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Speaker Straus accepts requests from Rep. Canales, EEDC, for joint legislative hearing on impact of Mexican energy reform on Valley and Texas economies

Edinburg’s retail economy in April 2014 showed an improvement of almost 19 percent over the same month last year, leading all major Valley cities, which also showed big gains, Edinburg Mayor Richard García, featured third from right, has announced. Edinburg’s most recent economic showing is almost double the average of all Texas cities, which came in with a 10.7 percent monthly increase over April 2013, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Based on the amount of local sales taxes collected, which reflects the strength of an economy, Edinburg’s retail sector generated more than $1.5 million in local sales taxes in April 2014, compared with almost $1.3 million in April 2013. For the first four months of 2014, Edinburg’s retail economy also posted a double-digit upswing over the same period last year, generating $9,544,069.69 in local sales taxes, compared with $8,488,722.44 for January through April 2013 – a rise of 12.43 percent. García, who also serves as president of the five-member Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors (EEDC), said the April 2014 and January through April 2014 year-to-date figures reflect Edinburg’s reputation as a preferred city in which to set up a business, work, and live. “When I say our ‘growing community’, I mean specifically a community growing at a rate of 5.3 percent since the last 2010 census,” the mayor reported. “Today, Edinburg is ranked the third largest city in the Rio Grande Valley with almost 85,000 residents after the annexation of 2,200 acres this past year. Edinburg continues its commitment to attracting and building quality of life projects like the new $8.5 million Parks, Recreation and Wellness Center that is currently under construction at South Park. Four gyms, one which will be a practice gym for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers as well as for the Houston Rockets.” Featured from left on Tuesday, July 1 at Edinburg City Hall, are: Cynthia Contreras Gutiérrez, General Counsel, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Nelda T. Ramírez, Assistant Executive Director, EEDC; Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director, EEDC; Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, Interim President, The University of Texas-Pan American and Member, Board of Directors, EEDC; Renata Marques, Attorney-at-Law, Max Paul and Associates in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Max Paul, Attorney-at-Law, Max Paul and Associates, Rio de Janeiro; Mayor Richard García, President, Board of Directors, EEDC; Fred Palacios, Secretary-Treasurer, Board of Directors, EEDC; and Steven Edward Cruz, III, Member, Board of Directors, EEDC. Max Paul is the President of the Texan Chamber of Commerce in Brazil. See story about Edinburg’s retail economy later in this posting.

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As tens of thousands of unaccompanied children flee violence in Central America in a desperate effort to join family members in the U.S., Texas must take more active roles in helping protect them while the federal government deals with the growing “humanitarian crisis” along the U.S.-Mexico border, including in the Valley, says Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. “In America, we do not turn a blind eye to the powerless, the weak, the sick, and especially to innocent children,” said Canales. “In Texas and in the Valley, we do not blame people for being victims.” In a related development, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on Wednesday, June 18, announced the appropriations of $1.3 million a week, until the end of 2014, for the Texas Department of Public Safety to conduct law enforcement surge operations to help the plight of these children and to protect them and Texas citizens from any criminal elements which seek to exploit this tragedy, Canales added. “I applaud the decision by state officials to provide additional funding to assist the Rio Grande Valley in what has become a humanitarian crisis,” Canales said. “We need real solutions to cope with the recent immigration surge in deep South Texas.” Straus, who was in Edinburg on Tuesday, June 17, called the situation along the Texas-Mexico border “a very serious problem. “Tens of thousands of young people have come into the United States, often from Mexico and Central America. This rush of young migrants has overwhelmed federal officials and could make the border region more vulnerable to criminal activity such as drug trafficking and human smuggling operations,” Straus said. “I was in the Rio Grande Valley earlier this week and visited with border patrol officers and state and local law enforcement officials about the situation on the ground and the effect of this influx on security efforts.” Featured, during a Saturday, June 14 legislative briefing at the Border Patrol holding facilities in McAllen, are, from left, bottom to top: Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. Featured, on right, second and third from the bottom, respectively: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Palmview; and Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García.

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Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Palmview, featured right speaking with McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, was appointed on Wednesday, July 2, by Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, to the Select Committee on the Fiscal Impact of Texas Border Support Operations. The special legislative panel will examine the short- and long-term budgetary effects of addressing increased activity along the Texas-Mexico border by thousands of undocumented immigrants from Central America fleeing violence and poverty in their nations. Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, also was appointed to that legislative panel. Muñoz, who was addressing the McAllen mayor on Tuesday, June 17, at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, said the thousands of Central American immigrants, especially children and their mothers, prompted the state’s top leadership to call for a surge of Department of Public Safety (DPS) Troopers along the Rio Grande Valley border region. Among its duties, the DPS is conducting law enforcement operations. The committee will monitor the costs of those operations and other services associated with increased border crossings. “It is quite an honor to accept this appointment and get right to work on these very pressing issues that are directly affecting our communities in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Muñoz. “It will be my priority to devise a system that rewards the great work that is being done by our local governments and communities by reimbursing the significant costs they bear by supporting what is ultimately a federal responsibility. A federal reimbursement revenue stream will allow our state and local governments to sustain the response to the humanitarian crisis and provide for adequate border security.” See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-Harlingen, featured left, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Palmview (not in this image), have announced that a task force has been created to develop The Rio Grande Valley Regional Alert System, which is designed to help law enforcement agencies find missing or kidnapped residents or criminals involved abductions. Currently there are 17 regional alert systems across Texas – but not in the Valley – serving a majority of Texans by providing alerts in those respective regions. Lucio and Muñoz on Tuesday, June 11 met in Weslaco with law enforcement, emergency management, and bridge officials from across the Rio Grande Valley to discuss the progress of the Regional Alert System for the Rio Grande Valley. “It’s important to understand that we are not trying to replace the current state alert systems that exist now,” Lucio explained. “Every department we have spoken to has acknowledged a need to create a regional alert system that would help during the crucial, critical hours of a person being reported missing.” In this photograph, taken on Tuesday, June 17 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, Lucio and Ernest “Ernie” Aliseda of McAllen, who serves on the nine-member University of Texas System Board of Regents, greet constituents. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg’s unemployment rate for May 2014 was 6.1 percent, the best showing in the city for that month since May 2008, and the second-best figure for all cities in May 2014 in the Rio Grande Valley, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. In addition, Edinburg’s labor force was the third largest in the Valley, with 33,485 persons employed in the city in May 2014. The area’s two most populous cities, Brownsville and McAllen, posted larger numbers with 63,313 and 58,523 individuals, respectively, employed in May 2014. For the month of May 2014, only McAllen (5.8 percent) had a better figure than Edinburg (6.1 percent), while the other major communities in the Valley had unemployment rates that ranged from 6.7 percent in Harlingen to 8.9 percent in Brownsville. The Valley’s three other most populous cities also had unemployment rates for May 2014 in single-digits: Mission (6.8 percent), Pharr (7.3 percent), and Weslaco (8.2 percent). These latest figures were released on Friday, June 20, by the Texas Workforce Commission, which is the state agency charged with overseeing and providing workforce development services to employers and job-seekers in Texas. The ongoing favorable employment figures for Edinburg are consistent with what Mayor Richard García, who also serves as President of the EEDC Board of Directors, envisions for this year. “So what is next?” the mayor, featured second from right on Wednesday, February 26, asks rhetorically. “What is on the horizon tomorrow for Edinburg?” Among planned and ongoing projects which will lead to more jobs in the coming months are: a series of master planned, multi-family, luxury projects with full amenities (pools, sauna, office and recreational space, and gyms); a slew of important road and infrastructure projects, including the expansion of FM 1925 (Monte Cristo Road), that will also connect to 10th street, converting it a five-lane roadway; and hotel developments for Edinburg, including a Holiday Inn Express, located at the corner of Closner and Trenton, which features a new prototype design for Texas, and set to open in early 2o15. The site also will include a restaurant pad site. The planned construction of a $70 million University of Texas-Pan American Science Complex and a $54 million University of Texas medical school classroom facility in Edinburg will boost job numbers once those projects get underway in earnest in the coming months. Featured, from left: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Dr. Francisco Fernández, Dean of the School of Medicine at UT-Rio Grande Valley; Mayor Richard García; and Councilmember Richard Molina. See story later in this posting.

