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Edinburg construction passes $100 million during first five months of 2016, with city building permit issued in May for first phase of Bert Ogden Arena

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Featured, from left: Mayor Richard García, Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr., and Mayor Pro Tem Richard Molina on Thursday, February 27, 2015, during groundbreaking ceremonies for the Bert Ogden Arena, the future home of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers professional basketball team, which is part of the NBA Development League. In May 2016, the first building permit, for work valued at $3.5 million, was issued by the city for construction of the 189,000 square-foot multi-events complex, whose total value will approach $90 million. The Bert Ogden Arena is located at the corner of Interstate 69-Central and Alberta Road in Edinburg.

Photograph By DIEGO REYNA

Construction and related building activities in Edinburg from January through May 2016 have passed the $100 million level, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has reported, with the month of May 2016 accounting for almost $18 million of that amount. The most valuable projects, not including the value of the lots, which led the way in May 2016, were: $3,500,000 –Cantú Construction, 429 S. I-69C, Edinburg Arena Subdivision; $3,481,532 – Edinburg Regional Medical Center, 1102 W. Trenton Rd., Trenton St. Subdivision; $1,560,000 – Jeff Knits, 1010 E. Chapin, Tex-Mex Survey Subdivision; $633,559 – R&E Villarreal & Sons, 2945 Regency Drive, The Boardwalk Subdivision; and $510,000 – Chris Ryan Homes & Investments, LLC, 2502 Hampton Avenue, Bentley Estates Subdivision.

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National women’s business council taps UTPA students Rebecca Reyes of Edinburg and Gabriela Hernández of Alamo for entrepreneurship program

Photograph By JOSUE ESPARZA

Featured, from left: University of Texas-Pan American students Rebecca Reyes and Gabriela Hernández, both business management majors, were among 22 students nationwide selected to participate in the 2015 Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s Student Entrepreneurship Program held in Austin on June 21-26. Photograph By JOSUE ESPARZA

Junior Rebecca Reyes of Edinburg and senior Gabriela Hernández of Alamo, both business management majors, recently spent a week gaining valuable information and mentorship in the prestigious program that aims to foster growth for the next generation of women-owned businesses. The program, which began in 2008, offers tailored curriculum and mentoring from certified women’s business enterprises and Fortune 500 corporate members as well as a pitch competition where the students “sell” their ideas on future businesses. “I competed in the pitch competition,” said Reyes, who expanded her family’s nursery business – Reyes Nursery in Edinburg – into Paraiso Escondido, a venue for events and plant rental company. “I didn’t make it into the next round … but I threw myself out there and gained experience from giving it a shot. One of my mentors right before my competition told me, ‘Fear has no place in your success.’ All the people there were so supportive.” Reyes’ business concept for Paraiso Escondido landed her first place in UTPA’s business plan competition in Spring 2014. Hernández, a first-generation college student, who hopes to be a hospital CEO one day, came home from the conference with a better idea of how impactful networking can be for budding entrepreneurs. “My corporate mentors took me under their wing the whole time. We wouldn’t be able to walk a couple of feet without them running into someone who they had worked with,” she said. “I left the convention with so many business cards, my wallet is filled right now.”

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UTPA student Sabrina Herrera brings her passion for research to the state Capitol

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Featured: University of Texas-Pan American senior Sabrina Herrera in the Science Building Laboratory where she conducts her research that hopefully one day will result in more effective treatments of cancer.

Photograph By JOSUE ESPARZA

Taking a trip to Austin to present her research at the “Texas Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol” was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Sabrina E. Herrera, a 23-year-old senior at The University of Texas-Pan American. “It was all hustle and bustle and a very different environment for me,” said Herrera, who had never visited the Texas Capitol before. “I was honored to represent UTPA. I was able talk to and learn the different research backgrounds of other students there and to hear the challenges and insights from distinguished faculty who were there. The overall experience gave me confidence.” In addition to Herrera, three students from The University of Texas at Brownsville – Isaiah Díaz, Iram Lerma and Forrest Shriver – displayed their research posters for review by state lawmakers and visitors in the Capitol Ground Floor. The March 4 event showcased the diverse and cutting-edge research by 67 students representing 57 Texas universities. The students’ research poster presentations were on display in the Capitol, where they told legislators and other visitors about their findings and the skills they have attained as researchers. The trip included a tour of the Capitol building and panel presentations by faculty researchers. Former Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, who now serves as Vice President for Governmental and Community Relations at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, coordinated the Austin event for the for Valley students. Gonzáles arranged for the students and professors to meet with Valley legislators and members of their respective staffs, including Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen; Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City; Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-San Benito; Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; and Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville.

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For Sen. Hinojosa, upcoming April 23 premiere of $42.7 million Performing Arts Complex will be one of the latest feathers in his famous legislative hat

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Featured, from left: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Dr. Francisco Fernández, Founding Dean, The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine; Mayor Richard García, who also serves as President of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors; and Richard Molina, Edinburg City Councilmember, at the UT-Pan American Ballroom on Wednesday, February 26, 2014.

