With key appointments to powerful House committees, Rep. Muñoz well-positioned to help promote, protect City of McAllen’s legislative agenda

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Featured, from left: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio; Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; and McAllen Mayor Jim Darling on Thursday, June 17, 2014 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

Photograph By MARK MONTEMAYOR

With southwest McAllen as part of his House District 36, which includes a major presence of South Texas College along with key international bridges and transportation systems, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, will be a powerful asset once more for The City of McAllen and its ambitious, progressive agenda during the ongoing 140-day regular session of the Texas Legislature, which runs through May 31. Muñoz’ body of work at the Texas Capitol, in partnership with his fellow Valley lawmakers, is sure to continue registering victories, especially following his reappointment to several of the most influential House of Representatives legislative committees. Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, one of the three most powerful leaders in Texas government, on Wednesday, February 4, elevated Muñoz to Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Insurance, and also kept him as a member of the budget-setting Appropriations Committee, and the Local and Consent Calendars Committee. “I am sincerely honored and grateful to be reappointed to these very important committees by Speaker Straus,” Muñoz said after receiving his assignments. “I fully intend to represent the interests of my constituents and the greater Rio Grande Valley region as I serve on these committees. I thank Speaker Straus for entrusting me with these assignments and for placing me in a position to better serve Texas.” Muñoz’ rising star in the Texas Legislature is a definite asset to the City of McAllen’s legislative agenda, which was adopted by the McAllen Mayor and McAllen City Commission late last year. McAllen’s top state priorities will focus on the following goals: the creation of a Hidalgo County Hospital District; improving international trade and shipping with Mexico through local international bridges; seeking funding to build the first phase of a northbound commercial vehicle inspection station at Anzaldúas International Bridge; extending Ware Road (FM 2220), a primary north-south arterial in McAllen, north from Trenton Road (FM 676) to State Highway 107; building an overpass over Pecan Boulevard at the South Texas College main campus, which is one of the fastest growing in the country (32,000 students), to coincide with a $55 million locally-funded campus expansion currently underway; enhancing Texas’ relationship with Mexico, including holding high-level annual meetings in McAllen or Rio Grande City featuring the Texas governor’s office and Texas secretary of state’s office with their counterparts from Mexican states that border Texas for the purposes of discussing trade, transportation, energy, security and other bi-national issues; and seeking funding, through legislation or Texas Parks and Wildlife Department prioritization, for the construction of hike-and-bike trails in McAllen and surrounding cities.

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Archer Fellows encourage students to consider a ‘life-changing’ semester in Washington, D.C.

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Featured, from left, Blanca Davila and Stephanie Méndez encourage students to apply for an Archer Fellowship. The application deadline for both the fall 2015 semester and the spring 2016 semester is Monday, February 23. For more information, contact Stephen Cisneros, Interim Director of Student Engagement, at 956-882-7152 or stephen.cisneros@utb.edu.

Photograph By LETTY FERNÁNDEZ

Stephanie Méndez and Blanca Davila are enthusiastic promoters of the Bill Archer Fellowship Program, an education program designed to provide students from throughout The University of Texas System with an intense learning and exploration experience in Washington, D.C. Students attending The University of Texas at Brownsville – who will be enrolled at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in the fall – can apply to the Archer Fellows Program for the 2015–2016 academic year. Méndez, who will graduate from UT-Brownsville with her Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing and Management in May, was an Archer Fellow during the fall 2014 semester. Davila, who will receive her Master of Public Policy and Management from UT Brownsville in May, participated in the Archer Graduate Program in Public Policy in summer 2014.

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Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument, created by legislation filed by Sen. Hinojosa, is dedicated to honor fallen heroes from that war

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and other state leaders on Saturday, March 29, led a tribute to Texas veterans who served or were killed during the Vietnam War with the unveiling and dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Monument on the Texas State Capitol Grounds. The ceremony was held on Texas Vietnam Veterans Day, which marks the anniversary of the day the last American combat troops left Vietnam. “As a Vietnam veteran for the U.S. Marine Corps, I understand the difficult sacrifices that our military families endure on a daily basis,” Hinojosa said. “The Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument honors and thanks our fallen Vietnam heroes and their families for their ultimate sacrifice of defending our freedom, and welcomes those who came home and fought with great courage and resilience.It is our hope that this monument will ensure that the memory of our Texas Vietnam Heroes lives on. Semper Fi.” The monument is a 14-foot-tall bronze sculpture featuring five seven-foot tall infantry figures in patrol positions situated atop an eight-sided base. Designed to represent the diversity of Texas Vietnam Veterans, the figures will be Hispanic-American, African-American, Asian, Native-American, and Caucasian. The Texas Vietnam Heroes Exhibit is a visual representation of the 3,417 Texans who did not survive to come home from Vietnam. It was designed by Excalibur Exhibits and consists of hand-embossed dog tags featuring the name, rank, branch of service, and date of loss and home of record for each veteran. See lead story in this posting.

