Featured, from left: Edinburg Mayor Richard García; Congresman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos; Mario Lizcano, Director of Corporate Affairs, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg. The delegation was present at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance on Thursday, January 21, 2016, for the public affairs luncheon sponsored by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
Edinburg posted the second-lowest unemployment figure among the Valley’s major communities for the month of December 2015, coming in at 4.7 percent, with McAllen posting the best figure at 4.4 percent, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. For the year, Edinburg registered the lowest monthly unemployment rates in the Valley three times, and generated the second-lowest unemployment figures in the Valley nine times. The unemployment rate is a key indicator of the strength of the local economy. 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. Richard García and Agustín García, Jr. are not related. In addition to Edinburg posting the second-lowest unemployment rate in the Valley for December 2015, Edinburg had the lowest monthly unemployment rate in the Valley in November (4.8 percent), and tied with McAllen for the best showings in October and September (4.9 percent for each month). During the first eight months of 2015, Edinburg’s monthly unemployment rates were within fractions of a percentage of McAllen’s monthly unemployment rates, which were lowest during that period. Also according to the latest data, which was released on Friday, January 22, 2016 by the Texas Workforce Commission, there were 35,717 people employed in Edinburg during the month of December 2015. Edinburg’s latest showing was better than the U.S. unemployment rate for December 2015, which came in at 5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000). Edinburg’s December 2015 figure of 4.7 percent completes a year-long pattern of positive reports: November (4.8 percent); October (4.9 percent); September (4.9 percent); August (5.1 percent); July (5.4 percent); June (5.1 percent); May (4.8 percent); April (4.6 percent); March (4.8 percent); February (4.8 percent); and January (5.1 percent). Edinburg’s December 2015 unemployment rate of 4.7 percent remained close to the Texas statewide average, which was 4.2 percent in December, 4.5 percent in November, 4.5 percent in October, 4.4 percent in September, 4.4 percent in August, 4.6 percent in July, 4.4 percent in June, 4.1 percent in May, 4 percent in April, 4.2 percent in March, 4.3 percent in February, and 4.6 percent in January, according to Texas Workforce Commission figures. The data represents a decrease of 170 jobs in Edinburg when comparing the employment figures for December 2015 and December 2014. In December 2015, there were 35,717 employed in Edinburg, compared with 35,887 persons employed in Edinburg in December 2014. The December 2015 unemployment rate of 4.7 percent for Edinburg is also better than the annual unemployment rate in Edinburg for 2014, which was 5.8 percent – and that yearly rate was the best 12-month average from January through December since 2008. Edinburg’s annual unemployment rates since 2005, which is the year in which the state government began preparing those figures using a more accurate formula, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, have registered as follows: 2014 (5.8 percent); 2013 (6.9 percent); 2012 (7.5 percent); 2011 (8.4 percent); 2010 (8.2 percent); 2009 (6.8 percent); 2008 (4.9 percent); 2007 (4.7 percent); 2006 (5.2 percent); and 2005 (4.9 percent).
Featured: Rendition of the planned Resaca Market, a major retail and entertainment complex, complete with a hotel, to be located by U.S. Expressway 281/169C and Monte Cristo Road, three miles north of downtown Edinburg. The Resaca Market will feature 500,000 square feet of retail, restaurants, hotel, shopping, entertainment, movie theaters, and more.
Graphics Courtesy of BURNS BROTHERS, LTD.
