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As Hidalgo County leaders prepare for the inevitable expansion or construction of a new courthouse in downtown Edinburg, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has begun a regional market survey to determine the demand for a privately-funded Class A office tower as part of the city’s ambitious downtown revitalization goals. Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director for the EEDC, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council, is hopeful that the proposed construction of a $100+ million Hidalgo County Courthouse would help encourage the private sector to finance the creation of an office tower. “This effort is only the initial step to identifying a need,” said García. “If a need is found, then phase 2 – looking for a developer – would proceed.” The privately-funded professional services complex, envisioned through a collaborative effort between the EEDC and the city, would primarily cater to attorneys and other legal professionals. But it also could draw high-end shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, whose tenants could capitalize on the thousands of people who come to the courthouse and downtown daily to conduct their business. The EEDC leader, along with other elect included in this image, are featured in this recent portrait taken during the Public Affairs Luncheon at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center. Featured, front row, from left: Liz Gómez-Adamson, Chief Nursing Information Officer, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (DHR); Marissa Castañeda, Chief Operating Officer, DHR; Maggie Kent, Member, Board of Directors, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce (ECC); Dr. Carlos J. Cárdenas, M.D., Chairman of the Board, DHR; McAllen Mayor Jim Darling; Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García; Edinburg School Board Trustee Carmen González; Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, President, The University of Texas-Pan American; Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García; Elva Jackson Garza, Member, ECC Board of Directors; Letty González, President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Dina Araguz, Chairman of the Board, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Alex Ríos, Member, ECC Board of Directors; and Marty Baylor, Member, ECC Board of Directors. Back row, from left: Norma Terán, Chief Nursing Officer, DHR; Lisa Woodward, Assistant Chief Nursing Officer, DHR; Lucy Canales, Member, ECC Board of Directors; Susan Turley, Chief Financial Officer, DHR; Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent, Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District (ECISD); Dr. Martín Castillo, Vice-President, ECISD Board of Trustees; Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr.; Jaime R. Solis, Board Secretary, ECISD Board of Trustees; Ramiro Garza, Jr., Edinburg City Manager; Hiren Govind, Member, ECC Board of Directors; Jacob De León, Member, ECC Board of Directors; and Agustín “Gus” García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. See story later in this posting.

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Key South Texas lawmakers on Wednesday, August 21, provided highlights from Texas Legislature’s regular session and three special sessions during a legislative luncheon hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at The Club at Cimarron in Mission. “We are extremely proud of our South Texas delegation. Not everyone is able to keep up with the activities at the Texas Capitol, so this annual Legislative Report Card Luncheon is very valuable to the communities as we are informed of the legislation passed,” said Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, the organization’s President/CEO. “We are extremely lucky that this session was very fruitful for the Rio Grande Valley. The South Texas Delegation was able to get us funding for transportation, education, water infrastructure, an increase in the Texas Retirement fund, and so on, besides the creation of the new University of Texas regional university and planned UT Medical School, which will have a tremendous economic and educational boost for the Rio Grande Valley.” Sakulenzki also expressed appreciation for video updates provided by Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, and Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen. “Even though Congressman Hinojosa and Congressman Cuellar were not present because they were in session in Washington, D.C., we want to thank them for the videos they sent answering our questions on veterans affairs, immigration, student loans, the Affordable Care Act and the border fence.” Featured, from left, are RGV Hispanic Chamber board members, including: Jeniffer C. Garza, Vice Chair of Health Issues; Brenda Lee Huerta, Vice Chair of Governmental Affairs; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, President/CEO, RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Adelita Muñoz, Vice Chair of Women’s Issues; Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya; Jenise Díaz, Vice Chair of Public Relations; and Pete Morales, Vice Chair of International Trade.

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Jared Matthew Janes, a five-year veteran journalist for The Monitor who in August left his profession to attend the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, was honored for his news reporting skills on Tuesday, July 30, by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court – which was one of his numerous “beats” – subject areas assigned to a reporter – in which he excelled. Janes also extensively wrote about the City of Edinburg and its jobs-creation arm, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, as well as generated significant coverage of the major actions of the Texas Legislature and the Hidalgo County state legislative delegation. He also reported on the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, and statewide and regional political campaigns. Janes, a native of Sydney, an unincorporated town in the north-central Texas region of Comanche County, serves as proof of the famous adage, “From small things, big things one day come.” In his time at The Monitor, Janes has comprehensively covered issues that affect every resident in the county, from health care and transportation to the environment and legal affairs, noted Karina Cardoza, Director of Public Affairs for Hidalgo County, who wrote the resolution in Janes’ honor. That declaration was unanimously approved by the county judge and county commissioners. Featured, front row, from left: Carlos Sánchez, Editor, The Monitor; Jared Janes; Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa; and Hidalgo County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Villarreal. Back row, from left: Precinct 4 County Commissioner Joseph Palacios; Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García; Precinct 2 County Commissioner Héctor “Tito” Palacios; and Precinct 1 County Commissioner A.C. Cuellar, Jr.

See story later in this posting.

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Led by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, local leaders and trade stakeholders met on Friday, August 30, at the Anzaldúas International Bridge in Mission to discuss the next steps for designation of an Overweight Vehicle Corridor in Hidalgo County. Passage of House Bill 474, authored by Muñoz and sponsored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, authorized the establishment of this corridor and marks a milestone in the region’s economic development efforts. The corridor will also promote safety as businesses begin to utilize the corridor for movement of goods through Hidalgo County. “This corridor is a key piece of infrastructure needed to promote trade and attract jobs and investments,” said Muñoz. “We know that with the opening of the Durango- Mazatlán Highway, many produce businessmen will be turning to our region for expedient delivery of products. But we need to have infrastructure such as this corridor in place.” In this image, Muñoz presented signed copies of House Bill 474 to key South Texas leaders who endorsed his legislation. Featured, from left: Rigoberto Villarreal, Director of Operations for the Anzaldúas International Bridge and Hidalgo International Bridge, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission. Back row, from left: Mayor Leopoldo “Polo” Palacios, Jr. of Pharr; Councilmember Rubén Plata of Pharr, and Keith Patridge, President and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation. See story later in this posting.

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Hidalgo County has earned 2nd Place in the Metro County Division for its efforts to increase public awareness of county programs and services while incorporating this year’s theme of “Smart Justice: Creating Safer Communities.” Celebrated in April, Hidalgo County was one of only six counties across the nation honored for outstanding public outreach. The purpose of the National County Government Month Award program is to encourage counties to participate in National County Government Month (NCGM) and recognize those counties that sponsor outstanding programs to reach out and educate citizens about county government during the month of April. Featured, first row, from left: Former 92nd District Court Judge Ricardo Rodríguez, Jr.; Public Affairs Director Karina Cardoza; District Clerk Laura Hinojosa; and Adult Probation staff member Faustino López. Second row, from left: Pct. 4 Commissioner Joseph Palacios; Pct. 3 Commissioner Joe M. Flores; County Judge Ramón García; Pct. 2 Commissioner Héctor “Tito” Palacios; and Pct. 1 Commissioner A.C. Cuellar, Jr. See story later in this posting.