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Dr. Guy Bailey, the newly-selected president of The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, will find that South Texans are determined to see higher education in the Valley reach a world-class level, say Edinburg city and state leaders. Bailey, 63, has served as chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the president of Texas Tech University and the University of Alabama, and provost of The University of Texas at San Antonio. On Monday, April 28, the UT System Board of Regents, which met in Austin, selected Bailey as the sole finalist for the historic position of founding president for UT-Rio Grande Valley. “I am very impressed with his credentials and accomplishments, but it is the people of the Valley who will impress him,” said Canales, whose House District 40 includes UT-Pan American, the UT-Regional Academic Health Center Medical Research Division, and a planned major component of the new UT medical school for the Valley. Featured, from left, during a reception on Friday, May 16, at The University of Texas-Pan American, are: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; former Rep. VerónicaGonzáles, D-McAllen, who now serves as Vice President for University Advancement, The University of Texas-Pan American; Edinburg Mayor Richard García; Dr. Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; Ernest “Ernie” Aliseda, Member, Board of Regents, The University of Texas System; and Rio Grande City Mayor Rubén A. Villarreal. See story later in this posting.

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The majority of the Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation celebrates in the House of Representatives chamber soon after the final House passage in 2013 of Senate Bill 24, authored by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, which will bring a full-fledged University of Texas medical school to the Rio Grande Valley. The planned UT medical school, which is set to open in the fall of 2016 with an enrollment of 50 students, will have an economic impact to the four-county region of more than $1 billion a year when it grows into a UT health science center. This image, taken on May 23, 2013, features, front row from left: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission (seated); Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito; and Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco. Standing, back row, from left: Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya; Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas; and Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City.  See story later in this posting.

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Details of a proposal to donate up to five acres of prime real estate in southwest Edinburg – valued at more than $2 million – to serve as the site of the planned administrative headquarters for the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley have been made public by MVP Partnership, L.T.D. of McAllen.The offer, submitted by prominent attorney José E. García on behalf of MVP Partnership, L.T.D., would benefit the UT System, UT-Rio Grande Valley, and the McAllen-Edinburg-Pharr-Mission Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) by placing the key headquarters, with its prestigious economic, academic, and political resources, in the heart of one of the Valley’s most influential, safest, and attractive regions.The site being offered by MVP Partnership, L.T.D. is located by the intersection of Trenton Road and McColl Road in Edinburg, immediately north of the campuses of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and adjoining medical offices and businesses. It is within easy access to all major hospitals in Edinburg, including Edinburg Regional Medical Center and Edinburg Children’s Hospital, the University of Texas-Pan American, the planned UT-RGV medical school, and minutes away from some of the most distinguished neighborhoods and bustling business, medical, and entertainment corridors in Edinburg and McAllen. Featured on Friday, May 16, at The University of Texas-Pan American, from left: Dr. Miguel Nevárez, former president of the University of Texas-Pan American; Dr. Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley; and Jose E. García. See story later in this posting.