A hotel and movie theater with a combined value of more than $10 million are under negotiations for the privately-owned and planned 500,000 square-foot Resaca Market retail and entertainment complex in north Edinburg, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. In addition, a third residential subdivision in the upscale La Sienna community – which neighbors the 60-acre Resaca Market site – is approaching final approval from the city to begin construction. The updates about the 726-acre La Sienna Master Planned Community and Resaca Market, which represent the grand vision of Burns Brothers, LTD of Edinburg, came on Tuesday, January 26, 2016, during the public meeting of the EEDC Board of Directors. Todd Gilliland, Project Director of La Sienna, provided the latest news on La Sienna and Resaca Market to the EEDC leadership, which was meeting in the Council Chambers of Edinburg City Hall. 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. Agustín García, Jr. and Mayor Richard García are not related. La Sienna is located along U.S. Highway 281/I69C near Davis Road and Resaca Market is located along U.S. Highway 281/I69C near Monte Cristo Road. Following his presentation during the public portion of the EEDC board meeting, Gilliland provided additional details to journalists who were in attendance. Reporting on what already has taken place at La Sienna and what is in the works for La Sienna and Resaca Market, he expressed optimism that big things will continue to take place for Edinburg which will boost economic development, job growth, and tourism. “I think when the announcements (on the hotel and movie theater) are made, assuming it all comes together, it will be very exciting and (La Sienna and Resaca Market) becomes a true destination,” said Gilliland, crediting Kent Burns of Burns Brothers, LTD of Edinburg with helping promote the family’s inspiration for the ambitious commercial and residential undertakings. “We are not looking to copy what anybody else has done,” Gilliland emphasized. “We are following an idea of creating something different and exciting like everybody talks about but it’s very challenging to put the pieces together.” Regarding Resaca Market, he made it clear that, as in the case of the residential La Sienna, all goals are legitimate and well-thought out. “What we really strive to do is not hype something that is unattainable,” Gilliland emphasized. “That is never our intention. We’d rather work the deals and get them going and make the announcements, rather than promise something that is very difficult to bring about.” Around late spring 2016, movement should accelerate on the hotel/movie theater plans, he predicted. “We would like to see things really start clicking within 90 days,” he said of those two building projects, which will then bring in more retail firms, even residential housing, targeting consumers with money to spend and invest in Edinburg. “Part of Resaca Market is not just commercial shopping and restaurants and hotels and theaters. It’s condominiums and apartments, more of the high-end than you would typically see,” Gilliland explained. “That brings you into the level of having a destination where people will perhaps stop or perhaps come in from Monterrey and want to locate out there.” Tapping into consumers from northern Mexico, specifically Monterrey, which is Mexico’s ninth-largest metropolis with a population of more than one million, is part of the Resaca Market/La Sienna growth strategies, he said. “We know that a tremendous amount of our financial growth comes from Monterrey,” Gilliland said of that economic powerhouse, which is the second-wealthiest city in Mexico and located 140 miles south of Edinburg. “We have some designers who are very familiar, who do business there and who have lived there. We are trying to offer those people an alternative to other places that are overbuilt and very congested at the moment.” Resaca Market has the potential to generate as much as $5 million a year in local sales tax revenue for key public services – additional money that can be used by the Edinburg City Council and EEDC for a wide range of its duties, from public safety, infrastructure improvements and youth programs to economic development and job-creation efforts. The EEDC estimates that once Resaca Market reaches completion, its presence could bring in as much as $300 million a year into the city’s economy.
Featured, from left: Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García; and Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, on Thursday, January 21, 2016, at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
A proposal by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, which would allow a statewide vote to require that half of all future gubernatorial appointments go to qualified women, has been delivered to Gov. Greg Abbott by Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos. Under the Muñoz measure, Texas voters in a statewide election would have the power to create a law that women receive half of all gubernatorial appointments to powerful state boards, commissions, and agencies, such as the Texas Transportation Commission and The University of Texas System Board of Regents. During a four-year term, a governor will make about 3,000 appointments, according to the governor’s office. Muñoz would file the proposal when the Texas Legislature begins its regular session in January 2017. If approved by lawmakers, state voters could see it on the ballot as soon as November 2017. There are more than 200 state boards, commissions and agencies whose members are appointed by the governor, with the consent of the Senate. “Under this proposal, if approved by the Legislature and Texas voters, every time vacancies occur in each state board, commission and agency which requires a gubernatorial appointee, the first vacancy shall be filled by a qualified woman, the next vacancy shall be filled by a