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Edinburg retail economy from January to August 2015 shows almost 7 percent increase over same period in 2014

 Mayor Pro Tem Homer Jasso, Jr.

Featured: Mayor Pro Tem Homer Jasso, Jr., on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, helps set the stage for the State of the City Address by Mayor Richard García, which focused on economic development gains for Edinburg. In the latest showing of the strength of the city’s economy, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts reported on Tuesday, October 7, 2015 that Edinburg’s retail economy, from January through August 2015, is almost seven percent ahead of last year’s pace.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Edinburg’s retail economy from January through August 2015 is almost seven percent ahead of the same period last year, a figure that is better than the statewide average of all Texas cities, which came in with a 4.3 percent improvement year for the same eight-month period, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. The EEDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Ruppert as Members. For the month of August 2015, the city’s retail economy registered a 13.89 percent rate of improvement over the same month last year, the EEDC added, according to data released on Tuesday, October 7, by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. During the first eight months of 2015, Edinburg’s retail economy produced $16,812,351.02 in local sales taxes, compared with $15,753,379.17 for January through August 2014, representing an improvement of 6.72 percent. In August 2015, the city’s retail economy generated $1,671,788.87 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,467,867.49 for August 2014, representing an improvement of 13.89 percent, also according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. By comparison, the average rate for all cities in Texas dropped .04 percent in August 2015 compared with August 2014. The local sales tax is used in Edinburg to help pay for many city services, while the EEDC uses its one-half cent local sales tax to help generate economic development in the city. The amount of local sales taxes collected also helps reflect the strength of an economy, along with construction activities, per capita income, education, historical performances, and related trends. The sales tax, formally known as the State Sales and Use Tax, is imposed on all retail sales, leases and rentals of most goods, as well as taxable services. Texas cities, counties, transit authorities and special purpose districts have the option of imposing an additional local sales tax for a combined total of state and local taxes of 8 1/4% (.0825).

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Edinburg retail economy shows almost 6 percent increase from January through July compared with same period in 2014; local improvement rate ahead of statewide 4.8 percent average of all cities

South Texas International Film Festival

Featured, front row, from left: Francis Whitworth, Edinburg Arts Foundation Board; Tony Casas, Cultural Activities Board; Edna Peña, Edinburg Arts Foundation Board, Cultural Activities Board; Letty Reyes, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, Edinburg Arts Foundation Board, South Texas International Film Festival Board; Letty Leija, Director of Library & Cultural Arts, South Texas International Film Festival Board; Cynthia Sarmiento, CineSol Film Festival; Kim LeBlanc, Production Consultant, Texas Film Commission, Office of the Governor; and Magdiel Alfonso, Edinburg Arts Foundation Event Coordinator, South Texas International Film Festival Board. Back row, from left: Henry Serrato, CineSol Film Festival; Jonathan Torres, Edinburg Arts Foundation Board, South Texas International Film Festival Board; and Luis Enrique Suñer, El Mañana, South Texas International Film Festival Board. This image was taken on Saturday, August 22, at the awards ceremony, held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, for the South Texas International Film Festival.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Edinburg’s retail economy from January through July 2015 is almost six percent ahead of the same period last year, a figure that is better than the statewide average of all Texas cities, which came in with a 4.8 percent improvement year-to-date, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. The EEDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Ruppert as Members. For the month of July 2015, the city’s retail economy registered a four percent rate of improvement over the same month last year, the EEDC added, according to data released on Thursday, September 10, by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. For the first seven months of 2015, Edinburg’s retail economy has produced $15,140,562.15 in local sales taxes, compared with $14,285,511.68 for January through July 2014, representing an improvement of 5.98 percent. During July 2015, the city’s retail economy generated $1,549,113.91 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,489,519.36 for July 2014, also according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The local sales tax is used in Edinburg to help pay for many city services, while the EEDC uses its one-half cent local sales tax to help generate economic development in the city, said Agustin García, Jr., Executive Director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. The amount of local sales taxes collected also helps reflect the strength of an economy, along with construction activities, per capita income, education, historical performances, and related trends, García explained. “Any retail economy is measured by consumer spending patterns for goods and services, such as for consumer durables, which are goods that usually last more than three years, and consumer nondurables, which usually last less than three years,” the EEDC Executive Director noted. “But there are other key factors, such as entertainment venues, which also bring in money into our community, and Edinburg is also leader in those events.” On Friday, August 21, and Saturday, August 22, the inaugural South Texas International Film Festival, which included EEDC as one of the sponsors and organizers, was showcased as an example of high-quality and cutting-edge industries being positioned to help the local economy, said Mayor Richard García, who serves on the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. Mayor García and EEDC Executive Director Agustín García, Jr. are not related. “In hosting the South Texas International Film Festival, we are creating a home to the film arts in our region, and in doing so, proudly displayed the tremendous homegrown talent we have in our region,” noted the mayor. “During this tremendous gathering, we provided the educational courses, know-how, and generated the business connections to foster creativity in our local film industry, which can help our economy continue to flourish and diversify.” Mayor García and Board President Iglesias praised the work of Edinburg area residents who worked diligently to pull of a very successful film festival, notably the EEDC, the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, the City of Edinburg, Edinburg Arts, and the Consulado de México en McAllen (Mexican Consulate in McAllen). Iglesias noted how the City of Austin has helped its economy prosper through entertainment venues, specifically its now famous South by Southwest Music Festival, which has become the largest music festival of its kind in the world. “According to a 2014 economic impact study by Greyhill Advisors, the economic impact of the South by Southwest Music Festival, which also includes film components, totaled $315.3 million in 2014,” said Iglesias. “First organized in 1987, the South by Southwest Music Festival has had an economic impact on it’s hometown over the past five years of more than $1 billion. These are the high standards by which we in Edinburg set our goals.” The mayor agreed. “For several generations, we in South Texas have worked for a medical school, and by the Fall of 2016, we will be finally opening the doors to a UT School of Medicine, including a major presence here in Edinburg,” said Mayor García. “What that shows everyone is all good things are possible for our region. All it takes is determination and hard work, and the South Texas International Film Festival is the latest example of the vision of our people.” The mayor, along with the Edinburg City Council and EEDC Board of Directors, were influential in the passage of state legislation in 2013 that resulted in the creation of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, which includes a $54 million Medical Academic Building now under construction in Edinburg. Occupying more than 88,000 square feet, the new Medical Academic Building will be a teaching facility that promotes faculty and student interaction at the beginning stages of medical school, according to the UT System. The building will include an auditorium, digital library, clinical skills center, pre-clinical laboratories and an anatomy teaching facility. Multiple small classrooms, seminar rooms and other features will offer opportunities for small group problem solving and inter-professional educational experiences.