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Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Wednesday, June 26, was appointed as Chairman of the Subcommittee to Study the Potential Closures of State Supported Living Centers (SSLCs). Texas houses 13 SSLCs that are state-run residential facilities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They are campus-based 24-hour direct services facilities that are overseen by the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS). “We need a solution that recognizes the critical services that SSLCs provide to so many of our residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, but that also addresses the safety and quality control issues, the aging infrastructure, and the enormous budget costs associated with running these facilities,” said Hinojosa. “I am honored to chair this subcommittee and am looking forward to a coordinated approach with members and stakeholders to develop a plan that will set up criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of these SSLCs while at the same time improving community-based services.” The South Texas senator is featured here on Thursday, April 24, being interviewed in Edinburg by Zoraly Nuñez-Ramos with Noticias 48, KNVO-TV of McAllen. See story later in this posting.

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More students at The University of Texas-Pan American will get an extra boost toward achieving their dream of a law career thanks to a generous grant from The Texas Bar Foundation to support the University’s Law School Preparation Institute (LSPI). The $16,000 grant will assist 10 LSPI students with the cost of books, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) preparation courses and provide them a stipend while enrolled in the rigorous five-week summer course. Initiated in 2001, LSPI has continually yielded success, boasting a 90 percent acceptance rate for LSPI graduates who apply to law school, averaging much higher than the national acceptance rate of 60 percent. Over the years, numerous LSPI graduates have been accepted to law schools across the country, including Texas Tech University, Southern Methodist University and St. Mary’s University as well as The University of California at Berkeley, Indiana University, Penn State and Georgetown University, among many others. Featured at the recent check presentation ceremony celebrating the $16,000 grant are, from left: Dr. John Darcy, professor and LSPI Co-Director; Velinda Reyes, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations; Dr. Walter Díaz, Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, UTPA President; Alejandra Martínez, LSPI graduate; Lorena Castillo, Texas Bar Foundation trustee; Verónica Gonzáles, Vice President for University Advancement; Lydia Alemán, Associate Vice President for University Advancement; and Dan Worthington, attorney and Texas Bar Foundation Fellow. See story later in this posting.

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The Hidalgo County District Clerk Office on Friday, June 27, presented a check totaling $3,000 to the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley as part of their Blues for Bucks Workplace Fundraising Campaign, a program benefitting local charitable organizations. “Our Blues for Bucks program is a great way for our staff to become engaged and contribute to worthy causes in our community such as the Food Bank of the RGV,” said Laura Hinojosa, Hidalgo County District Clerk. “We are honored to help support an organization that is committed to overcoming poverty and hunger in our community and is making a huge difference in lives of children and families throughout the region.” The Food Bank of the RGV was founded in 1983 and incorporated in 1986 to serve as a clearinghouse for smaller food pantries and on-site feeding organizations. It serves as a champion to those organizations that focus on making food accessible to the Valley and is passionately committed to ending hunger. District Clerk personnel and Food Bank officials featured, from left, front row: Mónica Valdéz; Virginia Granados; April Lizcano; María Elva Garza; Brenda Pérez; Jasmine Cruz; Yanira Hernández; Melinda Sotuyo; Zayra Narváez; and Esmeralda Mendoza. Middle row, from left: Rose Ávalos; Aída Villarreal; María Barrera; Victoria Michelle Mancha; Ana De Luna; Joseph González; Krystal Hidalgo; and Claudia Lemus. Back row, from left: Yésica Garza; Sabrina Guerra; Irineo Razo; Jesse Castillo; Phillip Farías; Terry Drefke, Chief Executive Officer, Food Bank RGV; Laura Hinojosa, Hidalgo County District Clerk; Ana De Luna; and Pablo Campos. See story later in this posting.