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Leaders for Texas National Bank in Edinburg and the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (RGVHCC) on Thursday, May 22, hosted a summer mixer to educate area residents of the loan packages and other financial services available through Texas National Bank for current and prospective business owners. The event took place at the bank, located at 4809 South Jackson Road. “Are you looking for loan? Learn of all the different loan possibilities that Texas National Bank offers,” noted Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, President and CEO of the RGVHCC. “Also learn of the award-winning membership benefits that the RGV Hispanic Chamber offers. Anyone can become a member of the chamber.” Individuals do not have to be Hispanic to be a member, she added. The RGVHCC has many services for its membership, including lobbying state and federal leaders on public education, international affairs, and women and health-related issues. Featured during final preparations for the May 22 event are, seated from left: Gina Ayala; Odilia Chaidez; Mayra Woloski; Linda Vera; and Ester Medrano. Standing, from left: Rubén Plata, Executive Vice President, Texas National Bank; Mario Lozano; Omar Rodríguez; Frank Davila; Pete Morales; James Flores; Millie Smith; Laura Galván; Leo Treviño; Connie González; Mary Elizondo; Ernesto López; Navil González; Joe Quiroga, President, Texas National Bank; and Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, President and CEO, Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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The Texas Land Title Association (TLTA) has announce that five employees with Edwards Abstract and Title Company, with its headquarters in Edinburg have successfully completed the requirements and passed a rigorous examination to earn the professional certification designations from TLTA. To become TLTA certified, a candidate must meet certain eligibility requirements in work experience, education and professional involvement, and then successfully pass an examination. Each designation represents a measure of achievement and proficiency in the Texas title insurance industry and distinguishes these highly motivated individuals. Edwards Abstract and Title Company associates who have earned professional certification designations from the Texas Land Title Association are, featured from left: Martha (Marty) García, CESA (Sr. Escrow Officer – Mission); Marilyn De Luna, CAEA, CESA, CTIA (Regional Escrow Automation Manager/Sr. Escrow Officer – McAllen); Byron Jay Lewis, CTIA (Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer – Edinburg); Mariana Ragousis-Ramírez, CESA, CTIA (Escrow Officer – McAllen); and Mary A. Barrientos, CESA (Mission Branch Manager/Sr. Escrow Officer). See story later in this posting.

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The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber Women’s Committee is preparing for the RGV Women of Distinction Awards Dinner to be held on Saturday, June 19, at The Social Club in Edinburg. The evening will celebrate women who have excelled in their fields. It will consist of a dinner, shopping, entertainment and the 2014 awards. Individual tickets may be purchased for $10 while a Table for 10 is available for $500. The committee is asking for nominations from the public in the following categories: Professional, Humanitarian, Education, Government, Entrepreneur, Arts and Entertainment; and Rising Star. Qualified nominees are those women who have helped the community and excelled in their field, and who have encouraged other women to succeed. The RGVHCC Women’s Committee will also be scheduling workshops, in the forms of luncheons or evening gathering, relating to women’s issues. “We welcome women to become involved in the Women’s Committee and get to know other successful women who are willing to help women.  The Women’s Committee also has an event at the end of the year called ‘Ladies Night Out’, which includes pampering, shopping, silent auction and a male style show,” said Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC President and Chief Executive Officer. Women’s Committee leaders, featured from left, are:,Sharon Almaguer, attorney; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, RGVHCC President/CEO;  Brenda Lee Huerta, Chair-Elect, RGVHCC; Hannah Burleson; Connie Huerta, New York Life; and Eve Mullis, Women’s Assistant Basketball Coach, The University of Texas-Pan American. More information on the Women of Distinction and/or the RGVHCC is available by calling 928-0060.