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A bipartisan coalition of state legislators, including, from left, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, are working to rally voter support during the November 5, 2013 statewide constitutional amendment election in favor of Proposition 6, which would help communities statewide pay for needed water and conservation projects. Water Texas, an advocacy group in favor of Proposition 6, announced on Wednesday, August 21, the members of its Statewide Leadership Team, a bipartisan coalition of legislators working to help pass Proposition 6, which is designed to address the state’s water crisis. The Statewide Leadership Team includes 152 members of the 181-member Texas Legislature. Canales said the Valley, with its rapidly-growing population – Hidalgo County alone has more than 840,000 residents as of 2012 – needs to have access to funding options in order to manage the continuing positive growth of deep South Texas. “Water is life, and it is our duty as Texans to protect, conserve, and plan for the future water needs of our state, taking in to account population growth and the reality of severe drought,” Canales. “This measure is the first of many steps we must take to not only protect our economy, but our very way of life and the lives of future Texans.” The proposed amendment is a response to the severe strain that drought and rapid population growth have put on the state’s water supply. While the population of Texas is expected to nearly double by 2060, existing water supplies are projected to decrease by 10 percent during that time, creating a need for an additional 2.7 trillion gallons of water. See story later in this posting.

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The Hobo Hap’nin’ Reunion 2013 “Crew” is getting bigger. The Hobo Hap’nin’ Reunion is scheduled for Saturday, September 21, at 6:30 p.m. at 602 W. University Drive, the home of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and Edinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. This event brings the community to the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Depot for one common historical purpose: setting the goal of raising $50,000 for the ongoing restoration of the Edinburg landmark. Lone Star National Bank, the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center, and Memorial Funeral Home have been leaders in helping support this fundraising effort. Tickets for the reception are $75 each, and that sponsorship also covers dinner, refreshments, live music, and the option to participate in a silent auction. The Depot Restoration Committee is asking for further support from anyone interested in preserving a very historic and beautiful architecturally designed facility. Donations for the live and blackboard auctions are being accepted. For more information, please contact Letty González, President of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce at 956/383-4974 or chamber@edinburg.com. In this image, representatives of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Depot Restoration Committee, and “Trainmaster” sponsors of the Hobo Hap’nin Reunion gathered at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. Featured, seated, from left: Alex Ríos, Laura Guajardo, Elva Jackson Garza, León De León, Velma Sue De León, and Pedro Salazar. Standing, from left: Jacob De León, Flo Prater, Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr., Byron Jay Lewis, Hiren Govind, Dina Araguz, Robert McGurk, Edna Peña, Dina Pérez, Letty González, Marty Martin, and Maggie Kent.

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Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, President of the University of Texas-Pan American (featured second from left), on Thursday, August 15, said he will ask the UT System Board of Regents at its November meeting to provide $148 million for the construction of a new science complex and business building at the Edinburg campus. If approved, UTPA would receive a major boost in plans to be transformed into a first-class university serving the four-county Rio Grande Valley. UTPA is going to be merged with the University of Texas at Brownsville in order to create a new, yet-to-be-named higher education system for the Valley that will feature a full-fledged UT medical school. Nelsen, who also confirmed he would be seeking the presidency of the new UT university/medical school, said he will ask for $100 million for the science building and $48 million for a business building. The construction, if funded by the UT System, would help create many direct and indirect jobs, he added. “The Science Building alone would generate, on top of the $100 million (that it will cost to construct), $145 million in economic impact when it is built here. It will generate hundreds of jobs. It will help lift the entire Valley as we go forward,” Nelsen said. “It’s mind-blowing, right? It truly is.” Nelsen made the announcement at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center in Edinburg, during the Public Affairs Luncheon coordinated by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. Featured, from left: Dr. Carlos J. Cárdenas, Chairman of the Board of Directors and interim Chief Executive Officer for Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; UTPA President Dr. Robert S. Nelsen; Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García; Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García; and Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr. See story later in this posting.

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Cinemark Holdings, Inc., one of the world’s largest motion picture exhibitors, on Thursday, August 29, provided a sneak preview for Edinburg leaders and residents of their first Cinemark Movie Bistro. The new six-screen theatre, located at 2001 West Trenton, is the first in-theatre dining experience for the entire corporation. The family entertainment venue, which will serve as the major anchor for adjacent businesses and restaurants, features state-of-the-art visual and audio, along with premium plush seating with snack tables to allow patrons to enjoy meals ordered at the theatre while enjoying their favorite movies. Featured during the ceremonial tearing of the first admission ticket, are, front row, from left: Nelda Ramírez, Assistant Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Ramiro Garza, Jr., Edinburg City Manager; Frank Torres, General Manager, Cinemark Movie Bistro; Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr.; Mayor Richard García; Art Murtha, Vice President of Theatre Operations, Cinemark Theatres; Letty González, President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; and Dina Araguz, Chairman, Board of Directors, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. Featured back row are Johnny Cisneros, Broker, Cadence Commercial Real Estate, and Jennifer Frederick, Marketing Manager, Cinemark Theatres. See top story in this posting.

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Seeing is believing – Cinemark opens first-of-its kind theatre in company’s history in Edinburg

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Hundreds of area residents, joined by Edinburg and Cinemark Holdings, Inc. leaders, on Thursday, August 29, celebrated a sneak preview of one of the nation’s most unique family entertainment venues, the Cinemark Movie Bistro, located at 2001 West Trenton Road.

The new Cinemark Movie Bistro, an ultramodern six-screen theatre which officially opened for business on Friday, August 30, offers customers an enhanced dining menu and a variety of beverage options including favorite beers, premium wines and frozen cocktails that can be enjoyed in the auditoriums.

“Edinburg is proud to be number one in so many ways,” Mayor Richard García told a packed house before participating in a ceremonial tearing of the first admission ticket. “Today we are opening in our city of the first-of-its-kind. This Cinemark venue is the first one to be opened in the U.S. Let’s give Cinemark a big hand.”

Art Murtha, Vice President for Theatre Operations for the Plano, Texas-based multinational corporation, was among Cinemark’s national staff members who attended the Edinburg celebration.

“Tonight is the VIP night, and we are going to do things a little bit differently here. As you have been hearing all night, complimentary popcorn and soft drinks, complimentary beer and wine, and we are also passing platters around with samples of the kitchen fare that we are offering here,” Murtha addressed the gathering. “This theatre is going to be a little bit unique compared to other theatres because you can come in, order meals, and have it delivered to your seat. Pretty cool. Big luxury chairs here. Hope you enjoy it.”

• CITY, EEDC PLAYED KEY ROLES IN NEW DEVELOPMENT

The Edinburg City Council and its jobs-creation arm, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, were active participants in bringing the new entertainment venue to the community, said Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

Initially, an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema had been planned for the facility, but that project stalled as the national and Texas economy suffered through a major economic recession several years ago. Sine then, the unfinished Alamo Drafthouse Cinema remained empty.

“The EEDC and the city provided a number of incentives to revive the project. We were tired of seeing an empty unused building,” the EEDC executive director said. “Like it or not, an empty unfinished building is sometimes worse than no building at all. The job growth, venue and sales tax creation were key to the decision as well.”