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A detailed legislative look, requested by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia, featured center, into how Mexico’s planned, landmark energy reform will benefit the Valley and Texas economies, has been authorized by Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, featured left. On Tuesday, July 1, Straus instructed the House Energy Resources Committee, of which Canales is a member, and the House International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee to work on developing information and strategies to help Texas prepare for, and benefit from, Mexico’s efforts to tap into the huge reservoir of oil and natural gas in the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, and Coahuila. With Mexico finalizing a major energy reform predicted to generate more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years in prosperity for Northern Mexico and South Texas, Canales and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation – led by the Edinburg mayor – want Texas to be ready to help transform their home region into an even more influential international economic power. “There is an energy revolution about to take place in Northern Mexico just south of the Valley and Laredo, which stands to greatly affect our region and state,” said Canales. “The Texas Legislature must be educated concerning recent events in Mexico, how this will improve energy independence for the United States, and how our economies on both sides of the border will dramatically benefit.” Recently, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto announced that his government would, for the first time, support foreign and private investment and participation in PEMEX, the energy giant owned by the Mexican federal government. This development is tied to the explosive growth and extraordinary findings known as Eagle Ford Shale located north of the Valley. “U.S. manufacturers, transportation companies, and service providers want to be closer to Mexico but maintain a presence in Texas,” the mayor reflected. Featured on Tuesday, June 17, for a legislative briefing with Straus at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, are, from left: Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio; Michael J. Blum, Partner and Managing Broker, NAI Rio Grande Valley of McAllen; Dr. Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley; and former Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, Vice President for University Advancement, The University of Texas-Pan American. Standing in the background is Aisa Showery, Communications Liaison for Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen. See lead story in this posting.

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With UT medical school and increased funding for health and education secured for House District 40, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, announces bid for reelection

Gov. Rick Perry (seated), a Republican and the longest-serving governor in Texas history, on Tuesday, July 16, was at The University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg to participate in a bill-signing ceremony that will merge UT-Pan American and The University of Texas at Brownsville into one, Valley-wide higher education complex, complete with a four-year UT medical school, which will be built in the next few years. The legislation, Senate Bill 24 by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, was approved by the Texas Legislature in late May, and signed into law by Perry. Senate Bill 24 was the top priority of the Edinburg City Council and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation as part of their successful 2013 state legislative agenda. The measure included the entire Rio Grande Valley state legislative delegation as joint authors and joint sponsors. Featured in this photograph are: Seated: Texas Governor Rick Perry. Standing, from left: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; President Juliet V. García, The University of Texas at Brownsville; Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., Chancellor, The University of Texas System; Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Ernest “Ernie” Aliseda, Member, The University of Texas System Board of Regents; Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville; Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya; Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito; Nash M. Horne, Student Regent, The University of Texas System Board of Regents; Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City; Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; and President Robert S. Nelsen, The University of Texas-Pan American. See story later in this posting.

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Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured center at the University of Texas-Pan American, addresses South Texas journalists on Tuesday, July 16, helping lay out the timetable of events that will lead to the creation of a new university in the Valley, the result of a merger of UT-Pan American and The University of Texas at Brownsville. Hinojosa was the author of Senate Bill 24, which will create the new UT higher education institution, which will include the construction of a full-fledged UT medical school in the Valley. Timeline highlights include the following: name for new university to be finalized in November-December 2013; president of the new university to be announced in January-February 2014; recruitment of inaugural first class through January-December 2014; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) approves new university in June 2015; and inaugural class enrolls in new university in August 2015. Featured, from left: Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, the House lead sponsor of SB 24; Gov. Rick Perry; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes: Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, a Senate author of SB 24; and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, a House sponsor of SB 24. See story in this posting.

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Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at The University of Texas-Pan American (featured center), on June 18 took on a new role to further advance the university’s commitment to community engagement. Rodríguez was appointed by the Edinburg City Council as the newest member of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC). “This opportunity to become a member of the EEDC is one of those where you lead by example and to work quite extensively on making the university an engaged university, which allows us to become a connected part of the community which UTPA interacts with on a regular basis,” Rodríguez said. As a board member, Rodríguez will attend board meetings and vote on key issues regarding job creation and social, cultural and economic development of the community. Rodríguez will also visit with potential business investors and consultants who work in collaboration with the city, as well as facilitate and attend joint meetings with the university and the city’s key officials. As part of its creation in the 1990s by Edinburg voters, one of the five members of the EEDC Board of Directors must represent UT-Pan American. Rodríguez was appointed to the EEDC Board of Directors following the departure of a fellow university leader – Dr. Glenn Martínez – who was selected as Department Chair and Professor of Spanish, in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at The Ohio State University, located in Columbus, Ohio. Featured, from left, are former longtime McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz, Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, and Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr., who served on the EEDC Board of Directors before he was elected to the Edinburg City Council. See story later in this posting.

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Since the mid-1990s, the Edinburg City Council and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation – the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council – have been active participants in the state legislative process, successfully securing the introduction and passage of major proposals that have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy. Among the legislative achievements for the city’s elected and appointed leadership include the funding and passage of state laws and policies that have significantly improved infrastructure, highways, and higher education. The city council’s and EEDC’s top priority this year was Senate Bill 24, by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. René Oliveria, D-Brownsville, which will merge the University of Texas-Pan American and UT-Brownsville into one Valley-wide “super university” – still part of the UT System – plus the creation of a full-fledged UT medical school, including a major campus in Edinburg. Featured during the Tuesday, July 15 ceremony at UT-Pan American celebrating the passage of SB 24 are, from left: City Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr.; René Ramírez, the state lobbyist for the city council and EEDC; and City Councilmember J.R. Bentancourt.

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Edinburg Mayor Richard García, featured here at the University of Texas-Pan American with former Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, helped lead Hidalgo County support for the passage of Senate Bill 24, by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, which will combine the resources and assets of UT-Pan American and UT- Brownsville and the future South Texas School of Medicine into a single institution that spans the entire Rio Grande Valley. The UT System Board of Regents has approved spending $100 million over the next decade to accelerate the pace of establishing the school of medicine. The ambitious initiative – approved by the Board of Regents in December, supported by Gov. Rick Perry in his State of the State Address in January, and made possible by a bill that garnered overwhelming support from the Texas Legislature last spring – promises to transform South Texas by providing limitless opportunities in education and economic growth and improving healthcare for millions of Texans. The goal is for the university – with a focus on bi-literacy, bilingualism and biculturalism – to build a world-class reputation and pursue global excellence in teaching, research and healthcare. Gonzales serves as Vice President for University Advancement for UTPA. See story later in this posting.

