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HIDALGO, RGV – Fostering good communication with its allies in Mexico is the No. 1 priority for the City of Hidalgo, according to mayor Martin Cepeda.

Making his comments at Hidalgo’s 3rd annual State of the City event on April 21, Cepeda reiterated the importance of Mexican shoppers and tourism to cities on both sides of the Rio Grande.

Martin Cepeda
Martin Cepeda

“I think communication with our friends to the south, and keeping in tune with news on both sides and promoting our city is our number one priority,” Cepeda said to the Rio Grande Guardian after his presentation.

“It’s to try and attract shoppers. I know some people are uneasy going across and shopping, and I can understand that because of the violence in Tamaulipas, but we try to promote a city as best we can, both on this side and on the other side.”

Hidalgo’s State of the City was attended by both local and international dignitaries.

In attendance at the event was Leticia Flores, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’ regional representative, Alfonso De Leon Fuentes, president of Cámara Nacional de la Industria Restaurantera y Alimentos Condimentados (CANIRAC), in Reynosa, Vicente Valdez, representative for Reynosa mayor Everardo Villarreal Salinas, Mario Lopez, president of the Reynosa Chamber of Commerce, Mexican Consul in McAllen Guillermo Ordorica Robles and Valley View ISD Superintendent Rolando Ramirez.

“We have chartered a course for our community that is marked by steady progress and momentous accomplishments over the last twelve months,” Cepeda said in his speech, which was an assessment of all city departments, Pump House museum and State Farm Arena.

Among some of the highlights of Cepeda’s speech were:

•    A balanced budget for 2016. The majority of general fund revenues in Hidalgo are evenly distributed between taxes and bridge revenues, 38.5 percent and 36 percent respectively. Nearly 10 percent of revenues come from grants as well as local, state and federal agencies.

•    The largest expenses in the general fund include police at 30.6 percent and administration at 28.5 percent followed by streets at 9 percent, parks (8.5), fire (7.3).

•    The Hidalgo-McAllen-Reynosa International Bridge, which generates 36 percent of general fund revenue for the city of Hidalgo, has seen an increase in both pedestrian and vehicle crossings. Both are up between and two and 16 percent over the previous year, according to McAllen Bridge Board superintendent Rigo Villarreal.

•    Crossings for vehicles at the Hidalgo Bridge average between 215,000 to 269,000 per month, while pedestrian crossings average 130,000 to 140,000 per month. The city plans to remodel and renovate the POEs to make them more accessible.

“One of my administration’s key objectives has been to strengthen our international relations, particularly with our neighbors to the south,” Cepeda said. “A momentous event was signing a sister-city agreement our neighbor and partner, Reynosa. This was historic because it was the first time that such an agreement was signed in the middle of an international bridge. Together with Reynosa mayor Villarreal and our good friends within the Consul General in Matamoros and McAllen, our alliance is one that benefits our community greatly.”

Over the last year, the city has also welcomed the opening of 50 additional businesses. The city’s Nueva Vida Project consists of the remodeling of existing historic buildings in order to spur growth.

“We have several (strategies) that the EDC (economic development corporation) is working on through commercials and companies that are out there promoting and helping us promote our old Hidalgo Viejo and also our city to bring in new businesses,” Cepeda told the Rio Grande Guardian. “The EDC center is working with certain companies that are helping us in that sense.”

Despite the legal issues, Hidalgo also saw an increase in attendance at BorderFest. More than 67,000 people attended the city’s annual event, a 21 percent increase over the previous year. Also, for the first time in the festival’s 40-year history, the city profited from the event, by more than $28,000, according to the city’s marketing department.

“As I’m sure you heard, it was a challenge, but we managed to pull it off. In what usually takes months of planning, we managed to pull it off in just five weeks,” said Hidalgo marketing director Shalimar Madrigal. “Now that the city has control of its own festival, we made a few changes including opening up vendor spots to local people who live and contribute to our community. We also went from a four-day festival to three.”

Crime is also down by two percent in the city, according to the mayor citing the uniform crime report. The police department has also secured over $300,000 in federal funds that has been invested in additional manpower and vehicles to enforce crime on the border.

“Our city’s policing style has evolved to become very community-oriented,” Cepeda said. “This means it’s centered around enforcement through cooperation.”