brien, who is a former CNN and NBC anchor, Telemundo anchor José Díaz-Balar, comedian Paul Rodríguez, and Miss Texas USA Ylianna Guerra were among the numerous renowned figures who shared their talents, insights and wisdom with thousands of Valley students, encouraging them to finish their education, attend college or university, and consider the STEM, medical and information technology fields,” said Mayor Richard García. STEM is an acronym (abbreviation) for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. But the attention generated by such high-profile individuals has both immediate as well as long-term positive economic impact on Edinburg, the mayor noted. “Thousands of people come into Edinburg for HESTEC every year, and we see it in more money being spent by those visitors in our local economy,” said Mayor García. “But as with all major events that are hosted in Edinburg, the eyes of the rest of the state, and throughout the nation are on us. As a result, our residents, visitors, potential residents, business owners, political leaders, and investors are reminded that Edinburg is where the action is, that we are the place to be. That results in more people and businesses wanting to stay here, move here, and invest here.” Mark Iglesias, EEDC Board President – an environmental biologist who is an alumni of The University of Texas-Pan American with a biology degree – said HESTEC this year also drew significant attention to a major new facility which broke ground at the Edinburg campus. “On the first day of HESTEC, university and community leaders celebrated the ceremonial groundbreaking for the $70 million Science Research Building on the Edinburg campus,” said Iglesias. “This is reportedly the largest facility, once it is completed, that will be on the Edinburg campus, spanning 115,000 square feet. But I am confident this is just the tip of the iceberg.” According to UTRGV leaders, the mayor’s and the EEDC board president’s optimism is well-founded and visionary. HESTEC, which was held from October 4 to October 10, 2015, addresses documented concerns that South Texas, Texas, and the country’s scientific and economic stability will face continued challenges without an increase in the number of students entering STEM, medical and information technology fields. From worker shortages, to the loss of high- paying jobs, to the loss of critical research and manufacturing resources, the lack of STEM graduates will have a significant impact on the country. In welcome remarks, Founding UTRGV President Guy Bailey said that, in his long career in higher education, he has never before seen an investment in a university like the one for UTRGV. “Our (UT System) Board of Regents has invested half a billion dollars of PUF money for UTRGV. It speaks to the confidence that the System has in us, and that the State of Texas has in us,” he said. “It is a great time in our history. It is a unique time in our history. And it is up to us to take full advantage of that.” The Permanent University Fund (PUF) is a public endowment that draws its revenues from oil, gas, and land leases to benefit the University of Texas and Texas A&M Systems. Funding for the Science Research Building was approved by the UT System Board of Regents in November 2013. The 115,000-gross-square-foot, four-story structure, designed by the San Antonio architectural firm Muñoz and Company, will be located adjacent to the current three-story science building that was built in 1998, and will complement the existing campus architecture. It will include classrooms, teaching labs, faculty and researcher offices, an instrumentation research and teaching core, and research labs supporting biological and physical sciences, including biology, physics, chemistry, math, pre-med and environmental studies. EEDC Executive Director Gus García, Jr. emphasized that the EEDC and the Edinburg City Council invest in promoting the best interests of UTRGV in Edinburg, both before the Texas Legislature, and in partnership with UTRGV leaders and the UT System Board of Regents. “The EEDC and the Edinburg City Council, through their direct participation, by guiding our state and national legislative consulting firms, and most important, in partnership with our state and legislative delegations, serve as champions for UTRGV in Edinburg in Austin and in Washington, D.C.,” said Gus García, Jr. “A university cannot lot lobby the Texas Legislature, but the Edinburg City Council and the EEDC can, and we do. That is also how we now have a major campus of a UT medical school now under construction in our city.” The planned UTRGV School of Medicine, which is currently constructing a $54 million medical education building, and the existing $20 million Regional Academic Health Center Medical Research Division, which opened in 2006, are both located on a separate 11.6 acre site, formerly administered by the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, all which are now are part of the UTRGV campus and under UTRGV’s governance, the EEDC Executive Director added.

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$70 Million Science Building for UT-Pan American, approved May 14 by UT System Board of Regents, will feature life-saving biomedical research, say EEDC, Rep. Canales, Sen. Hinojosa

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Featured: A section of the $70 million, four-story addition to the Science Building at The University of Texas-Pan American, which received final approval for funding and design development by the UT System Board of Regents in Austin on Thursday, May 14.