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Rep. Óscar Longoria, D-La Joya, on Monday, July 29, announced he will seek a second two-year term to the Texas House of Representatives for House District 35, which includes portions of Hidalgo and Cameron counties. “It is a tremendous honor to serve the people of District 35 in the House,” Longoria. “I’m honored and humbled that the people of Hidalgo and Cameron counties have elected me once before, and is my hope is that I have earned their trust for another term.” During the 83rd Legislative Session, Longoria was appointed to the House Appropriations Committee, where he serves on the sub-committee for Articles I, IV, and V, and as Vice-Chairman of the Budget Transparency and Reform Sub-committee. He is also an appointed member of the Investments & Financial Services Committee. “I have truly enjoyed being a part of the legislative process during my first term this session,” said Longoria. “My intent is to ensure that our children and my constituents, not only in the Rio Grande Valley, but those across the entire state, receive the best care for generations to come, and have their voices represented by me in the Texas House of Representatives.” Longoria’s House District 35 includes La Joya, Sullivan City, Peñitas, Alton, McAllen, Mission, Edinburg, Monte Alto, Edcouch, La Villa, Mercedes, Weslaco, Santa Rosa, Primera, Palm Valley, Combes, Harlingen, and La Feria.

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The city’s latest luxury homes complex, the Villages at Sugar Road, Phase 1, helped boost the value of construction in May to more than $14 million, almost three times better than the same month in 2012, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. “For the month of May 2013, total construction in Edinburg was valued at $14,157,660, compared with $5,048,148 in May 2012 – the latest figures available from the Code Enforcement Department of the City of Edinburg,” said Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (featured with microphone) “Year-to-date, the value of all construction in Edinburg reached $73,795,848 during the first five months of 2013, compared with $42,628,060 from January through May 2012.” The Villages at Sugar Road, Phase 1, classified as a multi-family project, represented the single-most valuable undertaking in May. According to the Code Enforcement Department for the City of Edinburg, the 168-unit Class-A luxury apartments complex is valued at $7 million, based on the building permit issued for its construction. Building permits do not include the value of the land. Featured with García during one of his recent presentations to area business leaders are Martín Rivas, Director of Membership for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, and Letty González, President of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

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Edinburg, Hidalgo County, and state leaders on Monday, July 15, celebrated the placement of the first signs marking Interstate 69 East, Interstate 2 and Interstate 69 Central, a ceremony that marked the first time the Rio Grande Valley will be served by the Interstate Highway System. Local, state and federal leaders participated in the unveiling of the new signs at the now renamed I2/I69C interchange in Pharr. The 13.5 miles of U.S. Expressway 281 freeway in Pharr and Edinburg is now signed as Interstate 69 Central, a designation that will eventually extend northward all the way to George West. U.S. Expressway 77 through Cameron and Willacy counties is now signed as Interstate 69 East. This includes 53.3 miles of existing freeway starting at the Rio Grande River in Brownsville and running north past Raymondville. Featured, from left: Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza, Jr.; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García; Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr.; Edinburg City Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr.; and Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. See story later in this posting.

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Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, featured second from left, the 8th president of The University of Texas-Pan American, on Thursday August 15, will be the keynote speaker for the Public Affairs Luncheon, coordinated by the Public Affairs Committee of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. The event will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center, located at 1903 South Closner in Edinburg. The Public Affairs Luncheon, an initiative introduced in 2006, features popular topics with speakers that cover important legislative and community issues. Cost to attend the luncheon is $12 per person or $125 for a table of eight, and includes a hot lunch, non-alcoholic beverage and dessert. Featured at the univerity’s Student Union Building during the Tuesday, July 15 celebration of the merger of UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville are, from left: Dr. Juliet V. García, President, The University of Texas at Brownsville; Dr. Nelsen, President, The University of Texas-Pan American; Gov. Rick Perry; Gene Powell, Chairman, The University of Texas System Board of Regents; and Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, Chancellor, The University of Texas. See story later in this posting.

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With the new “Super University”, a new South Texas University of Texas Medical School, and increased funding for health and public education secured for House District 40, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg (featured right) on Tuesday, June 23 announced his intention to seek reelection to the Texas Legislature. Canales’ House District 40 contains most of Edinburg, including The University of Texas-Pan American, Elsa, San Carlos, La Blanca, Faysville, northern Pharr, and portions of McAllen and Weslaco. “It is an honor to serve the families and businesses of Edinburg and Hidalgo County,” said Canales, a local attorney and father of three. “I am blessed and humbled by the sheer amount of people who encourage me to seek another term as State Representative. Today, I am pleased to announce my reelection campaign for the Texas House.” Canales played a key role in personally securing the majority of votes in the 150-member House of Representatives to pass Senate Bill 24, by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, which will merge UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville, and with it, create a full-fledged UT medical school with a major presence in Edinburg. “Tens of thousands of high-paying jobs, directly and indirectly linked to Senate Bill 24, will be created over the next few years as a result of the construction, operation, and maintenance of a UT medical school in the Valley, including here in House District 40, where Edinburg will have a major campus,” said Canales. “Equally important, SB 24 gives UT-Pan American access to the $13 billion Permanent University Fund for the first time. The funds can be used for major construction projects, including a much-needed $100 million Science Building at UTPA and construction of the UT medical school in Edinburg and throughout the Valley.” Featured with Canales at the Texas Capitol in January are, from left: Dr. Juliet V. Garcia, President, The University of Texas at Brownsville; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, President, The University of Texas-Pan American; Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, and Rep. Canales. See lead story in this posting.

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South Texan Miriam Martínez announces plan to run as Republican for Texas governor

South Texan Miriam Martínez, featured right, a renowned international journalist, small business owner, and the former 2012 Republican nominee for state representative, House District 41, on Monday, January 21, announced her plan to seek the March 2014 Republican nomination for Texas governor. She said her campaign would focus on key issues, such as job creation, education, child support, and immigration. But she also emphasized the importance of the Republican Party having a candidate who is a woman and a minority to lead the top of the political ticket. “I do not believe in discrimination. I just think it’s time for a woman to do the job,” said Martínez, a survivor of family violence. “I know how to take care of business. As a Mexican American woman, I can handle challenges and defeats. What I can’t handle is living a life of regret and asking myself, ‘What if?'” Featured, from left: Jessica Puente Bradshaw, the 2012 Republican nominee for the 34th Congressional District anchored in Brownsville; George P. Bush, prospective Republican candidate for Texas Land Commissioner; and Miriam Martínez of Edinburg during a Fall 2012 campaign rally in South Texas.

