Featured, from left: Gene Powell of San Antonio, who was raised in Weslaco, the Chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 in Edinburg for the groundbreaking of the $54 million UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine. Muñoz is a co-sponsor in 2013 of legislation that created the medical school, which will provide the first two years of medical education in Edinburg.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
More than 365,000 persons who receive their pension, death and survivor benefits from the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) will soon get their monthly payments on the last working day of the month instead of the first working day of the following month under legislation by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, which has been signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. “For too long, the state of Texas has generated money off the backs of TRS beneficiaries by unfairly accumulating interest, which did not go to the retirees or their survivors, by delaying for up to three days a month the money owed to them,” said Muñoz. “Beginning this September 1, that process will change for the better, and people will get the money owes them without delay.” Muñoz is the author of House Bill 2168, sponsored by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, which was signed into law by the governor on Wednesday, June 17. Eligible retirees, which include those who receive a disability pension, and their beneficiaries will first see the effect of this new law with their September 2015 pension, death or survivor benefits, which will be paid on Wednesday, September 30, rather than Thursday, October 1, the House District 36 lawmaker said. “But beginning with the October payment, people will really see the difference,” Muñoz further illustrated. “The TRS will issue pension and benefit payments on Friday, October 30, which is the last working day of the month, instead of Monday, November 2.” The Texas Retired Teachers Association, which had been following the fate of HB 2168, praised the measure in its update to its membership in early June, noting the unfairness of delaying the payments. “This practice allows the state of Texas to hold hundreds of millions of dollars in owed TRS annuity payments several days past the month they are owed,” the TRTA stated. “While this budgeting trick may have helped the state, it does not put the hard-earned annuity dollars in the hands of retirees in the same month they are owed.” With the passage of HB 2168, “retirees are one step closer to being treated like all other state retirees. Their annuity checks will be deposited on the last working day of the month they are owed. This is great news for TRS retirees as their payments will come on time and will not be delayed by weekends or holidays,” the TRTA statement added. The Texas Retired Teacher Association is the largest association in the nation for retired teachers with a history of active involvement in the well-being of their communities, according to its website, http://www.trta.org. In 2016, there will be five months where in the past, TRS would have waited three days before issuing the monthly payments. But the new law will get that money to the retirees and beneficiaries sooner.
Featured from left: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; and Carlton Schwab, President and CEO, Texas Economic Development Council, earlier in the spring in the Extension of the Texas Capitol.
Photograph By DIEGO REYNA
A last-minute parliamentary move by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, will result in the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in property tax payments that will now be invested into jobs-creation and business development in the city, Mayor Richard García has announced. Although the number is not immediately available of the economic development corporations in Texas which had been paying property taxes, as of Fiscal Year 2013, there are more than 700 nonprofit corporations in Texas which collect and administer their respective one-half cent economic development sales tax, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The new law goes into effect on September 1. The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, governed by a five-member board of directors which features the mayor as president, is led by EEDC Executive Director Agustín “Gus” García, Jr. (no relation to the mayor). “When Gus came on board as EEDC executive director, one of the first projects he brought to the city council and the EEDC Board of Directors was the need to remove the EEDC, which is a public entity, from having to unfairly pay property taxes to other local governments,” the mayor said. “The state law that required the EEDC to pay property taxes was vague, so we supported Gus’ decision to have legislation filed to clear up that confusion. One government entity should not be paying property taxes to another government entity.” The payoff for the EEDC, which derives much of its revenue from the local one-half cent economic development sales tax, will be significant, said Gus García. “In 2012, the EEDC was paying more than $440,000 in local property taxes. This immediately triggered the question, ‘Why’?” Gus García explained. “I made some inquiries, and quickly discovered the law wasn’t clear on whether we – a government entity – should be paying property taxes.” The EEDC executive director took his findings to the city’s top elected and appointed leadership, seeking their support to have state legislation filed to resolve the controversy. “I visited with everyone of our board members, the city council and city manager,” Gus García said. “We make it a point to keep lines of communication open so that we are all on the same page when it comes to the legislative needs of the community.” The Hidalgo County Appraisal District, the government entity headquartered in Edinburg, whose powers include determining the market value of taxable property, has the authority to rule on exemptions and special valuations authorized by local entities and the State of Texas. Rather than wait until legislation could be filed, Gus García convinced the Hidalgo County Appraisal District to determine that the EEDC did not have to pay property taxes after all. “We visited with