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Edinburg’s retail economy in March 2014 showed an improvement of almost 11 percent over the same month last year, representing one of the best gains among major Valley economies, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. Edinburg also registered a rate of growth better than the state average for March 2014, which showed a 5.6 percent increase over the same month in 2013. Based on the amount of local sales taxes collected, which reflects the strength of an economy, Edinburg’s retail sector generated more than $1.7 million in local sales taxes in March 2014, compared with almost $1.6 million in March 2013. For the first three months of 2014, Edinburg’s retail economy also posted a double-digit upswing over the same period last year, generating $8,028,833.80 in local sales taxes, compared with $7,214,163.81 for January through March 2013 – a rise of 11.29 percent. Mayor Richard García, who also serves as president of the five-member Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, said the March 2014 and January through March 2014 quarterly figures are consistent with the economic goals and strategies of the Edinburg City Council, the EEDC Board of Directors, and city and EEDC staff. “The greatest measure of a community’s growth, we believe, is the growth in sales tax,” the mayor observed. “This kind of success and growth does not happen without vision, planning, and a very deliberate plan of action. Our City Council and our city staff are a team of professionals whose focus, priority, and responsibility is this, our beloved city.” The positive retail sales figures are helped by dozens of new and planned businesses in the past year, he added. “When it comes to economic development we have more than 50 new businesses that have opened within the last year or are under construction right now aimed at improving our quality of life: Wal-Mart with 360 new jobs and a new planned HEB along with Taco Palenque, two Starbucks, IHop, Two Popeye’s, University Drafthouse, Thirsty Bronc, Kahn’s Grill, Chic-Fil-A, Wingstop, Subway, Pizza Hut, Siempre Natural, Sally’s Beauty Supply, Easy Cuts, Moon Beans, Drunken Clam, Burrito Bar, Lanadees, La Mexicana, Taquería el Zarape, Pizza Patrón, Walgreens, CVS, McDonalds, Las Cazuelas, Big Lots, Party City, Carters, Burkes Outlet, GNC, Melrose, Chopstix, Gorditas Doña Tota, Dairy Queen, Cordons Taste of Chicago, CTC Distributing, Johnny’s True Value,” García noted. Featured from left: Laura Lee Vela, Administrative Assistant, EEDC; Cynthia Contreras Gutiérrez, General Counsel, EEDC; Nelda T. Ramírez, Assistant Executive Director, EEDC; Leticia Reyes, Director of Business Development and Public Affairs, EEDC; Mayor Richard García; Fred Palacios, Secretary-Treasurer, Board of Directors, EEDC; and Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director, EEDC. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg’s unemployment rate for April 2014 was 5.5 percent, the best showing in the city for any month since January 2008, and the second-best figure for all cities that month in the Rio Grande Valley, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced. The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. This latest positive news comes as Walmart announced the opening of its third major store in Edinburg. Mayor Richard García, featured left, who also serves as president of the five-member Board of Directors for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, noted that the city’s third Wal-Mart (the most among all Valley communities) is taking advantage of one of Edinburg’s key assets: U.S. Expressway 281/I69-Central. Located just south of the Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, the new Walmart has created 300 new jobs for the region. It is near the intersection of U.S. 281/I69-Central and Canton Road, an area that in the past few years has become one of busiest in the city, the mayor said. “The region’s Expressway 281/I69-Central is a huge piece of the success today and even greater of what to expect tomorrow: 13.5 miles of U.S. Highway 281/I69-Central from FM 2812 to the Pharr Interchange,” said García. Edinburg has the largest amount of freeway frontage than any other community in the Rio Grande Valley, “to the tune of 18 miles” compared to the three other largest cities with an estimated two miles of frontage each, he added. “This immense opportunity for growth has been discovered by large investors like Bert Ogden with the new Infinity Dealership, Fiesta Chevrolet, Holt Caterpillar, Walmart, HEB, the Shoppes at Rio Grande, the master planned community of La Sienna and our exciting mega-arena development,” García said. The mega-arena project involves a planned $50 million special events center to be built just off U.S. Expressway 281/I69-Central. For the month of April 2014, only McAllen (5.4 percent) had a better figure than Edinburg (5.5 percent), while the other major communities in the Valley had unemployment rates that ranged from 6.3 percent in Harlingen to 8.6 percent in Brownsville. The Valley’s three other most populous cities also had unemployment rates for April 2014 in single-digits: Mission (6.8 percent), Pharr (6.9 percent), and Weslaco (8.6 percent). From left in this image from May 19 at the University of Texas-Pan American are Edinburg Mayor Richard García, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Rio Grande City Mayor Rubén O. Villarreal. See story later in this posting.

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Planned Valley medical school, new university system must include University of Texas, Pan American, and UT-Brownsville in its name, says Miriam Martínez

Republican Miriam Martínez, featured here in Edinburg on Thursday, December 6, with Valley legislative and University of Texas System leaders, is calling on fellow Republican Gov. Rick Perry to make a proposal to create a new UT Valley university system and medical school as an emergency item when lawmakers return to work in Austin in January. The far-reaching measure would merge UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville, and the Regional Academic Health Centers in Edinburg, Harlingen, and Brownsville into one, new UT comprehensive university system. “Such a proposal will require approval by the Texas Legislature, but state lawmakers can’t consider any measures during the first 60 days of a regular session unless those proposals are declared emergencies by the governor,” said Martínez, the hostess of KIRT-AM 1580’s Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez, which airs Monday and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. “By designating that legislation as an emergency item, Gov. Perry sends the clear message that he supports the creation of this new university system for deep South Texas, and the Republican Party, which Perry leads, controls the House of Representatives and the Senate.” Martínez is also working with Valley and UT leaders to make sure that when the new university system is created, “The University of Texas”, “Pan American”, and “UT-Brownsville” are featured prominently in the yet-to-be named Valley-wide university and medical school system. “We cannot allow these honored names to be removed because it would devalue the diplomas of tens of thousands of alumni whose diplomas proudly feature “The University of Texas”, “Pan American” and “UT-Brownsville,” Martínez said. Featured, from left: Rep.-elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Miriam Martínez; UT System Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell of Weslaco; and Rep.-elect Óscar Longoria, Jr. See lead story in this posting.