Gus García (no relation to the mayor) said it was important for the EEDC and its leadership to finally see this project come to life.

“The Cinemark Movie Bistro was a natural fit because it is both a local and regional draw. Our city’s leadership has made it clear that we need to grow as a region. This location was an ideal project to draw many shoppers and diners from the region to the Jackson and Trenton roads area,” Gus García continued. “Trenton Road is becoming a natural corridor for those seeking regional access to the northern part of Hidalgo County.”

• THEATRE PART OF PLANNED ECONOMIC GROWTH FOR REGION

According to an economic impact analysis prepared for the EEDC by UT-Pan American, the movie theatre complex will have a significant economic impact for the city.

More than 90 direct, indirect, and induced jobs, resulting in a payroll of more than $2.8 million, were and will be created as a result of the construction and operation of the Cinemark Movie Bistro, which also resulted in an infusion of more than $9 million into the local economy.

Gus García emphasized the short-term and long-range benefits of the movie theatre complex to the region served by Jackson Road and Trenton Road.

“Be it retail, financial, health or governmental services, this business and leisure corridor will undoubtedly produce the traffic counts necessary for further expansion,” he said. “If you take a close look at the Trenton Road corridor, you will notice that there is plenty of land between U.S Interstate 69 (recently renamed for U.S. Expressway 281) and Tenth Street. It is safe to say that 70 percent of the available property in this vital corridor is situated in Edinburg.”

The Jackson Road/Trenton Road transportation system serves as an access point for motorists seeking access to North McAllen’s 10th Street and southwest Edinburg for entertainment, dining, and health care – since many of the area’s major hospitals are part of that corridor, he said.

“Quite frankly, if you are traveling from the Mid-Valley or South McAllen, you have quicker access along I-69/U.S. Expressway 281, and through the Trenton Road corridor, than anywhere else. It is a natural funnel.”

Mayor Richard García recalled the high hopes of the community almost a decade ago, when the current commercial subdivision was used for agricultural purposes.

“I remember about 10 years ago, sitting down here in an empty field, and the concept was this type of venue. It didn’t happen with the former group, but we have come a long way,” the mayor reflected. “The powers that be with Cinemark, the Edinburg City Council, the EEDC and its Board of Directors, and especially, all of the great citizens of Edinburg, are the ones who made businesses want to come and set up shop here.”

Gus García added both Edinburg and McAllen would prosper as a result of the ongoing growth in southwest Edinburg.

“From a regional perspective, this natural growth of the area is proving to very positive for both cities. These are the types of corridors that retailers and large destination site selectors look for,” Gus García said. “The EEDC fully intends to market the corridor and hopefully attract many restaurants and entertainment venues for the entire region. Edinburg and many retailers have discovered the fertile mining ground that Trenton Road is offering.”

He added that the EEDC “has a number of prospects already inquiring about or locating on the Trenton corridor, and announcements will soon be coming. We have been actively ‘pitching’ the area.”

• “FOUR STAR RATING”

Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, a member of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council, praised the addition of Cinemark Movie Bistro as yet another quality-of-life improvement for the city and surrounding communities.

“This is a great opportunity, not only for Edinburg, but for the entire region. This is about creating a family-friendly atmosphere and environment,” said Rodríguez, who serves as Provost and Vice President, Academic Affairs, The University of Texas-Pan American. “We live in a growing, thriving city that is developing very, very quickly, and socio-economic factors are improving significantly. I believe this will be a total success.”

Letty González, President of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, gave the new theatre complex the proverbial top compliment for films – the “Four Star Rating”.

“I encourage all of us here to let everyone to know what Edinburg has to offer,” she told the gathering. “Our community will now enjoy a great and unique experience being wined and dined while watching their favorite movie.”

• CINEMARK’S VISION FOR EDINBURG, SOUTH TEXAS

Tim Warner, Cinemark’s Chief Executive Officer, said the new complex – which will serve as a showpiece for the rest of the commercial complex that includes restaurants and shops – provided insight into the corporation’s vision for Edinburg and South Texas.

“Cinemark has called the Rio Grande Valley home for more than 20 years and we are excited to introduce a brand new concept,” Warner stated in a Cinemark news release. “The new Cinemark Movie Bistro offers our customers the highest quality presentation available paired with an enhanced dining experience.”

Cinemark has long been recognized as a pioneer in the theatrical exhibition industry and the new Cinemark Movie Bistro extends that reputation, added Bob Shimmin, Vice President of Food and Beverage for the corporation, which is a leading domestic and international motion picture exhibitor, operating 504 theatres with 5,794 screens in 40 U.S. states, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and 10 other Latin American countries as of June 30, 2013.

“What I believe our customers will find so appealing about the Cinemark Movie Bistro is that we’ve added great tasting food options and a selection of beers, wines, and frozen cocktails to the entertainment experience, all the while never allowing the new features to distract from the immersive experience that makes movie-going magical,” Shimmin noted in the corporation announcement.

According to Jennifer Frederick, Marketing Manager, Cinemark Theatres, Edinburg’s Cinemark’s Movie Bistro offers the following:

• An expanded dining menu featuring appetizers, pizzas and flat breads, sandwiches and wraps, quesadillas and tacos and much more;

• Domestic, imported, craft and Texas brewed beers, various wine selections, and frozen margaritas and daiquiris;

• Premium plush seating with thoughtfully designed snack tables;

• Delivery service before the movie;

• Six all-digital auditoriums with wall-to-wall screens; and

• Four auditoriums that are RealD 3D capable

Cinemark takes pride in creating the best entertainment experience in the industry, focusing on offering more choices to our customers, Frederick emphasized.

“For example, the new theatre will feature online ‘Print at Home’ ticketing, available at http://www.cinemark.com, which makes it easy for patrons to purchase from the comfort of their home or office. Also, guests can download and purchase tickets through Cinemark’s mobile applications that are available for iPhone and Android phones,” she explained. “Finally, to stay connected, customers can sign up online to receive free, weekly showtime emailers that contain online coupons for discounts at the concession stand and other weekly special offers.”

Pricing options include a Senior Citizens Day every Monday, a Discount Tuesday offer, and Early Bird and Bargain Matinees everyday, Frederick added.

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Jaime A. Rodríguez, and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

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$148 million for science and business buildings for UTPA to be requested by President Nelsen when UT System regents meet in November

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Dr. Robert S. Nelsen, President of the University of Texas-Pan American, on Thursday, August 15, said he will ask the UT System Board of Regents at its November meeting to provide $148 million for the construction of a new science complex and business building at the Edinburg campus.

If approved, UTPA would receive a major boost in plans to be transformed into a first-class university serving the four-county Rio Grande Valley. UTPA is going to be merged with the University of Texas at Brownsville in order to create a new, yet-to-be-named higher education system for the Valley that will feature a full-fledged UT medical school.

Nelsen, who also confirmed he would be seeking the presidency of the new UT university/medical school, said he will ask for $100 million for the science building and $48 million for a business building.