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Rep. René Oliveria, D-Brownsville, seated, on Monday, February 4, signs on as the main author of House Bill 1000, which if approved by the Texas Legislature this spring, would pave the way for the creation of a University of Texas super system that would merge UT-Pan American with UT-Brownsville, and help speed up the creation of a state-of-the-art UT medical school in deep South Texas. “This bill is the framework that will legally create the new university, and allows us, if passed by a two-thirds majority, to access the Permanent University Fund (PUF), and other state and federal research dollars,” said Oliveira, the Dean of the Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation in the House of Representatives. “It will combine existing resources to create a new university maximizing efficiencies in facilities and administration.” Featured with Oliveira, and serving as authors of HB 1000, are, from left: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville; Rep. Robert “Bobby” Guerra, D-Sharyland; Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco; and Rep. Oscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, is carrying the companion bill, Senate Bill 24, with Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, also serving as authors of SB 24. See story later in this posting.

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With the Texas oil and gas industry responsible for thousands of jobs, particularly in Central and South Texas, and generating billions of dollars a year in revenue for the state government, Rep. Terry Canales says his appointment to the House Energy Resources Committee will serve the interests of his House District 40 at many different levels. Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, featured left, on Thursday, January 31, appointed Canales, D-Edinburg, to the House Energy Resources Committee, and to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which is also a major House panel that wields great influence over legislation designed to protect Texans from criminals. “Regulating the state’s oil and gas industry is vital, not only because we need to promote this crucial sector of our state economy, but also because we want to protect the environment as we build upon the state’s global leadership role in the production of energy,” said Canales, shown here on the House floor along with Rep. Stefani Carter, R-Dallas. See story later in this posting.

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Mayor Richard H. García on Wednesday, January 30, filed for reelection to a four-year term, submitting the required legal paperwork to Edinburg City Secretary Myra A. Garza at Edinburg City Hall. The Municipal General Election is scheduled for Saturday, May 11. Richard García, a federal criminal law attorney and a senior partner with an established law firm, is currently serving his second term as mayor; his first term was from 2003 to 2006. The Edinburg native graduated from Edinburg High School in 1964 and continued his education at the University of Texas-Pan American and received a Juris Doctorate at Texas Southern University in Houston. He served as Edinburg Municipal Judge from 1975-1978 and was a County Court-at-Law Judge for 16 years. Richard García served as chair of the Texas Border Coalition twice and is proud to have been appointed to serve on the Texas Adult Probation Commission. He is currently the President of the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. He is married to Myra C. García and they have five children: Gina, Katherine, Chelsea, Daniel and Carlos; son-in-law Daniel; as well as two grandsons, Richard Xavier Pérez and William Alexander Pérez.

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Mayor Pro-Tem Agustín “Gus” García (no relation to the mayor) on Friday, February 8, filed for reelection to a four-year term, submitting the required legal paperwork to Edinburg City Secretary Myra A. Garza at Edinburg City Hall. The Municipal General Election is scheduled for Saturday, May 11. Gus García was elected into office on May 13, 2006 and is seeking his third consecutive term. A native of Edinburg, he graduated from Edinburg High School in 1990 and obtained a Bachelors in Business Administration from the University of Texas-Pan American. He is the current owner of several healthcare facilities. Gus García has been an active member of the business community for years and dedicates his time to enhancing the economic development of South Texas. He is married to Tonya Bailey García of Ennis, Texas and they have four children, Soledad Alexis, Halley Loren, Agustín G. García III, and Pilar Neréa.

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Edinburg Councilmember J.R. Betancourt, accompanied by his wife, Renée Rodríguez-Betancourt, on Wednesday, January 30, filed for reelection to a four-year term, submitting the required legal paperwork to Edinburg City Secretary Myra A. Garza at Edinburg City Hall. The Municipal General Election is scheduled for Saturday, May 11. Betancourt was born and raised in Edinburg. He graduated from Edinburg North High School in 1998 and then graduated from the University of Texas–Pan American in 2001 with a degree in philosophy. He is a certified public accountant and business consultant and is the owner of Joel R. Betancourt, CPA PLLC. He is also a partner with Betancourt & Garza LLP, certified public accountants. Betancourt is a member of the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Rio Grande Valley Society of Certified Public Accountants. He is a member of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife Renée Rodríguez-Betancourt, an attorney in Edinburg have two children: Gloriana Gabriela (G.G.) and Carissa Carolina (C.C.).

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McAllen City Commissioner James E. “Jim” Darling on Friday, February 1, filed and submitted the required legal paperwork and petition to City Secretary Annette Villarreal at McAllen City Hall to have his name placed on the ballot for the election of McAllen mayor. The municipal general election is scheduled for Saturday, May 11. Darling is the general counsel at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg. He was the former city attorney of the city of McAllen for 28 years and has served as a city commissioner since 2007. Commenting on his mayoral candidacy Darling said, “Over several years, as a city attorney, a city commissioner and a community volunteer in many different leadership roles, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of and witness first-hand the development, growth and success of McAllen. I am proud to have been given this privilege and responsibility of duty and service, and would be honored to have the citizens of McAllen elect me as their next mayor.” See story later in this posting.

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With the Texas Legislature’s 83rd regular session underway, the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber wants to give South Texans on Tuesday, February 26, and Wednesday, February 28, an organized opportunity to voice their concerns to state legislators. The RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will be participating in a Legislative Reception hosted by TAMACC, the Texas Association of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, on Tuesday, February 26, at the Austin Club in Austin. Appointments with legislators will be scheduled for that Tuesday afternoon and the following morning. “They say there is strength in numbers so we would like to take a large delegation to the appointments, both elected officials and concerned citizens, from the Rio Grande Valley,” said Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO for the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Legislators will definitely take note of the region’s concerns on certain issues if we appear in large numbers.” For more information in the RGV Legislative Day, including registering for the event, is available by calling the local chamber’s office at 928-0060. Featured making final plans for the Legislative Trip are RGV Chamber of Commerce board members, including, seated, from left: Brent Smith; Israel Rocha, Chair; David Carrales; and Ronnie Bernal, Chair-Elect. Back row, from let: Adelita Muñoz; Marti Miller; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki; Jenise Díaz; Yoli González; and Pete Morales.