Graphics Courtesy MUÑOZ AND COMPANY

A $70 million addition to the Science Building at the University of Texas-Pan American has been approved by the UT System Board of Regents, paving the way for thousands of students a year to receive a cutting-edge education that will lead to professions focused on preventing and treating diseases that cause illnesses and deaths in people, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. Meeting in Austin for a regularly-scheduled public meeting, the nine-member UT System governing board, which includes Ernest Aliseda of McAllen, on Thursday, May 14, gave final approval for the release of funding and of design development for the 115,000-square-foot structure. Anticipated construction start is scheduled for December 2015, anticipated substantial completion will take place by December 2017, and the final completion is expected by February 2018, according to the UT System. “This new facility represents the next big wave of higher education opportunities in Edinburg and for deep South Texas,” said Mayor Richard García. “In addition to the positive economic impact in our community from its construction, it will provide the crucial infrastructure, such as classrooms, offices, suites, works stations, laboratories, and equipment, to increase STEM graduates to 873 a year, and provide 16 additional labs that will reduce the time to graduate.” STEM stands for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Four teaching labs will allow 4,200 students to take courses and labs during the same semester. The overall project will accommodate 16 additional research labs, two classrooms, 42 faculty offices, 11 staff work stations, and eight suites for research assistants. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, STEM-related programs became a national priority in 2011 because too few college students are pursuing degrees in these fields. The U.S. Department of Labor expects that there will be 1.2 million job openings in STEM related fields by 2018, but there won’t be enough qualified graduates to fill them. The EEDC, which is led by García, is the jobs-creation arm of the mayor and Edinburg City Council. The mayor serves as the President of the five-member EEDC Board of Directors, which works with EEDC Executive Director Agustín “Gus” García, Jr. and his staff on major projects, such as new construction and additional degree programs at UT-Pan American. Mayor Richard García and EEDC Executive Director Gus García are not related. Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, President Ad Interim for UT-Pan American, also serves on the EEDC Board of Directors. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, whose House District 40 is home to UT-Pan American, works closely with the city’s elected and appointed leadership, as well as with UT System and UTPA officials, to promote growth and investment at the Edinburg campus, which serves more than 20,000 students. “I wish to commend the University of Texas System Board of Regents for their vision and drive to grow and expand the System’s resources in deep South Texas,” Canales said. “The Science Building (addition) will provide much needed classroom and lab space for the university, while increasing the instructional efficiency for all students of the new University of Texas System institution.” Canales in 2o13 was a joint cosponsor of Senate Bill 24 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, which is combining the resources of UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville into that new institution referenced by Canales, to be known as The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. UT-Pan American will be the largest component of UT-RGV, complete with a full-fledged medical school, at the end of this August, when UT-Rio Grande Valley becomes a reality. “UT-RGV is more than a new university or a new logo, it is a vision for the future of our community. The investments that the UT System Board of Regents has made in the Rio Grande Valley bring with it a new opportunity for our youth to pursue a quality education and work towards a brighter future for them and their families,” Canales said. Michael O’Donnell, Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning and Construction for the UT System, noted that the $70 million addition will also provide the space necessary to increase research capacity for approximately 168 researchers, supporting physical and biological sciences with a focus on biomedical research. Hinojosa, whose Senate District 27 includes UT-Pan American, praised the emphasis on producing more students with high-level biomedical research capabilities. “Biomedical research involves the sciences whose goal is to come up with effective treatments and cures for the most serious afflictions, and just like the School of Medicine that is now under construction in Edinburg, this new addition to our Science Building will produce dramatic advances for all of Texas,” said Hinojosa. “When the upcoming 115,000 square-foot addition is connected to the existing Science Building, we will wind up with a 272,000 square-foot intensive STEM research and learning center. It is going to be an extremely large and impressive state-of-the-art complex.” The building will support 21st-century classroom and teaching pedagogies by providing additional group study rooms, collaboration spaces, huddle rooms located throughout the facility, and flexible classrooms and teaching labs supported with AV and IT technologies for long distance and enhanced learning, O’Donnell added. Rooms will also be designed to support multiple furniture configurations. He noted some of the many complexities of linking the Science Building and the $70 million addition. We are constructing a building on a completed, basically built-out campus. Accordingly, the vision and the decision consistent with the Master Plan to put this building in there, this is as big a building as we could fit in there. It met the needs of the campus as it was designed,” O’Donnell said. “But at the same time, this particular addition is very difficult to build, because we have to do lifts from outside, with cranes, into the facility, into the courtyard, to be able to complete the building.” Despite the challenges of connecting the $70 million addition to the exiting Science Building – including having to import contractors from outside the Valley for considerable specialized work – “this building is going to be built for a 21st century learning,” he said.