the appraisal district last year, and they were very interested in helping us. They, too, understood the contradiction of paying taxes with taxes,” he said. “As a result, in 2014, we saved approximately $330,000 because we did not have to pay property taxes.” But the uncertainty of the language in state law meant that legal challenges could still be filed against the appraisal district’s action favoring the EEDC, so the Canales’ legislation – House Bill 2305 – would still be needed, Gus García contended. With the help of René A. Ramírez, owner of Pathfinders Public Affairs, which is the EEDC’s and Edinburg City Council’s state legislative consulting team, the Canales’ measure was coordinated for drafting and filing for action by the Texas Legislature in early spring. But the measure remained stalled before the House Ways & Means Committee, with the necessary committee public hearing never being scheduled because that House panel was overwhelmed with 394 other bills requesting action. As Canales worked on dozens of other major issues, ranging from setting up a branch campus of South Texas College in the Delta Region to helping secure almost $100 million in new funding for the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine in Edinburg, the state lawmaker kept a sharp eye on amending other state legislation to include the goals of HB 2305. An amendment involves adding new language to a bill, which is an especially difficult challenge on the House or Senate floors during the final days and hours of the legislative session. But Canales was tracking House Bill 1905 by Rep. Drew Springer, R-Gainesville, which proposed eliminating certain other state and local taxes, and HB 1905 was almost certain to beat the legislative deadlines. “I went to Rep. Springer, explained the goals of HB 2305, he agreed with us, and he allowed me to add the key language of HB 2305 to his HB 1905,” Canales reported. “The need for change that was brought up by the EEDC, specifically by Gus García, drew overwhelming support in the Texas Legislature, and on Saturday, June 20, this very important piece of legislation, with statewide impact, was signed into law by the governor.”
Featured, front row, from left: Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Elsa Mayor Al Pérez; Edcouch-Elsa ISD School Board Trustee Víctor “Hugo” De la Cruz; Edcouch Mayor Pro Tem Eddy González; Edcouch Mayor Robert Schmalzried; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya. Middle row, from left: La Villa City Manager Arnie Amaro; Edcouch Alderwoman Verónica Solis; Edcouch City Manager Noé Cavazos; Edcouch Alderwoman Rina Castillo; La Villa Commissioner Rosie Pérez; and Edcouch Alderman Danny Guzmán. Back row, from left: Elsa City Manager Juan Zuniga; and La Villa Commissioner Mario López. The lawmakers and constituents posed for this portrait inside the Texas Capitol following House passage on Friday, May 8, of House Bill 382, which proposed creating a South Texas College branch campus in the Delta Region of Hidalgo County.
Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY
House Bill 382, which requires the South Texas College leadership to create a plan to expand courses leading to associate degrees in Edcouch or Elsa by Fall 2019, is awaiting action by Gov. Greg Abbott after the Texas Legislature on Sunday, May 31, approved that measure, authored by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville. Canales on Friday, June 19, called on Abbott to show his support for education in deep South Texas by publicly endorsing the measure with a gubernatorial signature. “The support for HB 382 is documented and widespread, and it sends a very clear message that South Texas College has a responsibility to spread its resources throughout Hidalgo County, just as other major community college systems in Texas, such as Austin Community College, which has 11 campuses in a geographic region much smaller than Hidalgo County,” said Canales. The state representative also warned STC bureaucrats to stop lobbying the governor to kill the measure, noting that state law prohibits such actions. “Chapter 556 of the Government Code clearly lays out that is a violation of the law for an institution of higher education to use tax funds to ‘influence the passage or defeat of a legislative measure’, yet in at least two instances, STC President Shirley Reed registered before a House committee in favor of a certain measure, and in the case of HB 382, she used STC resources to lobby against the STC Delta Region branch campus proposal,” said Canales. The Delta Region, which features Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, Monte Alto, and San Carlos, is connected by East Highway 107 between Edinburg and Weslaco. HB 382 states that “the board of trustees of the South Texas Community College District shall adopt and implement a plan expanding opportunity for instructional programs consisting of postsecondary courses leading to an associate degree offered in a classroom setting within the corporate city limits of the municipality of Edcouch or Elsa.” As part of his strategies to increase higher education opportunities for Hidalgo County residents – without raising property taxes – Canales laid out the option for Texas State Technical College to expand into Hidalgo County. “Texas State Technical College is the only state-funded technical college system in Texas. TSTC offers new, emerging and customized curriculum at four colleges: TSTC Harlingen, TSTC Marshall, TSTC Waco and TSTC West Texas, which has campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater,” Canales said. “Both TSTC and STC are creations of the Texas Legislature, and it is the Texas Legislature, if it so chooses, that has the final say on their issues.” Canales said the governor already has signed into law House Bill 658, authored by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Simonton, and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, that will established a much-needed Texas State Technical College campus in Fort Bend County, one of the fastest-growing counties in Texas. The House District 40 lawmaker reminded STC officials that South Texas College began as a branch campus of TSTC-Harlingen located in McAllen. Although Weslaco has the STC Mid-Valley Campus, located about a dozen miles away from