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Edinburg retail economy continues to prosper, posting 6.21 percent improvement midway through 2015 compared with first half of 2014

the newest member of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation

Featured, from left: Dalia Molina and husband, City Councilmember Richard Molina, and Councilmember David Torres and wife Ellie M. Torres, the newest member of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, at Edinburg City Hall on Wednesday, May 13, 2o15. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Mayor and Edinburg City Council.
Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Edinburg’s retail economy from January through June 2015 continues to prosper, with a 6.21 percent rate of improvement over the first half of 2014, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. The EEDC Board of Directors is comprised of Mark Iglesias as President, Harvey Rodríguez as Vice President, Ellie M. Torres as Secretary/Treasurer, and Mayor Richard García and Richard Rupert as Members. For the month of June 2015, the city’s retail economy registered a 6.32 percent rate of improvement over the same month last year, the EEDC added, according to data released on Wednesday, August 12, by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. For the first six months of 2015, Edinburg’s retail economy has produced $13,591,448.24 in local sales taxes, compared with $12,795,992.32 for January through June 2014. During June 2015, the city’s retail economy generated $1,843,334.30 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,733,714.45 for June 2014, also according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. EEDC Board President Iglesias noted that Edinburg’s retail economy continues to perform favorably when compared with statewide figures. “Year-to-date, the city economy’s 6.21 percent rate of improvement is ahead of the average for all cities in Texas, which is 5.1 percent for the period of January through June 2015, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts,” said Iglesias. 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, said Mayor García. “The city’s retail economy also will benefit in the coming months from the impact of four planned different housing developments, representing a combined value of $110.4 million, which will bring 448 apartment units and a 150-home subdivision to Edinburg,” the mayor reported. On Wednesday, August 5, the Mayor and City Council approved the $110.4 million in new residential complexes for Edinburg. That action follows previous city approvals for other developers to build 594 apartment units – three of those residential complexes located along the city’s medical corridor, and the fourth residential complex coming up on Sugar Road near the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. “The housing demand has increased in Edinburg since the announcement in May 2013 that UT-Pan American will be transformed into The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, beginning with the Fall 2015 semester,” Mayor García explained. “Very important, for this first time, as a result of the creation of UT-RGV, higher education in the Valley now has access to the multi-billion dollar Permanent University Fund.” On June 30, 2015 the market value and book value of the PUF was $17.8 billion and $14.9 billion, respectively, exclusive of land acreage. “Along with the creation of The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, the School of Medicine is set to open by the Fall of 2016, with a major component in Edinburg,” added Mayor García. “People are looking to move closer to the campus, and for the financial and job opportunities within the medical industry expected to materialize once the UT medical school is complete.” The Permanent University Fund (PUF) is a public endowment contributing to the support of institutions of The University of Texas System (UT System) and the Texas A&M University System (A&M System). The Constitution of 1876 established the PUF through the appropriation of land grants previously given to The University of Texas plus one million acres. Additional land grants to the PUF were completed in 1883 with the contribution of another one million acres. Today the PUF contains 2.1 million acres located in 24 counties primarily in West Texas. “We find ourselves in the same situation San Antonio experienced when they got their medical school (UT Health Science Center at San Antonio), and look at their size now. Mark my words, the population in Edinburg will very soon be more than 100,000,” Mayor García predicted. “Our location as the gateway to Hidalgo County, which the U.S. Census Bureau estimates had more than 830,000 people as of 2014, and the fact that there is room to grow in all directions in Edinburg also is attracting entrepreneurs looking for a location proven to be successful.”