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Edinburg’s leaders are reporting positive trends on the jobs front, with the Texas Workforce Commission showing Edinburg posted a 6.7 percent unemployment rate in December 2012, the second-best showing among the Valley’s major cities for that month. Featured, from left: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Rachel Borchard, Canales’ mother; Precinct 4 Hidalgo County Commissioner Joseph Palacios; Mayor Pro Tem Agustín “Gus” García; and Councilmember J.R. Betancourt. Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the five-member Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, said 2013 promises to continue bringing positive economic news for the city. “We have several companies with which we are negotiating which are going to bring us a large number of jobs and expansions of existing businesses,” the mayor noted, but explained that the city is not yet at liberty to reveal the details of those discussions. What can be revealed are some of scheduled openings in 2013 for numerous employers, ranging from: the Cinemark Movie Bistro, which will help anchor more economic development along Trenton Road in southwest Edinburg; another projected expansion of The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, which just last summer added 90,000-square-feet; and the much anticipated opening of the $180 million Santana Textiles denim manufacturing complex in north Edinburg, which will boast 800 jobs. See story later in this posting.

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Bert Ogden Fiesta Chevrolet and the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce present Fiesta Edinburg on Thursday, February 21, through Sunday, February 24, at the Edinburg Municipal Park.   Country music superstar Mark Chesnutt of Beaumont, who has more than 30 singles on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country songs, including eight No. 1 singles, and the Valley’s own Bo Garza with Texas Desire and Dezeo will be the featured musical acts on Friday, February 22. On Saturday, February 23, musical performances will be delivered by Los Tigrillos, Los Cadetes de Linares de Lupe Tijerina, Los 2 de Nuevo León, and Grupo Zinzzero. This year, Fiesta Edinburg will have plenty to offer, including the traditional “Fiesta” parade, Heart of America Carnival, Family Fun Zone, and an “RGV HAS TALENT” contest. The event costs include: $10 per vehicle, $5 admission, and 10 years and younger are allowed in free. Sponsors for Fiesta Edinburg along with committee members are featured, seated, from left: Imelda Rodríguez (Tourism Director, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Cristina Nino Villarreal (Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson); Letty González (President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce); Velma Sue De León (Memorial Funeral Home); and Kelly Rivera Salazar (Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson). Standing, from left: Greg Martin (Martins Farm & Ranch Supply); Abraham Quiroga (Magic Valley Electric CO-OP); Letty Reyes (Project Manager, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation); Nelda Ramírez (Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation); Leon De León (Memorial Funeral Home); Alex Ríos (Board Member, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce); and Aaron Ramírez (International Bank of Commerce). See story later in this posting.

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Governor Rick Perry recently commissioned Cynthia Moya Sakulenzki, the President and CEO for the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, with “The Yellow Rose of Texas Award”. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, made the presentation on behalf of the governor, who could not be present. “The Yellow Rose of Texas Award” is given only through the Office of the Governor to recognize women for their significant contributions to their communities and to Texas in the preservation of Texas history, the accomplishments of our present, and the building of the future. The award is named for Emily Morgan, a 20-year-old slave who was instrumental in the battle to win Texas’ independence, as she gave General Sam Houston’s troops Santa Anna’s location. “Cynthia Sakulenzki deservingly received the ‘Yellow Rose of Texas Award’,” said Hinojosa. “Cynthia has been very active in non-profit organizations and has played a big role in the expansion of commerce to benefit our South Texas Community. I thank her for her service and extend my congratulations.” Ms. Sakulenzki commented, “I am so honored that the governor would feel that I would be worthy of such an honor. Community service has always been my passion, and I will continue to serve the people of South Texas as long as the Lord allows me.”

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It is no secret The University of Texas Pan-American’s Dr. Gregory Selber is a true sports enthusiast. As a young child, Selber would race home after a game and stay up late into the night drafting up the perfect game plays. Much hasn’t changed. You can still find Selber, associate professor of communication, busy on the sidelines writing, taking photos, and reporting for local media on all things sports. As the 2011 recipient of the Putt Powell Sports Writer of the Year award, Selber has placed RGV sports on the map with his noteworthy sports journalism. His first book, “Border Ball: The History of High School Football in the Rio Grande Valley,” was published in 2009. Selber has now poured his passion into a second book, “Bronc Ball: The History of College Basketball at Pan American.” In about 550 pages, Selber chronicles 85 years of UTPA basketball history. See story later in this posting.

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Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Friday, January 18, reappointed Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, as Chair of the Senate Government Organization Committee and a member of the Senate committees on Finance, Higher Education, Health and Human Services, and Administration. A member of the Legislative Budget Board, she also serves as Co-Chair of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency. “Because of these committee assignments, I continue to be well-positioned to make a difference for the families of our district and our state,” Zaffirini said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to address our state’s pressing challenges, including those related to education and health and human services.” See story later in this posting.

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Sen. Lucio says “medical education district” could help finance Valley UT medical school

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, featured center, standing, on Saturday, March 24, was honored for his legislative achievements and contributions by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which bestowed its Golden Eagle Award for 2012 on the veteran state lawmaker. The Golden Eagle Award is presented every year to an individual who has excelled in promoting the best interests of the Rio Grande Valley. Hinojosa received the honor during the chamber’s annual Noche de Gala, held at The Legacy Event Center in Edinburg. Featured, seated from left: Eli Ochoa, founder, president and CEO of ERO Architects, who was chosen as Business Man of the Year; Melisa Smith representing Frank Smith Toyota, which was selected Medium Corporation of the Year; and Lucy and Armando Regalado, owners of Collision Center, named Small Corporation of the Year. Standing, from left: Ronnie Bernal, general manager for  Frank Smith Toyota; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, the 2012 Golden Eagle Award recipient; and Eloy Cruz representing HEB, which was named Large Corporation of the Year. Not shown are Val LaMantia Peisen, a member of a prominent McAllen family which owns L&F Distributors, who was named Business Woman of the Year; and Mr. and Mrs. Lee and Illiana Cabrera, honored as Volunteers of the Year. See story on Sen. Hinojosa later in this posting.