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Almost two dozen legislative priorities, including efforts to allow South Texas College to offer additional Bachelor of Applied Technology degree programs, create a state-of-the-art Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence, and to oppose allowing Texans with licenses to carry concealed weapons to be allowed to bring those weapons on campus, are being proposed by the STC Board of Trustees and top administrators. The two-county community college system’s legislative agenda was unveiled on Thursday, December 13, during an 8:30 a.m. breakfast session between the seven-member board of trustees and their top administrators with members of the Valley’s state Senate and state House of Representatives delegation. Featured, seated, from left: STC Board Trustee Paul R. Rodríguez; STC Board Trustee Gary Gurwitz; STC President Dr. Shirley A. Reed; STC Board Chair Rose Benavidez; and STC Board Secretary Graciela Farias. Standing, from left: Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission; Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-Sharyland; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; and Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg Class XXIV recently completed their second session for Leadership Edinburg. On Wednesday, November 4, the class visited the Edinburg school district’s newly renovated Robert Vela High School for the Education segment of its sessions. Leadership Edinburg is a program designed by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce to allow the class members to interact with one another and members of the community to encourage a better Edinburg. The nine-month program is structured to help class members understand the problems and opportunities faced through strong leadership skills focusing on politics, history, education, healthcare and quality of life. See story later in this posting.

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Six young ladies from the Edinburg school district were recently honored for their achievements and for agreeing to represent the school district and the community in the coming year. Featured, front row, from left: Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent of Schools; Robbie Reyna, Miss Teen Edinburg 2013, a junior at Robert Vela High School and daughter of Robert and Sandra Palacios Flores; Karina Eliza Rodríguez, Little Miss Edinburg 2013, a sixth grader at Longoria Middle School and daughter of Raúl and Cynthia Salas Rodriguez; Victoria Savannah Cantú, Miss Edinburg Pre-Teen 2013, an eighth grader at South Middle School and daughter of Daniel and Claudia Cantú; and  Juan “Sonny” Palacios, President of the Edinburg school board. Middle row, from left: Dr. Martín Castillo, vice-president of the Edinburg school board; Clarissa Laura Rodríguez, Miss Edinburg 2013, a senior at Edinburg North High School and daughter of Raúl and Cynthia Salas Rodríguez; Kassandra Renée Garza, Miss Junior Teen 2013, an eighth grader at South Middle School and daughter of Alberto R. and Leticia I. Garza; and Robert Peña, school board member. Back row, from left: Jaime Chavana and David Torres, school board trustees. Not pictured is Annika Karina Palacios, Miss Edinburg Princess 2013, a first grader at St. Joseph Catholic Schools and daughter of Terry and Hope Palacios. As Beauty Pageant winners, the six will represent the City of Edinburg at functions that include socials, luncheons, ribbon cuttings and banquets.

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The University of Texas-Pan American Business Development and Innovation Group recently issued its annual Productivity and Impact Report of Service for its Affiliate Partners, including The Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Between October 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012, the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce helped bring more than $1 million in investments and helped increase sales by more than $12 million, according to the report. Featured discussing the report are, seated left to right:  Esperanza Delgado, SBDC Marketing Director; María Juárez, SBDC Director; and Janie Caballero, Senior Business Advisor. Back row are:  Anthony Covacevich, Vice Chair of Small Business; Hari Namboodiri, Advisory Committee; Dr. Robert Nelsen, President of the University of Texas-Pan American and Vice Chair of Education; Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, President and CEO, Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Ronnie Bernal, Chair Elect. See story later in this posting.

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The Women’s Business Center (WBC) held an Open House event to celebrate National Women in Small Business Month on Friday, October 26, in Edinburg. The community was invited to see its offices, located at 2314 W. University Drive, Suite 230, in the Compass Bank Building, as well as to become acquainted with the services offered by the WBC. The event was a huge success, very-well attended, and featured keynote speakers Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, Ramiro Garza, City Manager for the City of Edinburg, and Celine Rodríguez Schultz, financial professional with New York Life. “Women-owned and controlled small businesses in this region made up 60 percent of all new businesses that were created and helped bring down the unemployment rate that had hovered in Hidalgo County for three decades with a double-digit of 22 percent in January 1997 to six percent at the beginning of 2008. This could not have happened without women entrepreneurs,” Hinojosa said. Featured from left: ?Celine Schulz, Financial Professional for New York Life; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa and María “Charro” Mann, Executive Director for the Women’s Business Center. See story later in this posting.

