Edinburg posted lowest and second-lowest monthly unemployment rates in the Valley throughout 2015, reports Edinburg Economic Development Corporation

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

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).

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Negotiations underway for hotel and movie theater, with combined value of $10+ million, for 500,000 square foot Resaca Market planned for construction in north Edinburg

Graphics Courtesy of BURNS BROTHERS, LTD.

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.

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Plan by Rep. Muñoz to dramatically increase number of women in powerful state leadership positions delivered to Gov. Abbott by Secretary of State Carlos Cascos

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR
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.

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Rep. Muñoz: STC approves agreement with Pharr leaders that will result in creation of “landmark” South Texas Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

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.

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South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety in Pharr, created by Rep. Muñoz, set for action this evening by STC Board of Trustees

Photograph By PETER SALINAS

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.”

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Sen. Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa gifts $50,000 to UTRGV to support his endowment

Photograph By PAUL CHOUY

Featured, from left: Dr. Kelly Cronin,Vice President for Advancement, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Verónica Gonzáles, Vice President for Government and Community Relations, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; and Dr. Guy Bailey, President, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, at the main campus in Edinburg on Wednesday, January 20, 2016.

Photograph By PAUL CHOUY

From the fields of Peñitas to the jungles of Vietnam to the halls of the Texas Capitol, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, says he has created a political legacy he could never have achieved without family, friends and supporters. Now, he is “paying it forward” by helping first-generation college students, like himself, at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. (Paying it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor.) On Wednesday, January 20, 2016, Hinojosa presented UTRGV a $50,000 gift to support “The Cotton Fields of Peñitas” Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa Endowed Scholarship, an endowment he began in 2013 at The University of Texas-Pan American, a UTRGV legacy institution. “For me, education is the best equalizer we have in our society,” Hinojosa said during a press conference at the UTRGV Performing Arts Complex on the Edinburg Campus. “Education is knowledge and knowledge is power. Education is a way out of poverty.” The scholarship supports first-generation college students pursuing degrees in all majors at UTRGV. UTRGV President Guy Bailey called Hinojosa “a true ambassador for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley” and “one of the best public servants in the state of Texas. “Sen. Hinojosa exemplifies excellence in giving back to our community, state and our nation, and always supporting education,” Bailey said. “I don’t know where we would be without him. If you look at what he has done for the institution and what he has done in the last Legislature, we all owe him continuous thanks for what he has done.” The longtime legislator/attorney offered himself as an example to others that almost any obstacles can be overcome to reach personal and professional successes. “If I myself, (an American citizen) who was deported (to Reynosa) when I was 5 years old, who couldn’t speak English until I was 7 years old, who grew up the oldest of a family of eight can graduate from Pan American University, become a lawyer, and now be Texas senator, that means any young person can also do the same thing,” he said.

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Construction activities in Edinburg for 2015, not counting the value of any work at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, reaches $139.5 million

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Featured: Edinburg Mayor Richard García addresses the community on Thursday, January 22, 2015 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance as he prepares to welcome Gov. Greg Abbott to the city, which was part of a legislative tour organized by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. A year later, Edinburg’s economy continued its strong performances, including reaching $139.5 million in total construction activities in 2015.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Construction and related building activities in Edinburg totaled more than $139.5 million in value in 2015, almost $20 million ahead of the figure reached in 2014, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. For the month of December 2015, all construction activities totaled more than $11.7 million, also ahead of the pace for the same month in 2014, which came in at almost $7.4 million. The value of construction of new homes during 2015 led all year-to-date categories, amounting to almost $48 million, compared with more than $35.7 million during 2014. 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. The most valuable construction project to receive a building permit in December 2015 was a facility, classified as Multi-Family Residences New Construction/Addition/Remodel, valued at $5 million. The facility, whose owner is Edgeware LLC, will be located at 615 South Sugar Rd., Phase II Subdivision. Four single-family residences rounded out the top five most valuable projects issued building permits in December: $ 371,000 – Reynold and Angelien Martínez, 4804 Oxford St., Bentley Estates Subdivision; $ 280,000 – Pin Point Investments LLC, 2522 Terranova Cir., Emerald Pointe Subdivision; $ 260,000 – Pin Point Investments LLC, 2510 Terranova Cir., Emerald Point Ph. 2 Subdivision; and $ 250,000 – Jesús González Clemente, 4806 June Dr., Summerfield Manor Subdivision. Three hundred forty new homes, valued at almost $48 million, led all construction activities in 2015. The top categories in Edinburg during 2015 were: $47,969,918– Single-Family Residences New Construction; $27,756,178 – Commercial New Construction; $24,519,797 – Non-Taxable New/Alterations (government, religious, but not including the value of construction activities at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley or its School of Medicine); $18,761,863 – Commercial Alterations; $14,314,122 – Multi-Family Residences New Construction; and $6,237,533 – Residential Alterations. A building permit includes the estimated value of the work, but does not include the costs of the lot, equipment and furnishings. In general, a building permit is legal permission given by the City of Edinburg to erect, construct, renovate, maintain, or conduct any other specified activity on any building or structure, or on any installations or facilities therein. The term “building permit” includes but is not limited to building permits, electrical permits, mechanical permits, and plumbing permits.

