EDINBURG, RGV – Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is looking to invest $78 million and create 565 new good-paying jobs over the next five years, according to an economic development specialist.

Ramiro Garza, former city manager of Edinburg, made the pitch on behalf of DHR at an Edinburg City Council meeting on Wednesday evening.

“The total improvements are going to be $78 million that they are committing to the City of Edinburg if the City of Edinburg nominates this project. They will commit to invest $78 million and create 565 new jobs. That is on top of the 4,500 they currently have. The salaries projected annually on those new jobs are $30 million,” said Garza, of RG Economic Advisors.

Garza said the DHR projects include an orthopedic institute, a new parking lot, remodeling, a wellness center, and a hotel.

Asked about the DHR project, Garcia told the city council: “I think this project involves a series of expansions. If they were to be successful, with your support, if they were to be nominated, they still have to go through the State (of Texas). If they get selected they have to go through a five-year program.”

Item E on Wednesday evening’s city council agenda stated: “Hold Public Hearing and Consider Ordinance Regarding the City’s Participation in the Texas Enterprise Zone Program and Nominating Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Ltd., as an Enterprise Project within the Edinburg Enterprise Zone. (Agustin Garcia, Executive Director Economic Development).”

Garza said DHR is looking to get state funds to help with the project. The funds would come from the Texas Enterprise Fund. In order to be considered for such funds, the city where a project will be located must nominate the applicant. Edinburg city commissioners voted 3 to 1 in favor of nomination.

Those voting to nominate DHR for state enterprise dollars were Mayor Richard Garcia, Mayor Pro Tem J.
R. Betancourt, and councilmember Homer Jasso. Councilmember Richard Molina voted against, while councilmember David Torres did not vote.

“This is a state program, not a program where the city is having to provide funding directly as part of the project. This is an application that goes through the state. No business can apply directly to the state, it has to go through a city,” Garza explained.

“Any kind of assistance they get is directly through the state. Any sales taxes they are getting on the improvements they are making, if they qualify, is from the state portion of sales tax, 6 2/5 percent.”

Garza said he liked the program. “I think for the cities it is a great program because it is not committing city funds. If anything, it is helping induce them (the applicant) to make additional investments.”

Garza also said: “We are asking the City of nominate them (DHR) to submit the application to the State. In return, this is what they would commit to provide to the City of Edinburg. It encourages them to move forward because it offsets some of the costs they are having to pay the state when they undertake these projects.”

Mayor Garcia: “My understanding is that those improvements will bring it to the level of being a medical center that does not exist. You have got to have a level one trauma, as we have in Houston, as we have in San Antonio.”

Garza responded: “That is the ultimate goal. A lot of these projects are helping them get to that point. The helipad in particular – that is a critical component. We do not have a Level 1 trauma center here in South Texas. We have Level 2, Valley Baptist and McAllen Medical Center also. But these projects will help them get that much closer to apply to get to Level 2 consideration and eventually Level 1.”

Councilmember Molina asked if the agenda item before the council has anything to do with “the ten-year, $7 million you guys are asking for?” He said he had to ask, “because the city manager was talking about DHR asking for $7 million through ten years.”

Molina said he was just trying to gather information. “I did not know this was going to be on the agenda. I looked at it and I did not understand it. We got a presentation from somebody that said that the highest income in the entire Hidalgo County existed in that area between McColl and Trenton and McAllen 10th and Trenton and I am just wondering,” Molina said.

Garza responded: “They have been designated before, Edinburg Regional Hospital has been designated before. They (the State of Texas) look at the whole Census tracts areas and they weigh it against other areas.”

Garza said that in the 1980s, enterprise zones were designated in areas of a city. Now, he said, it is the whole of the state. “If you want to take advantage of this enterprise zone area status, you have to get nominated by the city and then the state reviews the data based on census tracts. The whole area is looked at. I think the whole city of Edinburg is looked at.”

Regarding the $7 million over ten years question Molina asked, Garza said: “It is not, this is part of the enterprise zone. That is another project.”

Councilmember Torres wanted to know why no member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation was present to explain the project.

Garza responded: “We went through the EDC. What the state is saying is, alright City of Edinburg, if you are going to nominate this project, for us to help them as a state, what programs do you have to also help them further if they need additional assistance. But, it is not part of the designation itself. So, the EDC was involved. They are the ones we worked directly with to put together the application and submit it to the state. I think they helped put this together to present to you all.”

Interviewed after the meeting, Mayor Garcia said: “I want to say thank you to Doctors Hospital at Renaissance for employing 4,500 in the area. Before, it was open fields. Now it is high paying jobs and millions of tax dollars into our city.”

Interviewed after the meeting, Torres said: “I did not vote at all because of the fact that nobody was present from the EDC and obviously they have been taking part and I had questions for them. They wanted to move forward and I did not want to vote for something I was not clear about. So, I did not vote. I had a lot more questions. It shows no cost to the city but I think they should have been there.”