The construction, if funded by the UT System, would help create many direct and indirect jobs, he added.

“The Science Building alone would generate, on top of the $100 million (that it will cost to construct), $145 million in economic impact when it is built here. It will generate hundreds of jobs. It will help lift the entire Valley as we go forward,” Nelsen said. “It’s mind-blowing, right? It truly is.”

Nelsen made the announcement at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center in Edinburg, during the Public Affairs Luncheon coordinated by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Doctors Hospital at Renaissance.

“Our Public Affairs Luncheon offer insights, knowledge and provide network opportunities to help everyone in our community stay ahead,” said Letty González, President of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

The Public Affairs Luncheons were introduced in 2006 to feature speakers who cover important legislative and community topics for members and the public.

“We were eager to have Dr. Nelsen address the opportunities the new university and medical school will bring to our region,” added González. “This is a life-changing moment for the Rio Grande Valley.”

More than 200 business and civic leaders attended the gathering, including Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García, Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr., Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling. Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza, Jr.; snd Dr. Carlos J. Cárdenas, Chairman of the Board and interim Chief Executive Officer, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance.

Mayor García also serves as the president of the Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, which is the jobs-creation of the Edinburg City Council.

Canales, whose House District 40 includes The University of Texas-Pan American, said he would continue to rally legislative support for the requested $148 million in new construction at the local campus.

“I commend President Nelsen for his vision on what UT-Pan American needs now and in the near future. I will continue to work closely with the Valley state legislative delegation, the UT System Board of Regents, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, and UTPA President Nelsen to help come up with the needed funding for these two vital new buildings,” Canales said. “In particular, the proposed Science Building would go a long way in expertly preparing more of our students for careers in the medical and health care professions, plus provide them with the high academic environment necessary to succeed in the UT medical school for the Valley.”

On January 23, Nelsen helped secure support from the UT System Board of Regents for the proposed science building, which was included in legislation that was filed a few weeks later seeking new construction money for universities statewide. However, that measure failed to get approved by lawmakers before the regular session of the Legislature ended in May.

In late January, Nelsen was seeking funding for a 162,600 gross-square foot complex that would support biology, math, pre-med and environmental studies. It would be constructed as an addition to the current Science Building.

Hopes for the new business facility would involve an expansion of 80,000 to 100,000 square feet on the north side of the existing Business Administration Building.

• ACCESS TO PERMANENT UNIVERSITY FUND COULD BE KEY

The prospective good fortune for UTPA has improved dramatically over the past few months with a separate, but landmark legislation, approved in May, which will create the Valley’s new university/medical school. As a result of Senate Bill 24, by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville – which included all Valley lawmakers as joint authors or sponsors of the bill – the new Valley university system now has access to the Permanent University Fund.

The Permanent University Fund (PUF) is valued at more than $14 billion based on oil and natural gas revenue generated from state lands in west Texas. As a result of Senate Bill 24, the new Valley university system will have access to the PUF to help pay for major campus construction programs, such as the proposed science and business buildings, and for the planned UT medical school, which will include a major component in Edinburg.

Nelsen had previously explained how the new science building would increase the number of students who graduate in the fields of STEM, which stands for the categories of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We need the jobs in the Valley, we need STEM credentialed-individuals,” Nelsen emphasized during the January 23 meeting of the UT System Board of Regents. “STEM education is critical for the Valley.”

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, by 2017, STEM education “will grow and create 17 percent more jobs than currently are out there,” Nelsen explained. “Those people who get a STEM credential will earn 26.7 percent more.”

“We are in the middle of master planning right now. It is very interesting. We have the acreage on our campus that you could fit all of UT-Austin on our campus. We are not landlocked,” Nelsen said.

Constructing the massive additions would also help generate more money for the university because more students would be able to enroll.

“We have a responsibility to grow, and every time we grow one percent, we are bringing in about $900 thousand to be able to do it. Having these buildings and having the capacity will allow us to do it,” the UTPA president noted.

• UT SYSTEM WEBSITE PROVIDES TIMELINE, OTHER DETAILS

According to the UT System, which maintains a website on the ongoing efforts dealing with the new university and medical school, South Texas residents may know who will be the new president by January or February 2014.

Later this year, the name for the new university will be finalized.

Additional details about the history, timeline, guiding principles, frequently asked questions, and other important information are available by logging on to:

http://www.utsystem.edu/news/topics/project-south-texas

Following his presentation at the Public Affairs Luncheon, Nelsen made himself available to Valley news reporters. A transcription of one of his interviews follows. It has been edited for grammar and content.

Question:

Do you intend to apply for president of the new university?

President Nelsen:

I haven’t seen the job ad. But if I’m qualified, I would certainly apply.

Question:

Why is it important for you to stay in this region?

President Nelsen:

I love this Valley. I love the people of the Valley. I would love to have the opportunity to be able to continue, if they ask me to.

Question:

At what point will the names of the applicants for president of the new university be published?

President Nelsen:

I don’t know. The (UT System) Board of Regents runs that, and really they haven’t announced a committee or anything. It will be announced when they bring them (applicants) on campus, the same way when I came on campus (in 2009). They announced each one just before they came on campus, so they announce the pool of finalists that way.

Question:

Essentially, you supported the merger legislation, despite the fact that you knew it could cost your job. Why was it important that you make that sacrifice?

President Nelsen:

I don’t think it was a sacrifice, and I hope you write that. I don’t think it was a sacrifice. I think it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to help the children of the Valley. I always look at it as a way to save our children.

Question:

What do you want your legacy to be here?

President Nelsen:

I want it to be that we partnered together to be able to do this with the entire community. It really was a collaboration of all of us working together to make it happen.

Question:

Talk about the impact made by Mayor García and the Edinburg City Council?

President Nelsen:

All of the mayors and judges (in the Valley) were very influential with what happened. They went and talked with the (state legislative) delegation. They met with legislators up there. They believed in the university, so their support meant the world. They solidified things for us.

Question:

What is the main thing you want people to know that was not covered in these questions?

President Nelsen:

What is not important is the name (of the new university). What is not important is the mascot. What is important is the future for our children and the ability for them to be able to really have a first-class education. What I didn’t talk about is the excellence of this university. It really will be excellent.

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Jaime A. Rodríguez, and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

••••••

EEDC begins regional market survey to determine demand for privately-funded Class A office complex near Hidalgo County Courthouse

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

As Hidalgo County leaders prepare for the inevitable expansion or construction of a new courthouse in downtown Edinburg, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has begun a regional market survey to determine the demand for a privately-funded Class A office tower as part of the city’s ambitious downtown revitalization goals.

According to the website About.Com:

The highest-quality space on the market is considered Class A. These spaces are generally newly constructed, and have been outfitted with top-of-the-line fixtures, amenities and systems. Class A buildings are usually aesthetically pleasing, as they reside in high-visibility locations, such as a metropolitan’s central business district. These spaces are normally maintained by reputable property management companies that keep them looking impeccable.

Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director for the EEDC, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council, is hopeful that the proposed construction of a $100+ million Hidalgo County Courthouse would help encourage private developers to finance the creation of an office tower.