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Two new state laws championed by Rep. Muñoz among key measures designed to protect victims of sexual assault, human trafficking and sex slavery

Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY

Featured, seated from left: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission, fields questions on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives from Steve Taylor, the publisher and editor of the online publication, The Rio Grande Guardian.

Photograph By HOUSE PHOTOGRAPHY

Children who are victims of sexual assault now have 15 years instead of five years to bring civil lawsuits against alleged sex offenders or others who are liable for the injuries sustained as a result of such crimes, said Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, who supported House Bill 189, which became state law on September 1, 2015. House Bill 189, which was approved by the Legislature late last spring, also removed any statute of limitations on the criminal prosecution of suspected serial rapists, whether their victim is a child or an adult. “I have a proven record in the Texas Legislature of supporting the creation of laws, policies, and new funding that protect crime victims and prosecute criminals,” said Muñoz. “I have no pity for rapists, child molesters, or other sexual predators, and I never place the blame of these victims because it is never their fault.” Prior to the passage of HB 189, there was a 10-year statute of limitations in the criminal prosecution of sex offenders who were considered serial rapists. A statute of limitations is generally defined as a law that sets a time limit for bringing certain kinds of legal action. Sexual assault is generally defined as any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against any individual by another. In 2014, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, there were 18,756 sexual assaults in the state, an increase of 5.1 percent over 2013. House Bill 189, effective September 1, 2015, was needed because of the seriousness of these crimes and the special circumstances that can limit when these victims are ready to speak out about the crime, according to the bill analysis by the House Research Organization. Despite these circumstances, a measure of justice always should be available to victims of these crimes, the HRO report stated. “The significance of HB 189 removing the statute of limitations for serial rape cases is well-documented in the bill analysis,” Muñoz emphasized. “The House Research Organization noted that his vital new protection is tremendously important for fighting sexual assault and violence against women because it encourages survivors to come forward to report their cases, preventing those convicted from attacking again.” Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, the author of HB 189, provided some of her key perspectives soon after she first filed the legislation on November 10, 2014, which was approved by the Legislature on June 1, 2015, and signed into law by the governor on June 18, 2015. “Rape is a horrible crime that is not only physical but mental,” said Thompson. “According to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, sexual assault is a crime in which the assailant uses sexual contact to inflict humiliation or to exert power and control over the victim. Currently, there are 1.8 million survivors of sexual assault in Texas.” As for the civil lawsuit aspects of HB 189, Muñoz, an attorney, said any crime victim may be able to seek monetary damages against people who caused them harm. Muñoz, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which heavily influences the shaping of the $200+ billion state budget, was a coauthor of another new state law, enacted as a result of House Bill 10, that gives law enforcement in Texas more power to fight human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise that preys most fiercely on women and children. “Human trafficking is modern day slavery, which also exposes their victims to sexual exploitation,” said Muñoz, who in 2012 was named to the groundbreaking Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking, which also included Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. “One of the results of HB 10 is that even if a victim is an undocumented immigrant, the power of Texas shall be brought to bear to protect the powerless who are forced into the illegal sex trade,” said Muñoz. Muñoz, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which heavily influences the shaping of the $200+ billion state budget, was a coauthor of another new state law, enacted as a result of House Bill 10, that gives law enforcement in Texas more power to fight human trafficking, a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise that preys most fiercely on women and children. “Human trafficking is defined as a crime against humanity, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them,” said Muñoz. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad, according to the United Nations. Every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.