Edcouch and Elsa, that site is land-locked with limited space to expand, Canales reflected. “The Pecan Campus, which is the northernmost campus of STC, leaves huge areas of Hidalgo County with long commutes to attend classes,” Canales said. “A greater STC presence in the Delta Region would serve not only the students from the Delta Region but also from Edinburg, and would prepare STC for the future. Northern Hidalgo County is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years.” Canales emphasized that he is a very strong supporter of STC, its faculty, staff and students, crediting them with lifting tens of thousands of Hidalgo and Starr county residents into the middle-class, while their respective campuses in McAllen, Weslaco and Rio Grande City have brought civic pride, economic development, and job creation to those respective communities. “On every issue that counted for STC, I supported this outstanding institution of higher education, not only with HB 382, which extends its reach to areas that need it, but also on HB 1887, of which I was a joint author – and for which Dr. Reed was registered ‘for’ the bill – that creates the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in the great city of Pharr,” said the House District 40 lawmaker. Requiring STC to expand in the Delta Region comes as the two-county higher education system begins spending almost $160 million for new construction, narrowly approved by voters, at its existing campuses. That funding, which was supported in the bond election by the Delta Region, includes construction in only one new location – Pharr – while STC’s existing campuses and sites in Rio Grande City, McAllen, and Weslaco will receive most of that money.
Featured, from left: Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Mark Iglesias, Vice President, EEDC Board of Directors; Mayor Richard H. García, who also serves as President of the EEDC Board of Directors; Harvey Rodríguez, Treasurer, EEDC Board of Directors; and Rolando “Ronnie” Guerra, Sr., Secretary, EEDC Board of Directors, following the State of the City Address by the mayor on Wednesday, May 27 at the Edinburg City Auditorium. Richard W. Ruppert, who rounds out the five-member EEDC Board of Directors, was appointed by the Edinburg City Council in early June and thus not included in this portrait.
Photograph By DIEGO REYNA
Edinburg’s retail economy for the month of April 2015 was 4.45 percent better than the same month last year, generating $1,582,767.61 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,515,235.89 in April 2014, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC, led by Executive Director Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. This latest showing is the second-best among all of the Valley’s major cities for April 2015, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, which on Wednesday, June 10, released statewide figures, which represents the most up-to-date figures information for that state agency. Edinburg’s rate of improvement also is better than the average of all city economies in the state, which combined showed an increase of 1.2 percent when comparing April 2015 with the same month last year, the state comptroller’s office also reported. Year-to-date, the Edinburg economy is 6.72 percent ahead of 2014, having produced $10,186,165.26 from January through April 2015 in local sales taxes, compared with $9,544,069.69 during the same period last year. Mayor Richard García (no relation to Gus García, Jr.), who is President of the EEDC Board of Directors, explained that the amount of local sales taxes collected helps reflect the strength of an economy, along with construction activities, per capita income, education, historical performances, and related trends. “The EEDC is pleased to report that additional hotels, restaurants and quality-of-life projects are currently in negotiations, and we will have many more announcements to come later this year,” the mayor said during his State of the City Address on Wednesday, May 27. “All these projects will add to the city’s sales tax collection, allowing us to do more for our community, because every penny we get goes right back into ongoing and needed projects through the city.” Throughout Edinburg, the Edinburg City Council and EEDC Board of Directors continue putting in play sweeping plans to keep the local retail economy in an upward swing, including a major project involving mass transit. That vision “will bring us a multi-use transit facility that will be the first-of-its-kind in Edinburg,” Mayor García reported. “The architectural design has been approved, so we anticipate it will move rapidly.” Working with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, the Edinburg City Council and the EEDC secured a $2.7 million federal grant to build that 35,000 square-foot complex, which will be located between West University Drive and 6th Street, which will link Edinburg City Hall and The University of Texas-Pan American (which will be renamed UT-Rio Grande Valley beginning for the Fall 2015 semester). “Once complete, the facility will serve as home to Valley Metro, which is the city’s transit provider, and combine public and private transit service with office space, restaurants, and a potential rail line, as well as parking levels, bringing traffic and life closer to our town square after 5 p.m.,” the mayor said. The multi-use transit facility is part of the dramatic transformation of McIntyre Street, known as “Las Ramblas: Paseo Cultural”, which designates the renovated pedestrian-oriented pathway that links the cultural, retail, educational and governmental landmarks in and near the city’s downtown square. “Las Ramblas: Paseo Cultural is now open and thousands of people have been enjoying it while attending one of the many art and cultural events and festivals that have been held there, such as Jardín de Arte, Festiva, Trio Tardeada, Tree Lighting, Cinco de Mayo, to name a few,” the mayor added. EEDC Executive Director Gus García, Jr. said the transit facility “sets the future in motion by allowing people to use mass transportation so they can save those dollars, get a good paying job, education, and move up. People can have transportation to get here, and then just walk to City Hall. We are going to have stores and shops to promote walkability.”