“This effort is only the initial step to identifying a need,” said García. “If a need is found, then phase 2 – looking for a developer – would proceed.”

The privately-funded professional services complex, envisioned through a collaborative effort between the EEDC and the city, would primarily cater to attorneys and other legal professionals. But it also could draw high-end shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, whose tenants could capitalize on the thousands of people who come to the courthouse and downtown daily to conduct their business.

“We are getting ready to start one of the largest construction projects for the downtown square, which will be the new county courthouse,” García said. “There has been a big push by the Edinburg City Council and the EEDC to revitalize that area, to improve the infrastructure and drainage, to eliminate the flooding that has taken place over the past many years.

The Edinburg City Council and the EEDC are partners in the development and transformation of the city’s downtown into a major economic powerhouse for the city. The possible law office tower complex and the proposed new courthouse are part of a larger vision for significantly improving job-creation and quality of-life issues, known as the Downtown Master Plan, finalized in June 2010 under the leadership of the city and EEDC.

“With the proposed construction of a new Hidalgo County Courthouse in the downtown square, the EEDC is looking at all viable options to revitalize this vital area in order to continue generating more sales taxes and more property taxes, as well as more new jobs, from such major construction projects,” the EEDC executive director said. “If one looks at any county seat, where the courthouse is located, there is always a need for Class A office space.”

He noted that dozens of law firms are located outside of Edinburg, representing potential and legitimate tenants for private developers who would fund the creation of any high-rise complex tied into the new courthouse.

“We want to begin talking to law firms to see if they are interested in relocating near or next to the courthouse in a tower with a parking space. We will be pursuing developers to see if they are interested in building such a facility,” García explained. “We want to build a list of attorneys who would move into a Class A legal tower for their needs. If we can get enough interested parties, we can explore finance incentives for a developer who would want to take on a project of that magnitude.”

Edinburg’s downtown region is anchored by three important public entities – the county courthouse, Edinburg City Hall, and the University of Texas-Pan American, which “generate a significantly positive flow of traffic and visitors,” García observed. “Any business would do well locating in our downtown, and the office tower could represent an ideal way to prosper from the unique characteristics that make up the heart of our city.”

By the fall of 2014, the University of Texas-Pan American will have finished ongoing construction of a $42.6 million performing arts center that will be the latest showpiece on campus, with thousands of visitors expected to drive to Edinburg each year to enjoy concerts and other major cultural and academic activities at the new facility, he reflected.

“UTPA, especially as it becomes the major component of a new, Valleywide University of Texas System higher education complex, will begin to see even more new construction that will continue to bring more people to our city. A Class A office tower would be in a position to capitalize on those prospective customers and clients,” García said. “In a matter of a couple of months, the UT System Board of Regents will be asked to authorize almost $150 million in new construction at UTPA. With new buildings will come many more people who will travel through, and stop at, our downtown.”

García said the survey will continue over the next six to 12 months, but he encouraged all interested business leaders – not just attorneys – to participate in the study.

“Contact the EEDC at (956) 383-7124 or go to our websites (http://www.EdinburgEDC.com. or http://www.EdinburgEDC.com) and tell us what you need by viewing and completing our questionnaire,” he said.

As for the possible location of an office tower, García said it would depend on key factors.

“We are exploring sites right now, we have some ideas, but it would depend on the interest, the type of building, will it have an underground parking garage,” he said. “That is one of the reasons it is very important that we hear from prospective tenants of this office tower.”

The following questions highlight the survey:

Should the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation attract a high rise Class “A” tower to the downtown area? The real question is, if we bring it would you want to be a part of it?

In considering attracting a high rise tower with Class “A” office space, how important are the following for you and your company:

• Proximity to the new courthouse?

• Accessibility to the new courthouse?

• Security?

If the tower had restaurants, cafes, branded shopping experience, would it convince you to locate there?

If the tower also had entertainment, sky restaurant, sky lounge, private club, green zones designated for outdoor and indoor concerts and theater, would it convince you to locate there?

If the tower were to connect to the courthouse premises through an air walk, would it convince you to locate there?

If the tower had a ballroom and convention space, would you be interested in locating there?

Would you be interested in subterranean parking garage designed to ease pedestrian access as well as revitalize the entire downtown community?

If the tower had bicycle and pedestrian-friendly outdoor exercise areas making it ideal location for family gatherings and business professionals, would it convince you to locate there?

What if it also had artwork and sculptures and allowed for a farmer’s market?

If interested:

• How many square feet would you need?

• How much would you be willing to pay per square feet?

• Would your lease be more than six months? One year? Three years? Five years?

• Would you have use for any of the other amenities besides office space?

• Would your office have any special needs?

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Jaime A. Rodríguez, and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

••••••

Overweight Vehicle Corridor, authorized by Rep. Muñoz, to bring economic development for House District 36 and Hidalgo County

By ERIKA REYNA-VELÁSQUEZ

and

DAVID A. DÍAZ

Led by Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, local leaders and trade stakeholders met on Friday, August 30, at the Anzaldúas International Bridge in Mission to discuss the next steps for designation of an Overweight Vehicle Corridor in Hidalgo County.

Passage of House Bill 474, authored by Muñoz and sponsored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, authorized the establishment of this corridor and marks a milestone in the region’s economic development efforts. The corridor will also promote safety as businesses begin to utilize the corridor for movement of goods through Hidalgo County.

“This corridor is a key piece of infrastructure needed to promote trade and attract jobs and investments,” said Muñoz. “We know that with the opening of the Mazatlán-Durango Highway, many produce businessmen will be turning to our region for expedient delivery of products. But we need to have infrastructure such as this corridor in place.”

Truck weight regulations in Mexico are different from those in Texas and businesses transporting goods from Mexico through Texas currently have to divide loads, many of which are perishable items, across the border before arriving at warehouses in Hidalgo County for final processing and distribution throughout the country.

Muñoz’ House Bill 474, which included Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, as a joint author, received widespread support when the legislation was considered by the House Transportation Committee on March 19, which help lead to its eventual passage.

According to the bridge’s website, in a region that depends heavily on cross-border trade, the Anzaldúas International Bridge is America’s newest border crossing into Mexico. Officially opened on December 15, 2009, the Anzaldúas International Bridge crossing directly connects the southern Hidalgo County region to the industrial hub of Reynosa, Tamaulipas. It offers a quicker and safer route for shoppers and visitors crossing the border.

Also according to the bridge’s website, the Anzaldúas International Bridge opened after nearly 17 years of work and forging of a strong partnership between the cities of McAllen, Mission, Hidalgo and Granjeño. The new bridge also serves as the most direct and efficient route between the Rio Grande Valley and Mexican cities such as Monterrey and Mexico City, reducing travel time by as much as 45 minutes.

Other areas in Texas, as well as major produce ports of entry along the U.S. border with Mexico, such as the Morley, Deconcini, and Mariposa ports of entry in Nogales, Arizona, have embraced similar corridors. Businesses with overweight trucks will be required to pay a fee per load to cover road maintenance costs on the U.S. side.