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Texas Secretary of State Cascos’ visit to Edinburg on January 21 to provide local leaders vital access to state’s highest level of government, announces Edinburg Economic Development Corporation

Photograph By RONNIE LARRALDE

Featured, from left, promoting the “Salute to Small Business” luncheon set for Thursday, January 21, 2016 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance and which will feature Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, are, from left: Marty Martin of Rio Valley Realty, who serves as Chairman of the Board for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Letty González , President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Nelda Ramírez, Assistant Executive Director, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Mayor Richard García; Elva Jackson Garza of Edwards Abstract & Title Company, who serves as Vice Chair of Public Affairs, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Agustín García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; and Jacob De León of Memorial Funeral Home, who serves as Vice Chair of Membership, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

Photograph By RONNIE LARRALDE

Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos’ upcoming visit to Edinburg on Thursday, January 21, 2016 will provide local leaders and area residents a direct link to Gov. Greg Abbott and will help keep the city’s best legislative interests on a high priority, 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.Agustín García, Jr. and Mayor Richard García are not related. Cascos, a former Cameron County county judge who was sworn in on March 7, 2015 by Abbott as the 101th Texas Secretary of State, will be the featured guest for the “Salute to Small Business” event, which will congratulate and honor more than 20 small business owners in the community. “The event is supported by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, who are keenly aware of the importance of small business in our economy,” said Elva Jackson Garza of Edwards Abstract & Title Company, who serves as Vice Chair of Public Affairs for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. “Several of our Edinburg Chamber members are operated by the second-, third- and perhaps fourth- generation families and we want to give them the recognition that they deserve.” Cascos’ appearance will provide South Texas insights into the latest news and developments going on in Texas which are important to small businesses,” said Mayor García, who will welcome the Texas Secretary of State to Edinburg. “He has promised in the past that the economic well-being and future of the Rio Grande Valley are important for all of Texas.” The gathering will take place at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, located at 118 Paseo Del Prado. With a seating capacity of about 250, interested residents are encouraged to purchase their tickets for the event, which will cover the cost a hot lunch, beverage and dessert. The tickets are $15 apiece or $150 for a table of 8, with a cut-off of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, January 19, set for reservations. For more information or to make a reservation please call the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956-383-4974. “Edinburg, in partnership with our state legislative delegation, has always been a key player in shaping state laws and policies which benefit us here in deep South Texas,” added Iglesias. “With his direct access to the governor, and with his tremendous knowledge of the people and issues of the Valley, Secretary of State Cascos is a very valuable resource for us to help reach our legislative goals, which include higher education, highways, infrastructure, medical education, health care, border security, and jobs creation.” EEDC Executive Director Agustín García, Jr. said it is vital when the state’s top leadership comes to the city. “The first trip that Gov.-elect Abbott made after his election in November 2014 was to the Valley, and the first trip that Gov. Abbott made after his inauguration was in late January 2015, also to the Valley, including to Edinburg,” recalled the EEDC Executive Director. “In many ways that count, Secretary of State Cascos is the governor’s right-hand man, and we plan to continue building our relationships with both men on behalf of Edinburg.” The Secretary of State is the state’s chief election officer, the liaison to the governor on border and Mexico affairs (born in Mexico, Cascos immigrated to the United States as a child and became a permanent resident and citizen during adolescence) and Texas’ chief protocol officer for state and international affairs. “Judge Cascos will give the Rio Grande Valley a strong voice in Austin, and he will also show the rest of Texas the outstanding leaders produced by the Rio Grande Valley,” Abbott said when he announced Cascos as his first gubernatorial appointee in November 2014. “Judge Cascos will give the Rio Grande Valley a strong voice in Austin, and he will also show the rest of Texas the outstanding leaders produced by the Rio Grande Valley.”

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Upscale off-campus 550+ bed student housing complex coming following rezoning approval by the city, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation announces

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Featured, from left: Edinburg City Councilmember David Torres; Edinburg City Councilmember Richard Molina; Edinburg Mayor Richard García; Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Homer Jasso, Jr.; and Edinburg City Councilmember J.R. Betancourt, following the mayor’s State of the City Address on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at the Edinburg Municipal Auditorium.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

