PALMVIEW, Texas – A retail study program requested by Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez to help all the small cities in the county is already paying dividends.
By way of example, Cortez tells the story of what happened in Sullivan City.
“The Sullivan City officials said, we don’t have many opportunities and we said, what’s that over there? That’s a cemetery. So do you know how much money the people of Sullivan City spend on flowers? It is about $30,000. How many flower shops do we have in Sullivan City? None.”
As a result, Sullivan City leaders have started looking for a florist to open up a store near the cemetery. They would benefit from the sales taxes generated.
“That’s the science we want to use to assist in the small cities,” Cortez said. “We want everybody in Hidalgo County to do well. And if you are applying science, the probability to being successful is better than if you don’t.”
Asked how the retail study program came about, Cortez said he formulated the idea when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
“It was obvious to me that some of the smaller cities needed help. They didn’t have the infrastructure in place to help themselves. Obviously, being the ex-mayor McAllen, I had multi engineers, multi lawyers, multi accountants, multi everything. When you have all this it is easier to get things done. The smaller cities have budgetary constraints and things are more difficult. So I said, the best thing I can do to help the small cities help themselves is to apply as much science as possible for them to manage their cities.”
So, Cortez said, he went to his colleagues on Hidalgo County Commissioners Court and asked if he could retain Mike Perez, the former city manager of McAllen and Weslaco.
“Mike is an extremely experienced city manager. The idea was for him to go to the small cities and kind of look over their operations and give advice. And then I asked my other good friend, Alex Meade, who works for a regional bank, to help. I had been approaching Alex for a long time, because his background is economic development. He was economic development director for Mission, then he became city manager for Pharr, and then he went to work for the bank.”
The bank Meade works for is Texas Regional Bank. He is senior vice president of economic development and public finance.
Cortez continued: “I’ve done real retail studies myself and I knew Alex did those and I said, Alex, do you think that you can help the small cities and he said, absolutely. He said, better than that I can do it free. Okay, wow. Well, I like the word free. So he teamed up with Mike (Perez). Both Mike and Alex have a lot of experience in city planning and development.”
Asked why retail studies are important, Cortez said: “They’re extremely important because they tell a community the opportunities they have and the weaknesses they have.”
Cortez cited development codes as an example. “If we have uniformity throughout the county and the cities on development codes, it makes things a lot easier.”
Cortez added: “I thought the work Mike and Alex could do for the smaller cities would be a good way to build a relationship between the county and the cities and have an opportunity to have dialogue about things that are important to all of us, so we could come up with the best decisions possible. And I’m so happy to report that so far of all of the municipalities that Mike and Alex have been to, they’ve been received very favorably. They all tell me they have received value. So we’re going to continue to provide that service.”
One of the smaller cities that has benefited from the retail study is Palmview. At a recent commercialization and investment event hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, Palmview City Manager Michael Leo thanked Judge Cortez for instigating the program.
“This year we were fortunate that Hidalgo County contracted Mike Perez, the former city manager for Weslaco and Alex Meade to help some of the smaller cities, provide some resources, do some city planning services and economic development,” Leo said.
Leo said Meade gave a presentation to Palmview Municipal Development District a week ago. He said Meade’s presentation “reiterated what we felt and already know – that there’s a lot of opportunity here in Palmview.”
Leo then introduced Meade.
In his presentation, Meade said it does not make sense for government property, such as a city hall, to be located on a city’s most valuable piece of property. It is better to move the city hall, say, and use that property for retail. Taxes are paid on retail development. Taxes are not paid on city properties. As a result of Meade’s advice, Palmview city leaders plan to move their city hall.
Here, below, is the audio from Meade’s presentation to the realtors, real estate developers and potential investors at the RGV Partnership event in Palmview. The audio starts out with City Manager Leo discussing leakage studies. He then introduces Meade.
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