“This corridor is a much needed asset for the continued economic development of our region,” shared Keith Patridge, President and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation. “The corridor, the opening of the Durango-Mazatlán Highway in Mexico, our location, and our booming population are all advantages that will allow our area to continue to grow, create jobs, and highlight our escalating role in commerce at the state and national level.”

Pilar Rodríguez, Executive Director of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, and Pedro Álvarez, Deputy District Engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation Pharr District, provided the group with information about anticipated next steps.

The Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority is expected to be the administrating entity for the corridor. A formal presentation on this project is anticipated at the September 26 Transportation Commission meeting to be held in McAllen.

“We are very excited about the implementation of this legislation” said Joaquin Spamer, “For businesses like ours, it makes sense to pay this fee and use our resources to further invest in U.S. facilities”.

Spamer is the President of CI Logistics Group. CI Logistics Group is one the companies along the border that offers integrated logistic services including warehousing, customs brokers, distribution, and transportation of industrial, commercial, and perishable products.

In addition to Patridge, other South Texas leaders who endorsed the Muñoz/Hinojosa legislation included:

• Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García;

• Dennis Burleson, Chairman, Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority;

• John McClung, Past President, Texas International Produce Association, Mission;

• Alex Meade, Mission Economic Development Corporation;

• Ramón Navarro, City of McAllen, Anzaldúas International Bridge Board of Trustees;

• Teclo García, Director of Government Relations, City of McAllen;

• Juan Guerra, Pharr Bridge Director/CFO, City of Pharr;

• Fred Sandoval, City Manager, City of Pharr;

• Carlos Zambito, Marketing Director, McAllen Produce Terminal Market;

• Barry London, President, London Fruit, Inc., Pharr;

• Henry Sutherlin, President, Scantech Sciences, Inc. Houston;

• José A. García, The García Group, Austin; and

• Lawrence Olsen, Executive Vice President, Texas Good Roads Transportation Association.

The $1.2 billion+ Mazatlán-Durango Highway, which is a hallmark of former Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s ambitious plans to modernize his nation’s transportation network, is designed to profoundly improve safety and significantly reduce the time it takes to travel from Mazatlán, one of Mexico’s largest commercial ports, to Durango, the capital of the state of Durango.

The Mazatlán-Durango Highway, renowned as an engineering marvel with its system of underground tunnels and Latin America’s tallest cable-based bridge, will make driving – particularly the transportation of commerce such as produce – much safer through the hazardous western Sierra Madre range that separates Mazatlán, which is in the state of Sinoloa, from the city of Durango.

From the city of Durango, travel to the Valley and the United States is much more accessible with the continuing expansion of Mexican Federal Highway 40, also known as the Carretera Interoceánica (Interoceanic Highway), a four-lane divided highway that links Durango with Reynosa.

As a result, the Mazatlán-Durango Highway makes it much more lucrative for Mexico growers from that region to send their produce directly to the Valley for collection and storage at major, ultra-modern produce storage facilities in Hidalgo County, followed by distribution of those goods by U.S. trucking firms to major cities in America’s Midwest and East Coast.

Currently, many agricultural products from western Mexico are imported to the United States through Nogales, Arizona.

••••••

Edinburg unemployment rate has remained in single digits from January through July 2013

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Edinburg posted a 7.9 percent unemployment rate in July 2013, second-best showing among the major communities in the Valley, and has remained in single-digits throughout the year, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

Edinburg’s July 2013 unemployment rate of 7.9 percent was better than the July 2013 average of all cities in Hidalgo County, which was 11.3 percent, and better than the July 2013 average of all cities in Cameron County, was 10.5 percent, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

Only McAllen, which had a 7.5 percent unemployment rate, had a better showing in July than Edinburg. Texas had a 6.5 percent unemployment rate for that month, while the nation’s unemployment rate was 7.4 percent, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

The Texas Workforce Commission is the state agency charged with overseeing and providing workforce development services to employers and job seekers of Texas.

Year-to-date, Edinburg’s unemployment rate averages 7.53 percent, better than the 7.8 percent unemployment rate average for all of 2012.

The unemployment rates in July for the other major cities in the Valley featured Harlingen (8.5 percent), Mission (9.1 percent), Pharr (9.9 percent), Brownsville (10.9 percent), and Weslaco (11.8 percent).

The July 2013 unemployment rates for all Texas cities, metropolitan regions, and counties were released by the Texas Workforce Commission on Friday, August 16.

For July 2013, there were 31,629 residents employed in Edinburg, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the unemployment rate is the number of persons unemployed, expressed as a percentage of the civilian labor force. The civilian labor force is that portion of the population age 16 and older employed or unemployed. To be considered unemployed, a person has to be not working and actively seeking work.

The Texas Workforce Commission maintains a detailed accounting of employment trends for Edinburg and all other cities in the state on its website, located at:

http://www.tracer2.com/cgi/ dataanalysis/AreaSelection. asp?tableName=Labforce

The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Jaime A. Rodríguez, and Dr. Havidán Rodríguez. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to: http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com

••••••

Hidalgo County recognized for receiving the National Association of Counties (NACO) 2013 National County Government Month Award

Hidalgo County has earned 2nd Place in the Metro County Division for its efforts to increase public awareness of county programs and services while incorporating this year’s theme of “Smart Justice: Creating Safer Communities.”

Celebrated in April, Hidalgo County was one of only six counties across the country honored for outstanding public outreach. The purpose of the National County Government Month Award program is to encourage counties to participate in National County Government Month (NCGM) and recognize those counties that sponsor outstanding programs to reach out and educate citizens about county government during the month of April.

Notable outreach activities included:

• The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program;

• Adult Probation Evidence-Based Practices Presentation;

• Veteran’s Court Graduation;

• Drug Court presentation to Palmer Drug Abuse Program’s 4th Annual Substance Abuse and Mental Health Conference’

• RGV Lead Job Shadow Day;

• Hidalgo County District Clerk’s 5th Annual Open House;

• Hidalgo County officials’ presentation to Leadership Class;

• Leadership Mission Class Visits Hidalgo County;

• Hidalgo County hosts UTPA Criminal Justice Department; and

• Drug Court Graduation.

As a result of this award, Hidalgo County was recognized during the 2013 County Solutions and Idea Marketplace, The Annual Conference of NACO.  Hidalgo County NCGM activities have also been published in the Texas Association of Counties “County Magazine”.

Among the county leaders who participated in this notable achievement were: County Judge Ramón García, Pct. 4 Commissioner Joseph Palacios; former 92nd District Court Judge Ricardo Rodríguez; 93rd District Court Judge Rudy Delgado; 430th District Court Judge Israel Ramón; District Clerk Laura Hinojosa; Public Affairs Director Karina Cardoza; Public Defender Jimmy González; and Arnold Patrick and Faustino López from Adult Probation, who all played an instrumental role in the community outreach programs that educated Hidalgo County residents about county government.

••••••

Jared Janes, former reporter for The Monitor, honored by Hidalgo County Commissioners Court for his excellent coverage of major issues

By DAVID A. DÍAZ

In journalism, noteworthy events are best judged by this age-old standard: “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.”

