|EDINBURG, April 29 - Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia recently gave the 2014 State of the City Address for Edinburg. Here are his prepared remarks:
I am so glad to see all of you here! So that (a video) was a quick view of Edinburg in yesteryears. Important in understanding the huge leaps taken to where we are today. Today, Edinburg is poised as a leader in the Rio Grande Valley; a leader in the State. That leadership position is established not because I say so at the State of the City but because the activity of our city…of our residents…of each of you here today dictates it.
What began as a cowboy settlement of wooden huts is today a thriving City of more than 82,000 residents. I am most proud to say that Edinburg continues to be a family oriented city and that education is our priority. But unlike the two-school system of yesterday, the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District now consists of 44 campuses. Eleven have been recognized by the Texas Education Agency as distinguished. A status achieved by demonstrating strong academic performances over a three year period. This is the most distinguished campuses for any school district between Zapata and Brownsville. The closest second had only 4 campuses…Edinburg…11! Education is the greatest equalizer. Congratulations to our partners at ECISD, Dr. Gutierrez.
Many of our friends throughout the Valley locked elbows and together, fought a tough statewide battle to get Senate Bill 24 passed, merging UTPA and UTB, a bill that will make history and that will change the face of our region for generations. What began as Edinburg Junior College, is today an international, Hispanic serving (second largest in the United States of America), with a medical school calling Edinburg its home.
A 54 million dollar campus under construction next to the existing Medical Research Building on the UTPA campus will serve as the learning facility for students in their first and second year of medical school. As a firm believer in partnerships, I’ll tell you again, this wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t come together as a region.
It’s projected that by 2024 the number of doctors here will increase by 400. So…how is that important? Family as a priority, a healthy family is a happy and productive family. The Texas average of patient to doctor ratio is 1,052 patients for every one doctor; in the Valley, that ratio is 1,886 patients for every one doctor! Our doctors cannot keep up…and we have some of the best physicians in the country!
Whereas in 1927 we had one, our first hospital, today we have eleven (11) hospitals employing more than 6,000 area residents and caring for thousands more. Much of that is credited to Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance and Edinburg Regional Medical Center who combined operate 9 of them. Thank you to our medical partners who continue to expand their services in our City, Edinburg Regional, part of the South Texas Health System, added a birthing center and acquired one of the most technologically advanced scanning systems available on the market...quality care...quality of life.
Doctors Hospital at Renaissance has invested $330 million dollars in its facilities in the past three years alone and pays in excess of $3.7 million in property taxes to the City of Edinburg…this equates to a $1 Billion economic impact to our city… thank you DHR! In addition, to the new facilities, in July, 2013, DHR announced the collaboration between DHR, Microsoft, and the National Clinical Trial Network with the “goal of bringing clinical research to the RGV to provide patients with access to new, innovative, and life-saving therapeutic treatment options.” This partnership will be one of five in the entire country, marking the first time in history that comprehensive clinical research will be conducted in the Rio Grande Valley. It is a new day for medicine in Edinburg, bringing medical professionals from all over the world to Edinburg.
Today Edinburg has a Hospice Care Facility. Amara Hospice is the only one of its kind south of San Antonio. As a stand-alone, inpatient hospice facility, AMARA provides professional and caring medical attention to patients – and their families – during the last phase of life. Amara’s facility and team provide a “holistic” support to “end of life” circumstances. Soon, they will also offer beautiful, spacious bungalows for indigent patients who want family members to pass in peace but do not have a suitable home to take them to.
Today our hospitals, our County, our university, and our school district remain the top employers in our City totaling nearly 15,000 jobs…and growing! Yesterday the Rio Grande Valley was born from international trade; today the trade may be different but the premise remains…we are an international community, bilingual, bicultural, codependent and in partnership. We have all heard “location, location, location” that’s how companies choose new sites and our existing employers can expand. We have heard about “speed to market’…about access to raw materials….about distribution arteries. Today Edinburg has it all!
The regions new I-69 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 from 2812 to the Pharr Interchange is now I 69 Central. And TxDOT has allocated $20 million additional dollars to expand the interstate designation five more miles north going all the way to our airport on FM 490. And there’s more: FM 1925, known to many as Monte Cristo Road, will be extended to US 77 through to the new Holly Beach, estimated $200 million, eight mile causeway to South Padre Island. This new corridor for travel through the Rio Grande Valley will give more access and mobility for valley area residents and visitors alike, with 18 miles of interstate frontage. This corridor promises to be another vibrant residential and commercial artery of the City, providing the life-blood for growth and economic prosperity.
Today 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 merely an estimated two miles of frontage each. This immense opportunity for growth has been discovered by large investors like Bert Ogden with the new Infinity Dealership, Fiesta Chevrolet; Holt Caterpillar (which we are proud to say employees 60 skilled individuals with an average wage of $60K per year plus benefits), Walmart, HEB, the Shoppes at the Rio Grande and the master planned community of La Sienna and our exciting mega arena development.