qualified man, and so on,” Muñoz said. “This method will guarantee that women will receive their fair share of the most powerful gubernatorial appointments.” Cascos, who was in Edinburg on Thursday, January 21, 2016, was provided with a copy of the Muñoz plan, and the Secretary of State, who was formerly county judge of Cameron County, agreed to present it to Abbott. Cascos was the first gubernatorial appointment announced by Abbott in November 2014. The Texas Senate confirmed Cascos as the 110th Secretary of State on Wednesday, February 18, 2015. In agreeing to take Muñoz’ plan to Abbott, Cascos shared his own commitment to increasing the roles and number of women in leadership roles in Texas. “I think it’s important to have a diverse representation of qualified women and men of different origins,” Cascos said. “I don’t think there is anyone who does not welcome diversity: male, female, Hispanic, African American, Asian American. Diversity is good.” The Secretary of State, who serves as the chief elections officer for Texas, reflected on the importance of Muñoz’ plan. “I think it’s something that’s noteworthy. There are a lot of groups that are not that well -represented,” Cascos said. “In my office alone, we have African American, Hispanics and Anglos. So my office, since I have been in there, has become more diverse than what it was before I got there.” Muñoz said the time has come for Texas to build on its international reputation as a leader for all people. “I believe Texas is ready to take this remarkable step forward in democracy, and in doing so, show the world what we are doing to make sure that women are equal to men in legal, political and social rights,” said Muñoz. Women are underrepresented on most state boards and commissions which require gubernatorial appointees, and many of the state agencies they help lead have annual operating budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars, up to $10 billion and even higher. Abbott, a Republican, has the opportunity to demonstrate his support for women by endorsing Muñoz’ plan, which would most affect one of a governor’s most significant legislative powers. “I encourage Gov. Abbott to support my plan because it affects his office specifically, but more important, it is the right thing to do,” said the House District 36 lawmaker. Abbott recalled that on Election Night in November 2014, Abbott said “I made a promise to the people of Texas that I would begin work immediately to keep Texas the beacon of opportunity and the best state in the United States of America.” The governor pledged that he “would fight for all Texans, I would unite our great state with key appointments that reflect both the geography and the diversity of our great state. Texans from every corner of the state need to feel that they are a part of the state’s leadership, that they are coauthors of our future.” Muñoz said the idea was brought to him by David A. Díaz, a legislative consultant from McAllen. Díaz and Miriam Martínez had worked together on the issue when Martínez, a South Texas broadcast journalist and business owner, ran for Texas governor, seeking the 2014 Republican Party nomination, which was won by Abbott. Martínez said if elected governor, her gubernatorial appointments would be been divided evenly between women and men, and she would have asked for a statewide vote to make that practice a permanent requirement. “My duties as a state lawmaker include searching out and recognizing bold ideas from the people of Texas, and helping transform their vision into the laws of the land,” said Muñoz. “I happen to also agree with the famous remarks by Sen. Robert Kennedy: “‘Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?’ This is my inspiration for all legislation.” Kennedy’s timeless comments came on March 18, 1968 during his speech at the University of Kansas. Kennedy credited George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925, for the quote. Muñoz said his proposal is not a quota, which favors one group at the expense of another. “Under this plan, a majority, in this case, men, would not lose out to a minority – women – because the population of Texas is, and most likely will always be, about half men and half women,” Muñoz said. “Any Texas governor would find no problem whatsoever finding women who are very qualified for half of all gubernatorial appointments.” The UT System Board of Regents, which is currently operating under a $16.9 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2016, has two women and seven men on that governing board. The Texas A&M System Board of Regents, which is currently operating under a $4.2 billion budget for Fiscal year 2016, has two women and seven men on that governing board. The Texas Ethics Commission, which is responsible for administering and enforcing laws that require financial disclosures of state lawmakers and legislative employees, has one woman on its eight-member commission. The Texas Department of Transportation, which has a $23 billion two-year budget, is governed by the five-member – and all male – Texas Highway Commission. Only three women have been appointed to this powerful commission since 1993. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, a seven-member board which oversees the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and its 2016-17 $719 million budget, is comprised of all men. The three-term lawmaker, who serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which shapes the state’s $209 billion, two-year budget, said his proposal is consistent with his professional and legislative work. “I am a champion for women, who make up half of our adult population, with a proven record of promoting equal pay for equal work, and through my leadership roles on the House Appropriations Committee, supported and voted for hundreds of millions of dollars for women’s health care, protecting victims of family violence, and much more,” said Muñoz.