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Following the swearing-in ceremonies based on the Tuesday, November 6 elections – in which Carmen González and Robert Peña were reelected, and Jaime Solis was elected to his first four-year term, the Edinburg CISD Board of Trustees was re-organized with newly-elected members. The 2012-2013 board consists of, seated from left: Dr. Martín Castillo, Vice-President; Juan “Sonny” Palacios, President; and Jaime Solis, Secretary. Standing from left: David Torres, Member; Jaime R. Chavana, Member; Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent of Schools; Carmen González, Member; and Robert Peña, Jr., Member.

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Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, the Chair-elect of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, on Friday, November 30, met with Congresswoman Judy Chu of California, featured left, Chair-elect of the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus, and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio, Chair-elect of the Congressional Black Caucus, to discuss plans to collaborate in the upcoming Congress. "I am very encouraged by a sense of community as we prepare to begin the 113th Congress,” said Hinojosa. “Together, my colleagues, Chairwoman-elect Fudge and Chairwoman Chu and I renewed our commitment to developing solutions to overcome the challenges in our communities. I believe by working in conjunction with other House Caucuses, we will be able to build a strong base in Congress that will focus on the most pressing needs of our constituents across the United States of America." The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories. See story later in this posting.

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The Edinburg Chamber of Commerce recently announced the 2012 Edinburg Night of Lights Parade winners in the following categories: School Division and Business/Civic Division.  On Saturday, December 1, more than 60 entries lined up inside the University of Texas-Pan American parking lot to participate in the festive parade. The City of Edinburg sponsored $5,000 in award money and trophies to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places. First Place School Division was awarded to Monte Cristo Elementary Cheer & Dance Team, 2nd to Robert Vela High School HOSA, and 3rd place to Dr. Thomas Esparza Elementary. First Place Business/Civic division was awarded to Jammer DJ Service, 2nd to Edinburg Folklorico Dance Team, and 3rd place to San Juan Bears Little League Baseball. Judges for the event featured in this photograph, from left, were, from left: Kelly Rivera Salazar with Libebarger Googan Blair Sampson; Naomi Perales with Texas Gas Services; and Stephanie Ozuna with the University of Texas-Pan American.

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Juanita G. Treviño, featured left, and Viviana Ozuna, featured right, recently posed with Hidalgo County Judge Ramón García in Edinburg as part of the two women’s local marketing efforts announcing the establishment in deep South Texas of Mi Familia, a Spanish-language, Houston-based print magazine that is also published online (http://www.MiFamilia.net), and which features articles and photographs of Valley families. Ozuna, who is the magazine’s Director for the Rio Grande Valley, said the print version of the magazine, which is being circulated throughout the region, was first introduced into the area in September. “We began to notice a lot of subscribers from the Valley and northern Mexico, and so it was natural to begin expanding down here,” said Ozuna, a business consultant with ties to the Valley, including the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, and who is member of the family who publishes Mi Familia Magazine. “The long-time goal is to have a a separate Mi Familia Magazine that focuses on deep South Texas.” The online version, which includes articles and photographs from previous magazines, has an audience of between 30,000 and 40,000 viewers per month. More information is available by contacting Ozuna at 956/227-1044 or via email at viviana@mifamiliamagazine.net

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Republican Miriam Martínez and Democrat David A. Díaz on Monday, November 26, launched Red Hot Texas Politics with Miriam Martínez, a dynamic radio talk show on KIRT-1580 AM that will provide high-powered and well-connected news, analyses, and opinion on the Texas Legislature and statewide and Valley politics. Martínez, a successful small business owner and the 2012 Republican nominee for State Representative, House District 41, and Díaz, a Democratic legislative consultant and publisher of http://www.EdinburgPolitics.com, bring more than 50 years of combined experiences in Texas, local, and Mexican politics and news media. “For the Rio Grande Valley to prosper, area Democrats and Republicans must put aside their rivalries,” Martínez said. “With our show, David and I want to set aside party politics and unite for the greater good of the region.” The show airs on Mondays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. See story later in this posting.