Projected growth at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley main campus in Edinburg, along with the anticipated opening next fall of a School of Medicine, are leading to the planned construction of a luxury, off-campus student housing community near the intersection of Chapin Street and Sugar Road, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC, of which Agustín García, Jr. is Executive Director, is the jobs-creation arm of the 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. The mayor and the EEDC executive director are not related. Domus Development LLC, based in Dallas, will be in charge of the project, which will be located on a 16.17 acre tract of land near UTRGV, according to Carlos Garza, P.E., of AEC Engineering LLC in Edinburg, who represented the firm in successfully having the property rezoned to allow for its construction. “Right now, we are looking at somewhere in the vicinity of at or above 550 beds,” Garza said following unanimous approval for the needed rezoning on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 by the Mayor and Edinburg City Council. “We will have one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and four-bedroom apartments, all with private baths, in the complex.” Garza said he did not have the preliminary estimates or timeline for the project because Eric O. Jakimier, owner of Domus Development, was traveling in Europe on business and unavailable for comment. “I don’t have the specific dates yet but we will move quickly,” said Garza. “Obviously, the longer we sit on the property and not building the facility, it’s more financing we’re putting into the project.” But based on similar projects by Domus Development, such as a recently constructed complex that serves Texas A&M University-Kingsville, the planned local project will be the latest boost to the quality-of-life in Edinburg, as well as an economic asset, should come sooner rather than later. “This new community will promote and protect not only our residents, but also our neighbors,” Garza said. “It will be a gated community, beautifully landscaped, have on-site management, have a clubhouse and other amenities, comply with building and fire codes, fire protection, parking, landscaping, solid waste services, utilities, and all other city requirements that apply.” The housing complex in Kingsville, known as Legends at Kingsville, is valued at $22 million, and provides students with a wide range of amenities to create an ideal community for residents to live, study and play. Mayor Richard García noted that news of the planned off-campus luxury student housing community by Domus Development follows recent announcements by local city leaders of other major advances in Edinburg’s housing and retail sectors. Less than two months after announcing that Edinburg will be home to the new $10 million Marriott TownePlace Suites prototype in America, the City of Edinburg and the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation disclosed on Wednesday, January 6, 2016 that Wyndham Garden Hotels will build a four-story facility on the site of the 120-acre The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley. The Wyndham Garden Hotels will feature 120 rooms, a restaurant, bar service, catering, and meeting space for private and public events, just northeast of Burlington Coat Factory at The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley. The mayor said more housing developments, such as the planned Domus Development student complex and the additional national chain hotels “come at a perfect time, when more and more people are making their way to Edinburg for work, shopping and entertainment. Thousands of sports fanatics will be visiting Edinburg within the next few months to attend soccer games at the soon-to-be-finished soccer arena and The Bert Ogden Arena being built less than a mile away.” The 189,000 square-foot Bert Ogden Arena, which is being constructed on 40 acres of land on Alberta Road and I69 Central, will be home to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, an affiliate of the NBA Houston Rockets, and will feature 8,500 seats and 2,400 parking spots for entertainment events such as major concerts. Meantime, the soccer arena on Raúl Longoria Road is slated to be ready for play in late March featuring 10,000-seat outdoor stadium seats complete with a public park and an amphitheater. It will be home to the Rio Grande Valley Toros, an affiliate of USL Pro, which develops players for Major League Soccer, and will be affiliated with the Houston Dynamo soccer club. Mark Iglesias, President of the EEDC Board of Directors, said construction activities through most of 2015 – the December 2015 report has not yet been compiled – demonstrate the growing strength of the city’s economy. “With one month to go in 2015, construction and related building activities in Edinburg reached almost $128 million in value, with more than $13.1 million of that amount taking place in November,” said Iglesias. “Both of those figures are ahead of the pace for the same periods last year, when total construction activities from January through November 2014 came in at more than $113.1 million, and more than $4 million for November 2014.” Also on Wednesday, January 6, 2016, the Mayor, Edinburg City Council, and EEDC Board of Directors revealed that two new businesses would be added to The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley. Bob’s Steak & Chop House, continually recognized as one of the best steakhouses in the country, will be locating at The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, along with A’GACI, popular among young women for its stylish fashions, which will open just west of the Academy Sports+Outdoor Store, said EEDC Executive Director Agustín García, Jr. “Wyndham, Bob’s Steak & Chop House, and A’GACI will join Texas Roadhouse and Ulta, the latest companies to open for business at The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, which is located at the corner of Trenton Road and I69 Central,” said the EEDC executive director. “This shopping complex benefits from one of the busiest corridors in Edinburg with more than 99,000 vehicles per day.”

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