Featured, from left: Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, on Thursday, July 9, 2015, following their presentations before the McAllen Chamber of Commerce’s 84th Legislative Wrap-up Luncheon, held at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel in McAllen.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
Plans to build the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr received final approval from the STC Board of Trustees on Tuesday, January 26, 2016, a move that will result in a multi-million dollar economic impact for the city while improving law enforcement throughout South Texas, said Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. On a unanimous vote – with District 5 Trustee Dr. Alejo Salinas, Jr. of Edinburg excused on important business – the remaining six board members present for the public meeting approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Pharr and the Pharr San Juan Alamo Independent School District that will result in a major presence by STC on a 113.9 acre site located between U.S. Highway 281 and South Veterans Boulevard. “Obviously, this is a huge step for the people of Pharr and the PSJA school district because it brings one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in Texas into our community,” said Muñoz, whose House District 36 includes a large section of Pharr. “This is a landmark event, the latest success story in the Valley, and I congratulate the many people who worked long and hard to help make this happen.” The STC Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence was made possible in large part by Muñoz, who successfully authored House Bill 1887 last spring before the Texas Legislature. HB 1887 led to statutory authority for the STC to undertake the development of regional law enforcement training. “The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence will increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” Muñoz further explained. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area would not.” The importance of establishing the STC complex in Pharr was emphasized during the State of the City Address on Wednesday, December 23, 2015, by Mayor Ambrosio “Amos” Hernández. “We are proud to announce that we have entered into a partnership to have a South Texas College facility in Pharr,” proclaimed the mayor, who was elected to his first term in May 2o15. “The facility will bring $9 million in economic impact and approximately $3 million in payroll.” Hernández shared Muñoz’ vision of the potential for the complex, with the mayor calling it “an STC Branch for PSJA ISD students.” Muñoz, a three-term state legislator who serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which shaped the current $200+ billion state budget, praised his fellow Valley lawmakers for helping pass the state law authorizing and helping fund the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety. “Sen. Juan Hinojosa was the Senate author of my House Bill 1887, while Rep. Terry Canales, Rep. Bobby Guerra, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, and Rep. Ryan Guillen were joint authors in the House, and they all deserve credit for this huge accomplishment,” said Muñoz. “There is no substitute for experience when it comes to getting what we deserve from the Texas Legislature.” According to STC, with the interlocal agreements with the city and school district be approved, it will take between 18 months and 24 months to build the 21,800 square-foot facility, which will be the initial heart of The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence. The project will include classroom facilities, vehicle driving range, outdoor shooting range, firearms simulator, mobile firearms simulator/live firing range, driving simulator, obstacle course, fitness rooms, and administrative offices. The estimated initial construction cost is $6.782 million, which includes $4.2 million from South Texas College’s Series 2013 Bond Issuance, $1.5 million provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety, and $1 million provided by the PSJA school district. The City of Pharr will contribute 59 acres and the PSJA school district will contribute 10 acres to begin the project. Within two years, the City of Pharr has proposed contributing another 32.24 acres, and within five years, the City of Pharr proposes contributing 12.55 additional acres.
Featured: Rose Benavidez, Member, Board of Trustees, South Texas College, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, in the underground annex of the Texas Capitol, during Community College Day on Thursday, February 3, 2015.
Photograph By PETER SALINAS
Pharr could soon see construction begin on the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety, to be located on a 113.9 site located between U.S. Highway 281 and South Veterans Boulevard, as a result of House Bill 1887 by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. On Tuesday, January 26, 2016 (today), the STC Board of Regents are scheduled to review and approve an interlocal agreement with the City of Pharr and the Pharr San Juan Alamo Independent School District that will see the landmark complex take shape, and with it, improve the quality of public safety in deep South Texas. The pending action is part of the STC Board of Trustees’ regular monthly meeting, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Ann Richards Administration Building Board Room at the Pecan Campus in McAllen. Muñoz predicted the planned STC facility and site also will pave the way in the future for a branch campus – and possibly more – in Pharr, which is part of his House District 36 legislative district. “South Texas College is one of the best college systems in Texas, it is only one of a handful of community colleges in the state which offer university-level bachelor degrees, it is poised for greater growth, and it has helped transform the South Texas economy through its outstanding graduates who are as skilled and talented as they are numerous and in demand,” Muñoz said. “This is just the beginning for STC in Pharr.” The three-term state legislator, who serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee which shaped the current $200+ billion state budget, praised his fellow Valley lawmakers for helping pass the state law authorizing and helping fund the South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety. “Sen. Juan Hinojosa was the Senate author of my House Bill 1887, while Rep. Terry Canales, Rep. Bobby Guerra, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, and Rep. Ryan Guillen were joint authors in the House, and they all deserve credit for this huge accomplishment,” said Muñoz. “There is no substitute for experience when it comes to getting what we deserve from the Texas Legislature.” According to STC, once the interlocal agreements with the city and school district are approved, it will take between 18 months and 24 months to build the 21,800 square-foot facility which will be the initial heart of The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence. The project will include classroom facilities, vehicle driving range, outdoor shooting range, firearms simulator, mobile firearms simulator/live firing range, driving simulator, obstacle course, fitness rooms, and administrative offices. The estimated initial construction cost is $6.782 million, which includes $4.2 million from South Texas College’s Series 2013 Bond Issuance, $1.5 million provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety, and $1 million provided by the PSJA School District. “The Regional Center for Public Excellence in Pharr shall increase necessary access to training opportunities for officers in the Rio Grande Valley region and, in turn, improve public safety and border security,” said Muñoz. “The training provided at the regional center also would provide officers with college credit toward either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, while the four police academies in the area do not.”