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U.S. Senate hopeful Sharp, a Democrat, backs VA Hospital plan for the Valley filed by Rep. Flores

The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor Committee has met and approved Private Pedro Cano of Edinburg as the posthumous recipient of the state’s highest military decoration. "I am pleased to report that the committee has made the formal selection of Pedro Cano to be the Legislative Medal of Honor recipient for the 81st legislative session," said Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg. "Pedro Cano’s heroism will always speak for him but the testimony given by our local veterans and the Cano family was instrumental in moving the committee’s formal nomination." Peña is the author of HCR 5 which would posthumously confer the Legislative Medal of Honor to the World War II hero. Members of the nominating committee are: Texas Adjutant General José Mayorga; Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Speaker of the House Joe Straus; Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio, who is chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Military Installations Committee; and Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, who is chair of the House Defense & Veterans’ Affairs Committee. After review of testimony and evidence, Mayorga made the motion for the nomination of Pedro Cano. Cano was not the only candidate up for consideration at the hearing held on Friday, May 15. HCR 5 is a step away from being approved, with the Senate scheduled to hold a public hearing on the matter on Wednesday, May 20, with Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, serving as the Senate sponsor. Cano received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor, for his heroism in WWII. Cano would be the second recipient from Edinburg to receive Texas’ highest military decoration. In 2007, Peña passed legislation posthumously conferring the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to Freddy González, also of Edinburg. González was a Marine sergeant, killed in Vietnam, who was posthumously bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor.  

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Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, and Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, recently greeted a Rio Grande Valley delegation of veterans visiting the Austin Capitol to voice support for their issues, including a Veterans Hospital in the area. "The federal government received a clear message from the Texas Legislature that the Rio Grande Valley needs a hospital for veterans of South Texas," said Peña. "I offer my sincere appreciation to those veterans who traveled to Austin to testify on this legislation and to Sen. Lucio for his work on this issue. Together we are going to get this hospital built. "Featured, front row, from left: Ruben Cantú, Chapter 21 Commander, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), of Harlingen; Sen. Lucio; Rep. Peña; Emilio De Los Santos, Director, Hidalgo County Veterans Department, of Edinburg; Olie Pope, Veterans Service Officer, of Austin; and José A. Leal, Incoming Commander, DAV Chapter 121, of Harlingen. Center row, from left: Homer Gallegos, VFW Post 8788 Commander, of McAllen; and Rey Oropez, Assistant Veterans Service Officer, of Edinburg. Top row, from left: Mike Escobedo, America’s Last Patrol, of Donna; Antonio Arenas, VFW Post 8788, of McAllen; and Nicanoor R. Chávez, American Legion, of Raymondville. See story later in this posting. 

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Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, recently honored participants of the Texas Vietnam Memorial Highway Motorcycle Run in Austin with a Senate Resolution honoring the yearly event and all Vietnam Veterans. Lucio presented Senate Resolution 863 that recognizes the Texas Vietnam Memorial Highway Motorcycle Run held annually in March to pay tribute to Vietnam Veterans and their return home. "When I returned stateside, I recall that our military flight plane was forced to divert from its intended airport in California to Washington state due to anti-war protests at the original site," said Daniel D. Piñeda of Mercedes, a combat veteran of the U.S. Army who served in Vietnam in 1969. "Once back home in the Valley, for the most part, I, like most other Vietnam veterans, was shunned by the general public. There were no expressions of ‘welcome home soldier’ or anything of the sort." Piñeda explained that the Texas Vietnam Memorial Highway Motorcycle Run "serves to help the Vietnam veterans who were never welcomed home decades ago, but rather, if you would, just swept under the rug. As we ride from town to town in Texas along U.S. Highway 83, we see people, complete strangers, lined up cheering, waving and shouting ‘welcome home.’  It’s the patriotic display of our nation’s people honoring its forgotten veterans." Featured, front row, from left: Marietta Johnston of Junction: Alex Armendáriz of Pflugerville; Brent Jackson, founder of the Run, of Wolfforth; Richard Scibek of Houston; and Hazel Webb of Slaton. Back row, from left: Keeton Johnston of Junction; Mr. and Mrs. Pablo Aguillón of Crystal City; Sen. Lucio; Stephen Arthur of Amarillo; Brenda Jackson, co-founder of the Run, of Wolfforth; Kim Felix of Austin; Lester Nye of Granbury; Chuck Bayes of Houston; and Woody Webb, of Slaton. See story later in this posting.