Photograph By PEDRO PÉREZ, IV

Almost 10 years after the Texas Legislature first authorized the financing for its creation, the $42.7 million, 1,000-seat Performing Arts Complex at The University of Texas-Pan American will host thousands of area residents during a Thursday, April 23 debut with a Grande Premiere Concert, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (UT-Pan American will be renamed The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in the fall.) UTPA and UT-RGV leaders are pulling out all the stops to showcase what will be a showpiece among the Valley’s increasing number of impressive centers for musical performances, sports events, and other major gatherings. The State Farm Arena in Hidalgo and the McAllen Convention Center – both publicly-owned entertainment facilities that can serve thousands of patrons per event – now share center stage with the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, the Bert Ogden Arena, set to begin construction in Edinburg, and now, the Performing Arts Complex that will serve as the heart of the local University of Texas System campus. UTPA officials on Tuesday, April 14, announced that in order to celebrate the highly anticipated grand opening of the state-of-the-art facility, they have planned a spectacular evening of the arts, starting at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 23, and featuring performances by faculty and student artists from UTPA and The University of Texas at Brownsville. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the Grand Premiere Concert, and the public is invited to be part of the free festivities. For more information or if special accommodations are needed to attend the concert, call (956) 665-5301. Mayor Richard García, who also serves as President of the EEDC’s five-member Board of Directors, said the emergence of the Performing Arts Complex will have profound and long-lasting effects on the city council’s and EEDC’s vision for downtown revitalization. “It fits in with our master plan for cultural development for our city,” the mayor said. “With the $42.7 million Performing Arts Complex, as well as the coming construction of the $68 million city-owned Bert Ogden Arena, along with the $54 million UT-RGV School of Medicine’s Medical Academic Building now under construction, and a $70 million UT-RGV science building annex approved to be built on campus, we are making our hometown the center for high-quality, family entertainment venues and educational excellence that not only improve our quality of life, but make it that much more attractive for businesses to expand and locate in our city, and with it, create more jobs and economic prosperity. García also praised the Valley’s state legislative delegation for securing more than $30 million earlier in April for a new engineering building at UT-RGV in Edinburg, a tremendous funding boost that could result in the planned development of a $50 million complex. García, who has built a statewide reputation as a leader who always shares the credit with others on major successes, said he wants one person in particular to be forever linked to the Performing Arts Complex. “We wanted this facility badly, we needed this facility badly, and the big hero on that is Sen. (Juan ‘Chuy’) Hinojosa (D-McAllen),” the mayor said. “I would love to see that facility be named after him. I have told him that in the past, and I will lead that charge because he was largely responsible for the state funding, and fighting to keep that money for the Performing Arts C0mplex.” Hinojosa was the driving force in the spring of 2006, when the Texas Legislature was at work during a special session at the State Capitol. “He was the principal legislative architect who made the state financing possible for this landmark project,” García recalled. “He successfully attached an amendment to a statewide tuition revenue bond bill. His effective move provided the needed financing mechanisms to pay for the Performing Arts Complex, which represents one of the largest infusions of financial resources by the state for new construction at UT-RGV.” Hinojosa emphasized the positive impact of the Performing Arts Complex. “This facility will attract supporters of the arts, quality performers and outside visitors. These benefits will also radiate into the community in other ways,” said Hinojosa. “I am confident the Performing Arts Complex will be top-notch, and it will bolster the local economy by attracting jobs and investment, and enrich the cultural life of the Rio Grande Valley. Investments like these are particularly beneficial because they help boost UT-RGV’s profile in the region.”

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Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, EEDC Board Member and UTPA President Ad Interim, receives leadership award from American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education

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Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, President Ad Interim for The University of Texas Pan American, and a Board Member for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, hands out more than 1,300 diplomas to graduates during two commencement ceremonies held on Saturday, December 13 at the McAllen Convention Center.

Photograph By JOSUE ESPARZA

The American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education recently selected Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, President Ad Interim of The University of Texas Pan American, to receive the prestigious Alfredo G. de los Santos Jr. Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education Award. The award is given to an outstanding administrator in the field of higher education who has demonstrated excellence in the profession. It is named after Alfredo G. de los Santos Jr., a research professor at Arizona State University regarded as a national leader, mentor and champion in higher education. Rodríguez also serves on the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. Rodríguez, who picked up the award at the annual AAHHE conference in March in Dallas, was nominated by several UTPA faculty members and other distinguished faculty nationwide. In her nomination, Dr. Marie Mora, economics professor and Vice Provost Fellow for Faculty Affairs at UTPA, said Rodríguez inspired her to start pursuing an administrative career. “Seeing how active President Rodríguez continues to be in research and in his profession, and seeing how much of a positive difference he has made since coming here (to UTPA), has made me realize how much of a difference one person can make,” she said. “We really do need more passionate and effective leaders like President Rodríguez who can excite and inspire others.” Nominator Dr. Fernando I. Rivera, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Central Florida, once worked under Rodríguez as an undergraduate research assistant at the Center for Applied Social Research, which Rodríguez headed at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. In his nomination letter, Rivera cited Rodríguez’ mentorship to him as a professor and Director of the American Sociological Association Minority Fellowship Program. “My experience is not unique, he has touched countless lives with his leadership and care for others. The thing about President Rodríguez is that everything he touches he makes it better, better students, programs and a better university experience,” Rivera said. Rodríguez said he was honored and humbled to receive the award and expressed the need to continue to work with others to increase the voice, visibility and impact of Latinos and Latinas in higher education institutions across the country. “Much progress has been made, but we have a long road before us. The AAHHE and other similar organizations play a critical role in helping us diversity our colleges and universities. It is also critical for us, as Latino and Latina leaders, to promote and pursue excellence in everything we do,” Rodríguez said. His dedication to the future of students at UTPA and UTRGV was reflected in all of his encouraging comments to the December 2014 graduation class, telling the graduates, who were joined by thousands of family members and friends, that with their degrees, they have the power to make a difference but it will take hard work, perseverance, commitment and a desire to serve. “A college degree is one of the most valuable assets you will ever own. It can be a powerful tool to transform your life, to benefit your family and to empower you to help your community, wherever that may be,” Rodríguez said. “I hope that each of you will remember this ceremony as the beginning of a very important journey.”

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