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Hidalgo County Judge García raises possibility of courthouse being moved out of Edinburg

State Rep.-elect Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, featured second from left, says South Texans should be much more than just observers when the Texas Legislature returns to work on Tuesday, January 11. Valleyites should be key players in the many legislative battles that will impact the border region – and he’s ready to help his constituents learn how to succeed in the legislative process. "There are going to be tremendous challenges and opportunities that will affect almost every aspect of our lives during the legislative session," Muñoz is encouraging his constituents in House District 36. "Be a participant, not a bystander. No one has a monopoly on good ideas." House District 36 includes Granjeno, Hidalgo, southern McAllen, most of Mission, Palmview, Peñitas, and Pharr. As part of his legislative duties, Muñoz on Friday, December 17, helped The Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce pay tribute to its past by recognizing their former chairmen of the Board of Directors as well as honoring their longest standing members, including Thompson’s Electric Service, which recently celebrated 65 years of continuous membership in the local chamber. Featured, from left: Ismael Estrada, general manager; Rep.-elect Sergio Munoz, Jr; J.C. Thompson, Jr. owner; Ada Manrique, office manager; and Fred Kurth, chairman of the board of directors for the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce. See lead story later in this posting.

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Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa, featured first row, third from left, on Wednesday, December 29, helped present a check totaling $3,000, generated from contributions from her staff members, to the Edinburg  Explorer Fire Post 2002. This latest charitable donation by Hinojosa and her office staff is part of the district clerk office’s Blues for Bucks Workplace Fundraising Campaign, benefiting local charitable organizations. The Explorer Fire Post is a non-profit division of the Boy Scouts of America and is part of the Learning for Life career education program for young men and women who are 14 years of age but have not yet reached their 21st birthday. “Fire Service Exploring” is a worksite-based program that helps youth interested in the field of fire service gain insight through its five areas of emphasis: career opportunities, life skills, service learning, character education, and leadership experience. “Our staff is delighted to contribute to the Edinburg Explorer Fire Post, which is helping to promote growth and development of adolescent youth in our community,” said Hinojosa. “We hope our donation will help to continue engaging our youth in gaining the knowledge and experience necessary for fire service, which is in itself an important contribution to our society.” See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce will host the quarterly Public Affairs luncheon on Thursday, January 13, at the Echo Hotel and Conference Center, located on 1903 S. Closner.  The luncheon will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is $15 per person or $150 for a reserved table of 8. Dr. René Gutierrez, the superintendent for the Edinburg school district, will be the guest speaker, addressing education as the topic. This event is being sponsored by Inter National Bank. For more information or to make a reservation, please call 956/383-4974. Featured promoting the luncheon are, from left: Elva Jackson Garza (Co-chairman for the Public Affairs Committee); Cris Torres (Inter National Bank); Letty González (Edinburg Chamber of Commerce president); Dalia Arce (Inter National Bank); and Johnny Rodríguez (Edinburg Chamber of Commerce chairman). 

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Put on those boots and jeans and dress it up with gems and jewels and attend the 12th Annual Noche de Gala, to be hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, January 22.  The evening will not only have a dinner, dance and silent and live auctions, but it will also have a Las Vegas style casino as part of the evening’s festivities.  Guests will get to play and bid on some big items donated by business people in the communities. The casino will offer poker, roulette, craps and Black Jack.  Professional dealers will man the tables from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Other highlights of the evening will be the awarding of the Posthumous Golden Eagle Award to the late Mike Allen, an economic development leader and South Texas College board trustee who passed away in late August. Scheduled to accept the award on his behalf is Theresa Allen, his widow. Mike Allen was a well-known and respected individual on both sides of the border whose life saw him help people, first as a Catholic priest, then as longtime leader of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation. His dedication to the economic development of both sides of the border, education and humanity are considered as part of his legacy.  For more information on ticket or sponsorship information on the Noche de Gala, please call the RGV Hispanic Chamber at 928-0060. Featured, practicing their Black Jack skills are, from left: Joe Roxx, dealer; and representing the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are Hari Namboodiri, Jeanette Noone, Cynthia M. Sakulenzki and Yoli González.   

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce will host Fiesta Edinburg the last weekend in February, from the 24th through the 27th. Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, a national law firm that has offices in Edinburg and Brownsville, is one of the major sponsors for the event, which will include Jimmy González y Grupo Mazz as the headlining musical act. Jimmy González y Grupo Mazz are scheduled to perform on Saturday, February 26, along with Elida Reyna y Avante plus others. For 43 years, Fiesta Edinburg has been giving people a reason to celebrate the three-time All America City of Edinburg. Featured presenting a check to members of the Fiesta Edinburg Committee are, from left: Josie Ríos (First National Bank); Penny the Pig (First National Bank); Letty Reyes (Edinburg Economic Development Corporation); Rey Garza (HEB on Freddy González Drive); Edward Greaves (HEB on Freddy González Drive); Johnny Harris (HEB on Closner Boulevard); Letty González (Edinburg Chamber of Commerce); Dalia Arce (Fiesta Edinburg Committee member), and Cris Torres (Fiesta Edinburg Chair and board member for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce). See story later in this posting.  

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