Featured: Some of the latest high-technology used by Santana Textiles that has helped it become one of the world leaders in the manufacture and development of different and innovative denim fabrics. Santana Textiles’ vertically integrated production process includes R&D, spinning, dyeing, weaving and finishing. The principal manufacturing plants include modern, automated and integrated yarn spinning, weaving, dyeing and finishing facilities. Santana Textiles can produce approximately 100 million meters of denim fabrics annually.
Photograph Courtesy SANTANA TEXTILES
Santana Textiles, a world leader in the manufacture and development of different and innovative denim fabrics, will be hosting a job fair on Wednesday, June 17, at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, with a goal of hiring up to 300 employees for its upcoming start-up operations, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. Santana Textiles, based in Brazil, along with the EEDC and Workforce Solutions, are sponsoring the event, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The job fair at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, which is located at 118 Paseo Del Prado by the Doctors Hospital at Renaissance complex in the southwest part of the city, is free and open to the public. “We are happy to share the long-anticipated and very welcomed update that Santana Textiles will complete construction and begin their spinning operations this summer,” Mayor Richard García, who also serves as President of the five-member EEDC Board of Directors, revealed during his State of the City Address, which he delivered on Thursday, May 21, at the Edinburg City Auditorium. “This is just the beginning,” the mayor added. “Over the next few years, we anticipate 800 employees will eventually be on payroll at Santana Textiles when they reach their full capacity here in Edinburg. The additional economic impact of that workforce will create more than 3,000 indirect jobs, not to mention the investment for the facilities and equipment by Santana Textiles.” The estimated total financial economic impact of the new manufacturing conglomerate in Edinburg will be about $180 million, and reflects the EEDC’s and city council’s successful strategies to bring new employers to the community, the mayor said. According to the company, Santana Textiles is seeking energetic, self-motivated, and safety-oriented individuals for entry-level industrial maintenance technicians to highly experienced personnel. Duties will vary based on job description from basic knowledge of hand and power tools to experienced technicians with knowledge of electronics, PLC, automation, and testing equipment. “This job fair will focus in hiring individuals in the positions for the following areas: production, logistics, supervision, maintenance, environmental health and safety, security guards, and accounting, among others,” said Janette García, Human Resources Coordinator for the local Santana Textiles complex. Interested individuals will also have the opportunity to apply online, she added, by logging on to http://www.SantanaTextiles.com, and clicking “Careers”. She also can provide more information for interested applicants by contacting her through [email protected] or by calling her at 956/618-0097: ext: 8008. More than seven million meters per month of different basic denim fabrics are manufactured by the brands Santana Textiles, Loco Serious Denim and BEM – Bi-Elastic Movement. “The Santana Textiles manufacturing plant is located on a 33-acre site which is part of Edinburg’s 150-acre North Industrial Park, which is next to Interstate 69 Central, about three miles south of the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg, which makes it accessible to both ground and air transportation,” the mayor emphasized. “The North Industrial Park was formerly agricultural property which was purchased by the EEDC more than a dozen years ago, with the goal of bringing new businesses or helping existing companies expand in Edinburg. It has proven to be a very wise investment for our community.”