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On Wednesday, March 7, Edinburg Mayor Richard García, flanked by video screens at the City Auditorium, delivered the annual State of the City Address, which featured highlights of major activities and successes by the Edinburg City Council and its jobs-creation arm, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, during 2011. “What a year we’ve had in Edinburg,” the mayor proclaimed. “If I had to choose one word to describe the activity that occurred in our city in 2011, that word would be success, which leads me to believe that either someone up there likes us or we’re doing something right.” The full text of his presentation, plus comments from other business and community leaders who were featured in news videos during the mayor’s presentation, are included at the end of this posting.

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Freddy González Elementary Principal Arnoldo F. Benavides, a 47-year veteran educator at the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, was recently named one of 10 regional finalists in the 2012 H-E-B Excellence in Education Elementary Principal Award category. An H-E-B delegation paid a surprise visit to Freddy Gonzalez Elementary to recognize Benavides as a regional finalist. Each regional finalist is awarded $1,000 plus $2,500 for their respective school. The regional secondary and elementary principal finalists will be interviewed by a panel of judges in May, during the H-E-B celebratory dinner in Houston. Two grand-prize winner principals will be chosen from among the 10 regional finalists. Each winning grand-prize principal — one elementary school and one high school — will each receive $10,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for their schools. Created in 2002, the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards are designed to honor outstanding public school professionals and to thank them for their dedication and commitment. Through this program, H-E-B seeks to pay tribute to those educators who go the extra mile each and every day to serve their students and their communities and who inspire others to do the same.

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Dr. René Gutiérrez, superintendent for the Edinburg school district, on March 9 presented a framed letter of appreciation to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan during a visit in San Antonio by Gutiérrez and a delegation of 15 other school district superintendents from Region One Service Center in Edinburg, which represents the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo. The letter was from Daniela Galván, a fourth grade student at Guerra Elementary, recognizing Duncan’s support for education and technology. Galván is the daughter of Laura Aguirre and Javier Cerda. The session, hosted at Fox Technical High School in San Antonio, featured discussions on a wide range of educational issues spanning topics “from cradle to grave.”

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Edinburg North High School Principal Ramiro Guerra, a 32-year veteran educator at Edinburg CISD, has been named one of 10 regional finalists in the 2012 H-E-B Excellence in Education Secondary Principal Award category. An H-E-B delegation recently paid a surprise visit to ENHS to recognize Guerra as a regional finalist. Guerra has served as ENHS principal for seven years, and previously served as ENHS assistant principal for six years. Each regional finalist is awarded a $1,000 plus $2,500 for their respective school. Featured participating in the $1,000 check presentation, from left: Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent of Schools; Robert Pena, Jr., Edinburg school board trustee; School Trustee; and the H-E-Buddy look on proudly. The regional secondary and elementary principal finalists will be interviewed by a panel of judges at the H-E-B celebratory dinner in Houston in May who will then select the two grand-prize winner principals from among the 10 regional finalists. Each winning grand-prize principal—one elementary school and one high school—will each receive $10,000 in cash for themselves and a $25,000 grant for their schools. Created in 2002, the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards are designed to honor outstanding public school professionals and to thank them for their dedication and commitment. Through this program, H-E-B seeks to pay tribute to those educators who go the extra mile each and every day to serve their students and their communities and who inspire others to do the same.

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The Women’s Business Center – in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Wells Fargo Bank, H&R Block, PRIME and ZERHIN — on Saturday, March 31, hosted a first of its kind event, the “Business Plan Boot Camp,” which provided one-on-one business consultation for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners who sought to learn the process of putting together a business plan. The “Business Plan Boot Camp”,  which included two sessions, was held at the Women’s Business Center headquarters located at 2314 West University Drive, Suite 230 in Edinburg. Featured, standing from left: Rolando Fernández De Lara with Wells Fargo Bank; Oriol Zertuche with ZERHIN; Abel González with ZERHIN; Thalia Hernández with the Women’s Business Center; Javier Hinojosa with ZERHIN: María Pérez with the U.S. Small Business Administration; and Bret Mann with PRIME. Seated, from left: María Mann, executive director with the Women’s Business Center; and Jocelyn Olmedo, Marcela Salinas, and José Enríquez with the Women’s Business Center. Not shown are Judi Flowers from Wells Fargo Bank and Gayle Rice from H&R Block. See story later in this posting.

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The McAllen Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors on Wednesday, April 18, will host a business luncheon with leaders of Reynosa’s Chambers of Commerce and Industry to continue fostering the relationship between both groups and their constituents. The event will be held at the McAllen chamber’s headquarters, 1200 Ash Avenue. “The McAllen and Reynosa chambers share common interests and problems,” said Luis Cantú, vice president of Inter American Relations for the McAllen chamber. “Providing the opportunity to our board members to meet some of the chamber leaders from Reynosa is also a very important step towards improving our chamber international relations.” Featured promoting the event are Karen Valdez, Chairman of the Board of Directors, McAllen Chamber of Commerce, and Luis Cantú. Additional information on attending the luncheon is available by contacting Cantú at 956/682-2871.

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In America, everyone deserves a second chance, Rep. Muñoz tells high school graduates who overcame struggles

Estella Lane Treviño, featured center, seated, the longtime executive director for the Edinburg Housing Authority, was honored for her many professional and personal accomplishments by city and state leaders in Edinburg on Friday, September 23, which was designated a day in her honor by the Edinburg City Council. Treviño, whose many landmark achievements include being the first woman justice of the peace in Hidalgo County, recently retired as EHA leader after 39 years of service. Following the ceremony, she posed with her immediate family, from left: Dr. Valeria Guerra and her husband, Brian Joseph Guerra (Mrs. Treviño’s grandson) of Austin; George X. Guerra and his wife, Chiqui T. Guerra (Mrs. Treviño’s daughter) of McAllen; Xavier Blair Horler (Mrs. Treviño’s great-grandson) and his parents, Blair Horler and Leanne Marie Guerra Horler (Mrs. Treviño’s granddaughter) of Dallas; and Stephen Michael Guerra (Mrs. Treviño’s grandson) of San Antonio. See stories later in this posting.