Edinburg International Airport is right on Hwy 281 – Interstate 69. Speed to market? The RMA approved and TXDOT funded loop will connect all international crossing from the Donna Bridge to 281 and right to the Edinburg Airport. An air cargo facility with the greatest expansion capacity in the region. Thanks to a 2.5 million dollar grant from The Department of Transportation, today Edinburg is improving the facility that houses The Department of Public Safety Aircraft Division and the hangars for emergency and staging area for first responders.
Families first. This means vigilance in addressing Mobility and safety needs of our growing community. And when I say our “growing community” I mean specifically, a community growing at a rate of 5.3 percent since the last 2010 census. Today, Edinburg is ranked the third largest city in the Rio Grande Valley with almost 85,000 residents after the annexation of 2200 acres this past year.
Today, Edinburg continues its commitment to attracting and building quality of life projects like the new $8.5 million Parks, Recreation and Wellness Center that is currently under construction at South Park. Four gyms; one which will be a practice gym for the Vipers as well as for the Houston Rockets.
Today, Edinburg boasts Cine Mark Theatres first “Bistro” facility in the country. This six screen theatre has a full service café that delivers to your seats – some of the best burgers in town, wine and beer, and stadium seating. This truly is a fun family experience…dinner and a movie with one stop!
Another first for Edinburg is a “splash pad” at Freddy Gonzalez and I Road – a zero depth water park for children. Oh….and Las Ramblas/El Paseo Cultural! Also known as the McIntyre Street Project is complete. You are all invited to the ribbon cutting ceremony tomorrow at 10 am. Today, Edinburg has a promenade that connects the Courthouse (and will our NEW courthouse), City Hall and UTPA or now, UT-RGV. Las Ramblas-Paseo Cultural is designed for pedestrians, bicyclists, runners and for entire families to enjoy outdoor local festivals and international cultural events like our monthly Jardin de Arte at the City Hall courtyard. If you have not yet, please accept my personal invitation to attend one of the Jardin de Arte festivals; 2nd Friday of every month – April – November. It is a whole lot of family fun and features some magnificent work by our local artists.
So, as we take a step back and look at Edinburg as it was yesterday, we share Edinburg as it looks TODAY, we must share some of the exciting new development that will play such a key part of Edinburg tomorrow.
When it comes to economic development we have more than 50 new in-fill businesses that have opened within the last year or are under construction right now aimed at improving 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 (one of my daughter, Kathy’s favorites), 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, Taqueria el Zarape, Pizza Patron, 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.
With the Auriel Commercial Development at Trenton Park Plaza, a total of 120,000 sq. ft. of retail space was completed in 2013. In the same period, Edinburg added over 1,200 new jobs. Decreasing unemployment rate beating state and national averages. Today, only two cities (Edinburg and McAllen) can make that claim! Much of the success in keeping the unemployment rates low are due to the Job Fairs the EEDC hosts quarterly in conjunction with the Edinburg Library and Texas Workforce Commission for the City’s employers to promote the hiring of area residents. The next Job Fair is set for next Thursday, May 1st, at the Edinburg Sekula Library from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Economic indicators show Edinburg consistently ranking in the top 3 cities in the Valley with an increase of 23.6 percent in building permits and a HUGE increase in commercial permits with a 38 percent jump and 301 percent increase in commercial alterations/upgrades and home permits up 14.2 percent.
The greatest measure of a community’s growth, we believe, is the growth in sales tax and TODAY, Edinburg can boast the highest increase in the Valley; up five percent from last year to $17.4 million dollars. Every person here understands that 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. A team of professionals whose focus, priority, and responsibility is this, our beloved city.
Tough decisions are made and priorities are established together. We have healthy discussions and probing debates but we ALWAYS come away with a plan that has all of our finger prints on it and our seasoned professionals at the City enact, enforce, and ensure that our business is managed well. The City’s strong financial management allowed for fund balance of $14.7 million which represents 35.5 percent of the actual expenditures for the fiscal year.
Today, Edinburg is financially sound and our credit rating has been increased to AA from AA-. The report announced by Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, attributes the rate increase to how Edinburg manages its Utility System funds and financial debt, how it handled the recent growth and how it operates on a daily basis. And we did all that without having to raise taxes. We’ve had the same property tax rate for the past 19 years in a row. This credit goes to our City administrators and staff who take care of the day to day operations of the City. Year after year they come up with a balanced budget that ensures no reduction of services. Our last budget also included 27 new positions city wide and 19.4 million in capital improvement projects that are allowing for acquisition of property, drainage improvements, the completion of the waste water treatment plant expansion as well as 100 percent coverage of health, dental and vision insurances for all full time city employees and a 4.52 percent contribution rate increase on behalf of the employees in the Texas Municipal Retirement System. Family first….and for the Council, our “city family" and their families are also our priority.
So what is next? What is on the horizon tomorrow for Edinburg, Texas?
A series of master planned, multi-family, luxury projects with full amenities (pools, sauna, office & recreational space, and gyms). Three have announced already (The Residents at Trenton, The Villages at Sugar & Owassa, and the Auriel Development on North Sugar and Alberta)…all aimed at the medical community – keeping the professionals living, eating, and shopping in Edinburg (remember that growing sales tax base we talked about earlier?). Like these, there are a few others on the table that we will be reporting soon.