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Miriam Martínez’ campaign symbolic of humble beginnings, titanic struggles, and valiant victories of all South Texans

Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Tuesday, November 6, celebrated with his supporters and local news media reporters outside his law office in McAllen following his victory over Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi. Hinojosa earned more than 60 percent of the vote for the right to serve as the District 20 state senator. District 20 includes a large portion of Hidalgo County, Nueces County, Jim Wells County, and Brooks County. "I would like to thank the voters for returning me to the Texas Senate to continue defending District 20’s fast-growing and distinct slice of Texas," Hinojosa following his victory. "I also want to thank my supporters, volunteers and campaign staff for their very hard work on the ground this election season."

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Mayor Richard García, Rep.-elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Paul Rappaport of First Hartford Realty, who is the General Manager for The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, on Friday, October 19, were joined by other area business and community leaders for a ribbon cutting ceremony marking the positive economic impact of the 440,000 square-foot retail shopping complex, which is scheduled to expand to more than 1.1 million square-feet in the coming few years. Since it first opened for business in the fall of 2008, The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, located at Trenton Road and U.S. Expressway/Business 281, has generated $4.6 million in local sales taxes and employs more than 220 full-time professionals, according to the mayor. Featured, from left: Martín Rivas, Membership Director, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Elizabeth Rocha, General Manager, Melrose Family Fashions; Letty Reyes, Project Manager, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Ramiro Garza, Edinburg City Manager; Rep.-Elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Mayor Richard García, president, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors; Paul Rappaport of First Hartford Realty, General Manager, The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley; Chris Fuentes, General Manager, JC Penney; Agustín Lozano, Public Relations, Bert Ogden Motors; Letty González, President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce; Marty Martin, Rio Valley Realty; Melissa Rodríguez, Austin Personnel Services; and Johnny Rodríguez, Austin Personnel Services.

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Robert R. Vela High School was formally dedicated on Saturday, October 13, during a grand opening ceremony that brought together hundreds of guests from throughout the Valley. There were local, state, and national dignitaries, former students, and people from all walks of life whose lives were touched by Vela. Vela was a teacher who firmly believed that academics and athletics worked hand-in-hand to mold well-rounded student-athletes into productive citizens in our community. Vela was one of South Texas’ greatest football coaches. He lived his life helping students see the potential of greatness within them. Robert R. Vela High School is home of the SaberCats. Featured, from left: His widow, Dominga Vela; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep.-elect Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Eva Torres, Principal of Vela High School; and Dr. René Gutiérrez, Superintendent of the Edinburg School District.

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South Texas College Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy was one of only three programs that were honored on Thursday, October 4 with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Star Award at the 2012 THECB Leadership Conference in Austin. "The Coordinating Board’s recognition of South Texas College’s exemplary Dual Enrollment Academy for Medical Sciences as a Star Award winner is long overdue," said STC President Shirley A. Reed. "The program has a sterling track record of success and helping hundreds of young people get a jump start on pursuing a professional degree in medical sciences by earning an associate degree from STC, tuition free." Featured, from left: Nick González, STC High School Programs and Services Liaison; Ali Esmaeili, STC Dean of Bachelor Programs and University Relations; Lupe Chávez, STC High School Programs Director; Raymund Paredes, Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Mark Murray, President of STC Faculty Senate; and Juan E. Mejía, STC Vice President for Academic Affairs. See story later in this posting.

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Silver Ribbon Community Partners, First Choice Power and the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are asking the community to "Share the Warmth" with the elderly and disabled this winter season. Silver Ribbon is a non-profit United Way Agency that assists the elderly 65+ and the disabled 18+ who have been referred to them by Adult Protective Services due to abuse, neglect or exploitation. Many of these elderly clients fall into the "low-to moderate income" bracket and may receive $10,000 a year or less from Social Security. Every year the county of Hidalgo receives over 2,500 calls of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or exploitation of the elderly and disabled. Area residents can help the less fortunate by donating new or gently used blankets, warm stretch gloves, non-skid socks, or winter caps and scarf’s that will be distributed to the elderly or disabled of Hidalgo County who meet the income criteria. Monetary donations will also be accepted. Please make checks out to Silver Ribbon Community Partners. Residents also may drop off donations now until December 17 at Silver Ribbon Community Partners located at 1919 Austin Avenue in McAllen, at First Choice Power located at 2423 E. Expressway 83, Suite 400, in Mission, or at the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce located at 3313 N. McColl in McAllen, Please call Rose Ramírez, Program Director with Silver Ribbon at 956/664-4892 for more information and remember your donation is tax deductible. Featured, from left: Cynthia Sakulenzki, RGVHCC Pres/CEO; Rose Ramírez, Program Director Silver Ribbon Community Partners, and Moníca Rodríguez, Area Manager for First Choice Power.