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McAllen attorney R.D. “Bobby” Guerra on Thursday, September 8, celebrated with his immediate family following his successful campaign kick-off in McAllen for state representative, House District 41, which includes southwest Edinburg and northeast McAllen. More than 300 supporters joined the Guerra family at the Art Village for the political event. Guerra, a Democrat, is facing a challenge from Edinburg businessman T.C. Betancourt for the March 2011 Democratic Party primary nomination. The winner will face Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, in the November general election. Guerra and his wife, the former Leslie Yoder, posed with their son, Cameron, and daughter, Tessa, following his campaign kick-off speech. The Guerra’s other son, Justin, was in San Antonio that evening because he was needed at his work. Guerra – son of the late Hidalgo County Judge Ramiro Guerra and Enedina Guerra, who served on the Pan American University Board of Regents – criticized Peña and the Republican Party for a state budget that cut about $4 billion from the state’s public education system. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Consolidated ISD Board of Trustees were recently presented with a $20,000 grant check from State Farm Insurance and Texas Valley Communities Foundation (TVCOF) to implement college readiness programming  for students and parents across the district’s six middle schools. Featured, front row, from left: Raúl Resendez with State Farm Insurance; ECISD board secretary Ciro Treviño; ECISD board vice-president Carmen González; Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen; and Dr. René Gutiérrez, ECISD superintendent. Standing, from left: ECISD board trustees Juan “Sonny” Palacios, Jaime R. Chavana, and Dr. Martín Castillo; Dr. Rebecca Morrison, ECISD assistant superintendent; and ECISD board president David Torres. See story later in this posting.

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Colorful images of La Virgen de Guadalupe, La Llorona, indigenous groups and even Selena graced the walls of South Texas College’s Pecan Campus Library in McAllen, all paying homage to the thoughts and ideas that make up the vision of what it means to be a Chicana woman. The images weren’t chosen randomly; they were part of artist Santa Barraza’s exhibit and lecture, Four Decades of Chicana Art and Culture in Texas and Beyond, which kicked off South Texas College’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. In this photograph, Barraza stands next to her sand sculpture titled Day of the Dead Altar for Los Tios. She prepared the artwork specifically for STC’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. Barraza gave two talks on Thursday, September 15, at the college’s Pecan Campus Library Rainbow Room in to kick off the festivities. She was one of several noted speakers who participated in the Hispanic Heritage Month Pláticas Sol de Aztlán Lecture Series. See story later in this posting.

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Pedro Contreras, an employee with the Edinburg Parks and Recreation Department, was recently honored by Edinburg school district leaders for his determination to finish his high school education. Contreras, featured here with Nelda R. Garza, director of the Edinburg CISD Vision Academy of Excellence, dropped out of Edinburg North High School in 1991 to help provide for his family. But with help from the Vision Academy of Excellence, Contreras was able to earn his General Equivalency Degree (GED), and in this photograph, he and Garza are reviewing his application for admission to the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) program at South Texas College. See story later in this posting.

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Are you a small business owner? Do you need help with issues such as employee attitude, how to increase your bottom line, where to go to get funding to expand or start your business, etc.?  These are just some of the free workshops that the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, based in McAllen, offers its members and future members.  The RGVHCC recruited new members in mid-September, but encourages prospective members to learn more about organization and how to join by calling 928-0060 or logging on to http://www.rgvhcc.com. “The RGVHCC is a non-profit business organization for all business owners and professional people who are interested in growing their business as well as meeting other professionals” said Armando Garza, RGVHCC chairman. Cynthia M. Sakulenski, president and CEO of the organization, noted that the group works on issues relating to health, education, women, and governmental affairs. Some of the RGVHCC leaders are featured here, seated, from left: Marti Miller, vice chair of membership; Rick Álvarez, vice chair of government affairs; and Nidia Villarreal, vice chair of women’s issues. Standing, from left: Ronnie Bernal, vice chair of small business and economic development; Armando Garza, chairman; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC president and CEO; Sam Saxena, vice chair of finance; and Mario Garza, vice chair of health.

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Team spirit was in the air as faculty, staff and administrators from South Texas College and The University of Texas-Pan American gathered in Edinburg on Wednesday, September 7, to sign agreements to help students through the process of transferring from one institution to the other. The signing of the six new agreements allows STC graduates who earn Associate of Science and Associate of Art degrees in the fields of business administration, chemistry, communication arts, computer science, criminal justice and music to seamlessly transfer to UTPA to continue their studies towards a bachelor’s degree. “Now we have 17 agreements in place to ensure all the credits from our various STC degrees plans transfer to UTPA, but that’s not enough – we can do better,” commented Dr. Shirley A. Reed, STC president. “I think we should publicly commit today to having agreements in place within two years ensuring our institutions are 100 percent aligned.” At the end of the signing ceremony, college administrators swapped tee-shirts, hats and caps in a show of team work and spirit. Featured, front row, from left: UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen; STC President Shirley A. Reed; UTPA Senior Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Ana María Rodríguez; STC Vice President for Academic Affairs Juan E. Mejía; and UTPA Provost Havidán Rodríguez. Featured, back row, from left, are STC deans Ali Esmaeili, Mario Reyna and Margaretha Bischoff. See story later in this posting.

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As hundreds of thousands of Texas youths returned to school this fall for a new academic year, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission, has been delivering his message that it is never too late to finish a high school education. “Throughout the world, the United States remains known as the ‘Land of Opportunity’, in large part because during our history, this nation has been where countless number of people have come for a chance to achieve their dreams,” said Muñoz. “With many of our young students here in the Valley, I have had the honor to congratulate them for earning their second chance to finish their education.” Muñoz recently was the keynote speaker addressing graduates of the Pharr-San Juan Alamo (PSJA) school district’s Dropout Recovery Program, and the high school education graduates of the Evins Regional Juvenile Center. Featured at the PSJA graduation ceremony are, from left: José V. Romo III; Jena Hernández; Brisclarin García; Dr. Daniel King, PSJA superintendent; Rep. Sergio Muñoz; and Carla L. Vera. See lead story in this posting.

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