Tomorrow brings new Hotel developments to our City with a Holiday Inn Express bringing a brand new prototype to be the first in Texas to open in Edinburg in early 2015 on the corner of Closner and Trenton. This footprint also includes a restaurant pad site.
Another deal was just signed yesterday to bring a major, high-end hotel chain, conference center and business executive suites, and more dining across from UT-RGV to focus on the traffic generated from the growth of the University, with two more higher-end hotel chains with restaurant pad sites currently in negotiations.
Tomorrow brings exciting new international investments. Don Hugo’s Produce owns 98 acres and is already planning Phase II of its operations; poised to increase its business significantly with the new superhighway from Mexico making ours the most strategic point of entry to the United States for Mexican produce.
Recently, Mexico’s President announced that it will, for the first time in history, allow foreign and private investment and participation in PEMEX. This tied to the explosive growth and extraordinary findings known as Eagle Ford Shale. U.S. manufacturers, transportation companies, service providers want to be closer to Mexico but maintain a presence in U.S. Edinburg is right smack dab in the middle... and remember those 18 miles of Freeway frontage? We are seeing an industrial corridor emerge. The EEDC is currently negotiating with several large industry representatives for I-69 access.
Tomorrow brings the largest sports and entertainment arena south of San Antonio. This mega complex will include 8,500 seats plus floor seats; a contract with Live Nation, one of the strongest concert promoters in the country, hotels, shopping, dining, and the home of the Rio Grande Vipers. When finished, this facility will have a positive impact of $1.3 billion (with a “B”) during the next 30 years within the City of Edinburg. This is slated for 2016 but knowing our friend and partner, Alonzo Cantu, it could quite possibly be sooner. This ballroom we are enjoying today was built by Cantu Construction in 14 weeks, and that’s because it rained for two weeks, slowing construction down!
Tomorrow also brings the most exciting…most significant…most impacting news for our city, our region, and South Texas - our merged university – UT-RGV with the new medical school. Mark my words, this will change the face of our region for generations to come. To help put it in perspective let’s take a look at how a medical school impacted San Antonio. In 2009, according to Biomed San Antonio, its economic impact was $18.9 billion measured conservatively…in one year. The industry paid $6.5 billion in wages and salaries to 141,251 employees that same year. One of every six San Antonio employees works in the Health Care and Bioscience Industry. In the past decade, the Health Care and Bioscience industry has added nearly 33,000 net new jobs, fueling San Antonio’s growth.
We are on the verge of seeing the same results. If we look at San Antonio 25 years ago – before the medical school – we will see a mirror image of the Valley today. Since then and as a result of the medical school, San Antonio became the second largest city in Texas and the seventh largest in the United States. The positive effects to come will be like a tidal wave to the Rio Grande Valley.
Tomorrow brings a slew of important road and infrastructure projects like the expansion of FM 1925 or Monte Cristo Road, that will also connect to 10th street, converting it a five lane roadway. Most of the cost for this project has already been secured through state and MPO funds with the City and the County’s share being about one million dollars. The expansion of this region is, without question, is moving North into our back and front yard.
We also collaborated with the Cities of Pharr and McAllen, Hidalgo County Precinct’s 2 & 4 to widen Owassa Road. All of these are planned with commitment to improve mobility and spur economic development in those areas. Such extraordinary growth can bring extraordinary demands to bear on infrastructure. You can expect to see an expansion of the existing West Water Treatment Plant located on South Mon Mack. This, with the use of $10.4 million received from the Texas Water Development Board through the agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. $250,000 received from the Texas Water Development Board will be used in the continued development of the City’s Master Drainage Plan aimed at reducing the possibility of flooding in the area and provide a cost effective drainage plan to accommodate rapid urbanization in the area.
The Hidalgo County Courthouse is just as important today as it was in the early 1900’s. Tomorrow brings continued work with County Judge Ramon Garcia and the Commissioners in planning, developing and bringing to fruition a 10-story County Courthouse at our Town Square. The exciting news here is that much of the planning is underway…including identifying developers for a possible public-private partnership also known as P3 agreements (similar to what we did with the new gyms) which allows this mega investment to be made with cost efficiencies, delivered quickly, within budget, with no money from the County and most importantly, no tax increase for the residents. The private developer will build, pay for, and lease to the County the entirety of the project and sell it back at the end of the lease period for a $1.
Logic follows that these same developers will infuse capital in the surrounding area giving life to Edinburg’s downtown.
Tomorrow brings more green space and family event venues. The City recently finalized the purchase of Ebony Golf Course after the 50 year lease expired. We may not see it tomorrow but we will learn in the next thirty days of an exciting, innovative, and one-of-a-kind, multi-use retail development at La Sienna. Look for the unveiling of the project details in the coming weeks.
So my friends…Edinburg has a rich story, a history of commitment to the fundamental needs of our residents: Family, Education and Quality of Life. It is my sincere hope that you revel with us in these new exciting projects that we have share with you today. Tomorrow is looking grander each day and it is due entirely to the people that call Edinburg home.
Thank you all for coming. God bless each of you and yours!