Just as rare is when a reporter who regularly writes about politicians is honored by those same officeholders – as in the recent case of Jared Matthew Janes, a five-year veteran journalist for The Monitor, who in August left his profession to attend the University of Texas School of Law in Austin.

Janes was publicly recognized for his news gathering skills on Tuesday, July 30, by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, which was one of the numerous “beats” – subject areas assigned to a reporter – in which he excelled.

Janes also extensively reported on the City of Edinburg and its jobs-creation arm, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, as well as generated significant coverage of the major actions of the Texas Legislature and the Hidalgo County state legislative delegation.

He also covered the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, and statewide and regional political campaigns.

Janes, a native of Sydney, an unincorporated community in the north-central Texas region of Comanche County, serves as proof of the famous adage, “From small things, big things one day come.”

“In his time at The Monitor, Jared has comprehensively covered issues that affect every resident in the county, from health care and transportation to the environment and legal affairs,” noted Karina Cardoza, Director of Public Affairs for Hidalgo County, who wrote the resolution in Janes’ honor. That declaration was unanimously approved by the county judge and county commissioners.

Janes’ work has garnered several statewide awards from the Associated Press Managing Editors, including placing in the Star Reporter of the Year category in 2011 and Star Investigative Report in 2010, along with the top honor from the Texas Bar Association for a series surrounding the costs of Hidalgo County’s indigent defense program.

“Most recently, Jared drove the conversation surrounding the events leading to and the coming impact that the merger of the Rio Grande Valley’s two public universities and its first medical school will have on the region’s transformation,” Cardoza added.

After reading the county resolution into the record, Janes was asked by Cardoza to address the commissioners court, audience members at the gathering, and the public, which was able to view the presentation on the Internet, and through the local PBS television station, which videotapes then broadcasts all public meetings of the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court.

“I was listening to Karina and wondering who was that guy she was describing,” Janes laughed, then proceeded to thank South Texans for his tenure in the Valley.

“It has been an extremely rewarding time, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. One of the things I wrote in my law school application personal statement is how newspapers, at their best, are a conversation,” Janes reflected. “What that comes down to is they are a dialogue, and I have been fortunate to have dialogues with exceptional groups of people who have really shaped my life, including all of you here, a number of people in this audience, and those who I have met during the last five years. For that, I can’t thank you enough.”

Janes was joined at the event by his now-former editor, Carlos Sánchez, who earlier this year took the leadership helms of The Monitor.

Despite the accolades and his impressive accomplishment in being admitted to one of the best law schools in the nation, Janes remained humble.

“It’s been a remarkable experience, but I am not irreplaceable,” he said. “The Monitor has been in this business for more than 100 years, I’ve been here for five years. Carlos, in whom I am more than optimistic in how he will lead this newspaper, will find someone to replace me.”

Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García, himself an attorney, set up the modest journalist to unavoidably praise himself.

“Where are you headed?” García asked.

Janes replied, “I’m going to law school. I hope that turns out well.”

“What university?” the county judge continued to press Janes, who earned his undergraduate degree at Oklahama State University in Oklahoma City.

“The University of Texas,” Janes answered, prompting congratulatory cheering from Longhorn fans and UT alumni in the audience.

“For you who know me, I am a huge Oklahoma State University Cowboy, so the one thing I have decided, no matter what color orange I’m wearing (both schools feature orange in their school colors), I’m always wearing the right one,” Janes reported with reassurance.

The county judge then publicly acknowledged the respect Janes has earned from him and the county commissioners and their constituents.

“You have a unique talent, your writing skills are exemplary, and you have the ability to take a complex set of facts and write them in such a way that people can understand what’s going on, and in a good, fair, and objective manner,” García told Janes. “That’s why people, I believe, think highly of you. Good luck to you, sir.”

Janes thanked the judge and the commissioners court for their well-wishes, allowing Cardoza to set up the proverbial photograph of the commissioners court with recipients of congratulatory resolutions.

“Judge, there are a number of other elected officials in the audience who may want to join us in the photograph with Jared,” Cardoza advised García, seeking permission from the commissioners court to allow more people into the pending group image.

But Janes came back to the podium, feigning protest: “But I don’t like most of those guys!”

His uncharacteristic public bias generated nervous laughter from the audience, as well as a surprised but silent reaction from Cardoza, who excels in helping manage the public image of county leaders.

Janes, who has expressed an interest in focusing on public service himself in the future, quickly followed through with his punch line – “I’m just kidding!” – prompting a roar of approval and visible relief from the gathering.

• RESOLUTION IN HONOR OF JARED JANES

WHEREAS County officials and employees were graced with the presence of a new visitor to the Hidalgo County Commissioners Courtroom – a quiet, unassuming, bespectacled young man who sat in the back of the courtroom with his laptop propped on his lap, furiously typing away at the keyboard, trying to capture, verbatim, it seemed, all the minute details, elaborate deliberations, and even lively exchanges from the proceedings of the Court; and

WHEREAS, little did we all know that a short five years later, this young, fresh-faced reporter would end up being one of The Monitor’s most prolific writers in his time in the Rio Grande Valley, having penned hundreds of news articles about Hidalgo County government, with a talented way with words and an ability for tackling complicated and often controversial issues and breaking them down into meaningful pieces of relevant information for Hidalgo County residents; and

WHEREAS, a native of Sidney, Texas, Jared Matthew Janes has covered Hidalgo County government, Edinburg, the Delta Area and legislative issues affecting the Rio Grande Valley for The Monitor since 2008; prior to joining The Monitor, Janes worked on the city desk at The Advocate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and interned at the Tulsa World. He graduated cum laude from Oklahoma State University in 2006; and

WHEREAS, in his time at The Monitor, Janes has comprehensively covered issues that affect every resident in the county, from health care and transportation to the environment and legal affairs; Janes’ work has garnered several statewide awards from the Associated Press Managing Editors, including placing in the Star Reporter of the Year category in 2011 and Star Investigative Report in 2010, along with the top honor from the Texas Bar Association for a series surrounding the costs of Hidalgo County’s indigent defense program; most recently, Janes drove the conversation surrounding the events leading to and the coming impact that the merger of the Rio Grande Valley’s two public universities and its first medical school will have on the region’s transformation; and

WHEREAS, throughout his career, Janes’ tireless devotion to unbiased and fair reporting on important issues affecting our community provided a service that helped foster an informed local electorate; Janes’ reporting merits respect because it is true, factual, and fair and his professionalism, integrity, and upstanding reputation have earned him the utmost respect of Hidalgo County officials and employees; and

WHEREAS, Janes is leaving his career as a reporter to pursue a law degree, and leaves his beat replacement at The Monitor big shoes to fill; County officials and employees alike are certain Janes will be successful in his new profession, and sincerely wish him the best as he begins this new chapter in his life.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court hereby recognizes and honors Jared Matthew Janes, for his diligent and dedicated devotion to the field of journalism and for his exceptional coverage of Hidalgo County government during his tenure.