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First National Bank on Friday, November 9, announced that Saúl Ortega, its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, has been named the honoree for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV 6th Annual "Steak" in Your Community Event. Ortega and the 2013 Youth of the Year will be celebrated on Saturday, January 12, 2013, at the Legacy Center@Boys & Girls Clubs, 702 Cullen Street (Rogers & Expway 281). Ortega has been with First National Bank for 25 years, formerly as Accounting Officer, Controller, and Chief Financial Officer. He assumed the role of Chairman and CEO in late 2011. Ortega’s focus is on strong, conservative lending practices and maintaining FNB’s long history of the best customer service in banking. Featured, first row, from left: Amaya Hernández; Tomás Espinoza; Brianna Espinoza; Mallory Espinoza; Adam López; Abel López; and Alex Castillo. Back row: Saúl Ortega and Sabrina Walker-Hernández, Chief Professional Officer, Boys & Girls Clubs of Edinburg RGV. See story later in this posting.

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A scholarship for South Texas students at The University of Texas at Austin has been named for Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, the Texas Exes announced on Tuesday, October 30. The Senator Judith Zaffirini Scholarship will be presented annually by the Texas Exes to deserving students from South Texas who need assistance paying for college. The scholarship was endowed by the senator’s son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., an attorney and businessman. Because of his contribution, the Texas Exes will create a permanent endowment that can fund scholarships for years to come. Featured, from left: Carlos Zaffirini Jr.; Leslie Cedar, Texas Exes Executive Director; Bill Powers, UT President; and Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, UT System Chancellor. Not shown: John Beckworth, Texas Exes President. See story later in this posting.

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León and Velma Sue De León, owners of Memorial Funeral Home in Edinburg, among other area businesses, on Saturday, November 3, were recognized as 2012 Man and Woman of the Year by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. The honor was bestowed during the Annual Chamber Installation Banquet, held at the ECHO Hotel and Conference Center in Edinburg. The Man and Woman of the Year selection was based on a community-driven committee process that selected a man and woman that exceeds in professional and civic commitment and avid volunteerism within the community of Edinburg. Featurd, from left: son Jason De León; León and Velma Sue De León; and son Jacob De León. See story later in this posting.

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Edinburg Mayor Richard García, featured seated, center, on Saturday, October 13, help lead a delegation of Valley mayors who met at Pepper’s Restaurant in McAllen with San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro to begin building an alliance with San Antonio on legislative issues of mutual concern to that city and the Rio Grande Valley. They addressed shared challenges and strategies needed to develop a partnership between the two regions of South Texas in advance of the upcoming regular session of the Texas Legislature, which begins in January. Featured, front row, from left, are: Rio Grande City Mayor Rubén Villarreal; Granjeño Mayor Yvette Cabrera; Mayor Castro’s twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio; Edinburg Mayor Richard H. García; San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro; San Juan Mayor San Juanita Sánchez; and Laguna Vista Mayor Susie Houston. Standing, from left: Gilbert Hinojosa, Texas Democratic Party Chair; Rio Hondo Mayor Alonzo Garza; La Feria Mayor Steve Brewer; Port Isabel Mayor Joe E. Vega; Alamo Mayor Diana Martínez; Alamo Commissioner María del Pilar Garza; Mercedes Mayor Henry Hinojosa; McAllen Mayor Richard Cortéz; and Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell.

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On November 28, 2011, Miriam Martínez of Edinburg, who only the year before had become a naturalized U.S. citizen, gave back to her beloved America with her remarkable first entry into U.S. democracy, which ended for her on Tuesday, November 6, as the Republican nominee for State Representative, House District 41. In her almost year-long campaign, she has endured, as so aptly put in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" – dealing with political attacks on her honorable reputation, plus all the complications and problems that life throws at her. Yet, Martínez has never wavered in her bold vision, integrity, and willingness to "speak truth to power" – the highest standards of U.S. democracy – in order to drive her message that anyone can run for high office in America, not just the privileged few.
"The promise of America and Texas is that if you are willing to sacrifice and work hard, pray for guidance, work with people, listen to the wisdom of others, and do what is right and just, you can accomplish just about anything," she said. "My campaign is symbolic of the humble beginnings, titanic struggles, and valiant victories of all South Texans." See lead story in this posting.

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