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Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, featured left, accepts the "Leadership Award", bestowed by The Rio Grande Council, Boy Scouts of America, from his mentor, former Texas Comptroller John Sharp, who is accompanied by Ernesto Carballo, Scout Executive and CEO for the Rio Grande Council, Boy Scouts of America. The public ceremony was part of a fundraiser dinner for scouting in deep South Texas. The event, which was part of the scouts’ national Centennial Celebration, was held on Thursday, May 14, at The Club at Cimmaron. The successful gathering helped raise about $50,000 for Valley scouting efforts. The “Leadership Award” has been designated by the Rio Grande Council, BSA as an award to be presented to a civic, community, or business leader who has demonstrated patriotism, leadership, and service at a local, state, or national level. Sharp, who served as the keynote speaker, later said he said Valley hopes for a Veterans Administration Hospital would be greatly improved if Texas had at least one Democratic U.S. senator in Washington. Sharp is an announced Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is expected to vacate her seat in the coming months in order to campaign for governor in the March 2010 Republican Party primary. See lead story on Sharp’s support for a state-federal partnership to build Valley VA Hospital, as envisioned by state legislation by Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Palmview, and how Sharp says he can make a difference on that goal in securing federal funding because of his Democratic Party affiliation. 

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House panel preserves option to upgrade Edinburg RAHC into UT medical school, says Rep. Martínez

A second Edinburg war hero – the late Pedro Cano – could soon join an elite group of Texas veterans who have been bestowed the state’s highest medal for valor – the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor – under a bill introduced on Friday, April 17, by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg.

Family members for Cano – who is featured here during ceremonies honoring him in downtown Edinburg more than 60 years ago – are among the special guests invited to participate in a special presentation on Saturday, April 25, while Peña’s measure continues through the legislative process. The April 25 gathering,  which is free and open to the public, is also being organized by the Edinburg lawmaker. It will begin at 10 a.m. on the western plaza of Edinburg City Hall. More than half a century ago, the city of Edinburg dedicated April 26, 1946 as Pedro Cano Day. On that day, businesses closed, schools were dismissed, a parade was held and more than 4,000 people witnessed the award of the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest military honor, to the 25-year-old South Texan. Only six Texans have been bestowed the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor, including its most recent recipient, the late U.S. Marine Sgt. Alfredo "Freddy" González of Edinburg, who was posthumously awarded the honor in February 2008, during a public ceremony in Edinburg which featured his mother, Dolia González, and Gov. Rick Perry. See story on Pedro Cano later in this posting. 

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Amanda Lira, who attends Economedes High School, hugs her mother, Delma Lira Sánchez, during a ceremony earlier this month at the University of Texas at Austin, where Amanda was one of two South Texas high school students honored as Migrant Students of the Year. Texas has the second-largest migrant education program and the largest interstate migrant student population in the nation. Students and their families migrate annually from Texas to 48 other states to work in agricultural and other seasonal jobs. The Liras were joined in this portrait by Dr. Judy C. Ashcroft, UT’s Dean of Continuing and Innovative Education, and Dr. Felipe Alanis, UT’s Associate Dean of Continuing and Innovative Education and Director of the K-16 Education Center. See story later in this posting. 

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Deyanira Castillo of Weslaco celebrates with her mother, María Castillo, after Deyania was one of two Texas high school students honored by the University of Texas at Austin as Migrant Student of the Year. Since it was begun more than two decades ago, the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program has enrolled more than 22,000 students in its mission to increase the graduation rate of high school migrant students in Texas. With funding from the Texas Education Agency and gifts from the Beaumont Foundation of America, the Exxon Mobil Foundation, the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation and the Microsoft Corporation, the program helps Texas migrant students earn high school credits through distance learning courses that meet Texas curriculum requirements. See story later in this posting. 

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Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, honored members of the Zonta Club of Brownsville on Tuesday, April 14, at the Texas Capitol with a Senate Resolution commending them for their contributions to the Brownsville community and congratulating them on their 50th anniversary. Zonta is a worldwide service organization of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy. There are over 32,000 members in 1,255 clubs in 67 countries. Featured, from left: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; Danita Utsman, Zonta District Governor; Rosalie Gutiérrez, Brownsville Zonta President; Lee Ann Greer, Zonta Vice President; Brenda Pérez, Public Relations Chairwoman; Brunilda Villarreal and Minnie Lucio (wife of Sen. Lucio), Conference Co-Chairs, and Sen. Lucio. 

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