••••••

PlainsCapital Bank of Dallas takes over First National Bank of Edinburg; FDIC protects all assets of customers at FNB’s 51 branches

By LaJUAN WILLIAMS=YOUNG

First National Bank of Edinburg was closed on Friday, September 13, by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) as receiver.

To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with PlainsCapital Bank, Dallas, Texas, to assume all of the deposits of First National Bank.

The 51 former branches of First National Bank also reopened as branches of PlainsCapital Bank during their normal business hours, beginning on Saturday, September 14, including the two branches in El Paso doing business as The National Bank of El Paso.

Depositors of First National Bank automatically became depositors of PlainsCapital Bank. Deposits will continue to be insured by the FDIC, so there is no need for customers to change their banking relationship in order to retain their deposit insurance coverage up to applicable limits.

Customers of First National Bank should continue to use their current branch until they receive notice from PlainsCapital Bank that systems conversions have been completed to allow full-service banking at all branches of PlainsCapital Bank.

Depositors of First National Bank can continue to access their money by writing checks or using ATM or debit cards. Checks drawn on the bank will continue to be processed. Loan customers should continue to make their payments as usual.

As of June 30, 2013, First National Bank had approximately $3.1 billion in total assets and $2.3 billion in total deposits. In addition to assuming all of the deposits of First National Bank, PlainsCapital Bank agreed to purchase approximately $2.7 billion of First National Bank’s assets.

The FDIC will retain the remaining assets for later disposition.

The FDIC and PlainsCapital Bank entered into a loss-share transaction on $1.8 billion of First National Bank’s assets. PlainsCapital Bank will share in the losses on the asset pools covered under the loss-share agreement. The loss-share transaction is projected to maximize returns on the assets covered by keeping them in the private sector. The transaction also is expected to minimize disruptions for loan customers. For more information on loss share, please visit:

http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/lossshare/index.html.

Customers with questions about this transaction should call the FDIC toll-free at the following numbers: from U.S., 1-800-405-7869; from Chile, 1-800-891-4004; from Guatemala, 1-800-507-9581; and from Mexico, 1-800-891-3995 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., CDT.

Interested parties also can visit the FDIC’s Web site at

http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/firstnatl-tx.html or

http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/failed/firstnatl-tx_spanish.html.

The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $637.5 million. Compared to other alternatives, PlainsCapital Bank’s acquisition was the least costly resolution for the FDIC’s DIF. First National Bank is the 22nd FDIC-insured institution to fail in the nation this year, and the first in Texas. The last FDIC-insured institution closed in the state was First International Bank, Plano, on September 30, 2011.

Congress created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 1933 to restore public confidence in the nation’s banking system. The FDIC insures deposits at the nation’s 6,940 banks and savings associations, and it promotes the safety and soundness of these institutions by identifying, monitoring and addressing risks to which they are exposed.

The FDIC receives no federal tax dollars — insured financial institutions fund its operations.

FDIC press releases and other information are available on the Internet at http://www.fdic.gov, by subscription electronically (go to http://www.fdic.gov/about/subscriptions/index.html) and may also be obtained through the FDIC’s Public Information Center (877-275-3342 or 703-562-2200). PR-83-2013

••••••

Former Judge Abel Limas of Brownsville handed 72-month sentence to federal prison for taking bribes in Cameron County scandal

By ANGELA DODGE

Former 404th State District Judge Abel Corral Limas on Brownsville on Wednesday, August 21, was ordered to prison following his conviction for racketeering, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced.

Limas pleaded guilty March 31, 2011.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Limas a total sentence of 72 months in federal prison. At the hearing, additional testimony was presented concerning the impact suffered by victims, with one victim testifying there was “outrage and shock at the magnitude of the corruption.”

Limas admitted to the court that his conduct was “not a mistake, it was intentional” and he had destroyed the public’s view of the local judiciary. Limas was further ordered to pay restitution of approximately $6,777,270.50 and will serve a term of three years of supervised release following completion of the prison sentence.

An additional amount of $257,300 was ordered forfeited as proceeds derived from the offense.

“It critical to our court system that justice is administered fairly and without any undue influence,” said Magidson. “This case and the sentencing today serve as remindera that this behavior will not be tolerated in the Southern District of Texas. We will continue our efforts against public corruption and will pursue prosecution in these matters when identified to us by our partner law enforcement agencies.”

Limas, 57, a life-long resident of Brownsville, practiced criminal and family law in south Texas during the late ‘80s and the ‘90s before assuming the judgeship of the 404th District in 2000. Limas served as judge for eight years – retiring in December 2008. Thereafter, he was associated with the law firm of Rosenthal & Watson, an Austin firm, as “of counsel.”

At the time of his guilty plea, Limas admitted his part in use of the office of judge of the 404th District Court as a criminal enterprise to enrich himself and others through extortion. Limas accepted money and other consideration from attorneys in civil cases pending in his court in return for favorable pre-trial rulings in certain cases, including a case involving a helicopter crash at South Padre Island in February 2008. Limas specifically admitted to receiving $8,000 in May 2008, a payment described as eight “golf balls,” for favorable rulings.

Evidence also showed Limas participated in a series of meetings with attorneys Marc Garrett Rosenthal and former Rep. Jim Solis, D-Harlingen, in the summer of 2008 during which they planned and negotiated the terms of Limas’ employment as an “of counsel” attorney with the firm.

During those meetings, Rosenthal promised Limas an advance of at least $100,000 as well as a percentage of attorneys’ fees earned in the helicopter crash case in return for favorable rulings on the case. Limas’ employment arrangements were confirmed in calls on August 28, 2008, between Limas and his wife and son. Limas was expecting to be “cut in” on 10 percent of the settlement/judgment of the helicopter crash case pending in his court and the $100,000 advance.

On December 31, 2008, Limas received a check for $50,000 payable from the Rosenthal & Watson Law Firm.

On January 2, 2009, Limas received a check for $50,000 from Solis.

In October 2009, the helicopter case settled for approximately $14 million and Limas received approximately $85,000 from the Rosenthal & Watson Law Firm approximately two months later.

To date, a total of eight defendants have entered guilty pleas to related violations in the FBI’s four-year public corruption investigation, including:

• Former Rep. José Santiago “Jim” Solis, a Democrat from Harlingen. Solis was sentenced August 2, 2013, to 47 months in federal prison.

• Local attorney José “Joe” Valle;

• Former Cameron County District Attorney’s Office investigator Jaime Munivez;

• José Manuel “Meme” Longoria; and

• Armando Peña and his wife, Karina.

Three others – attorneys Ray Román Marchan, Marc Garrett Rosenthal and former Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos were found guilty of public corruption-related charges involving their association with Limas after separate jury trials.

Marchan was previously sentenced to 42 months imprisonment, which was vacated upon his death.

Rosenthal and Villalobos will be sentenced September 23 and October 15, 2013, respectively.

Limas was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The investigation was been conducted by the FBI with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Brownsville Police Department and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation.

Southern District of Texas Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSA) Michael Wynne and Óscar Ponce are prosecuting this case.

The cases against Villalobos and Rosenthal are being prosecuted under the direction of the Western District of Texas by AUSA’s Wynne and Greg Surovic.

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