DONNA, RGV – To mark their first 100 days in office, Lyle Garza, executive director of Donna Economic Development Corporation, and Marga Lopez, director of the Donna International Bridge, have given a report to Donna residents and city council members.
Lopez: My 100 Day Report as Donna Bridge Director
I have been directing the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge since late December. I was previously executive director for the City of Donna’s Economic Development Corporation.
My team and I have been diligently working to make improvements at the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge, attending various meetings regarding the port of entry.
I was recently appointed by the Texas Transportation Commission to serve on the Border Transportation Advisory Committee. The Committee provides a forum for the exchange of communication between the Transportation Commission, TxDOT, the Texas Governor’s Office, and committee members representing border trade sectors.
We most recently finalized the international bus route into Rio Bravo after months of coordination with Valley Metro, the City of Rio Bravo, and the State of Tamaulipas. The new route allows for American tourists to travel to Mexico via small passenger vans versus leaving their personal vehicles across the border. It will allow Mexican tourists to travel into the U.S. at Donna via Valley Metro and then link to other Rio Grande Valley cities.
Most recently, Bridge staff conducted a license plate survey to verify where the daily crossers originated from. A new marketing plan has been created in order to continue increasing crossings from areas not presently being targeted.
Another priority we have is the maintenance of bridge facilities. We have recommended a new toll collection system to replace the antiquated system. We analyzed safety and security gaps and implemented short term measures with recommendations for long term solutions. Random audits and other financial checks and balances have now become a daily policy.
Along with our IT staff, we have installed cameras with a live view of northbound traffic. We have created an APP to allow easy access to bridge cameras from smartphones. The app is currently available on all iOS smartphones and will soon be available on android devices. This APP, named PUENTE DONNA, gives travelers a ‘real time’ view on wait times for travelers at the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge.
I would like to thank the previous Administrations and Consultants who worked on the approval of Commercial Traffic for the port. Interim City Manager Ernesto Silva spearheaded the approval from inception. As he told me: “The best is yet to come for the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge. We expect international trade will make Donna a great place to conduct business not only because of our central location in the Valley but because we will have a state of the art facility.”
Garza: My 100 Day Report as Donna EDC Director
As executive director for the City of Donna’s Economic Development Corporation, I am proud to report on my first one hundred days in office.
I previously held a commercial development manager position at Harlingen EDC for six years.
The Rio Grande Guardian recently interviewed me at the site of Donna’s newest commercial development. I reflected on my first 100 days on the job since starting at the tail end of 2016. I stated that coming from the Harlingen EDC, my focus had been trained exclusively on commercial recruitment and retention. Here in the heart of the Valley, the EDC works hand in hand on projects from international trade, development, public financing, and infrastructure projects related to new businesses.
Take The Shops at 493 as an example. The EDC purchased the land, assisting in the recruitment of tenants, coordinated with Public Works on the new Elevated Storage Tank, and the construction of new public streets within the development. At the same time, we are monitoring the monthly crossings of passenger vehicles at the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge. We expect for the number of the international visitors to continue to grow and to enjoy shopping at this new retail development location.
The recent numbers from Donna’s Port of Entry reflects a four percent growth for the month and a four percent growth for the year. The international bridge has created an economic corridor between Donna the City of Rio Bravo which previously did not exist. The increase in traffic at the bridge has resulted in tens of thousands of new visitors monthly from Rio Bravo. International tourists are visiting our shops, eating at local restaurants, and fueling at local gas stations. Recent sales tax reports have reflected an increase in international visitors over the past five years. Indeed, I have evaluated the City of Donna’s position with regard to its ranking in sales tax throughout the Rio Grande Valley. I hope and believe it will continue in a positive trend.
The economic growth has also attracted new investors to Donna. I can announce there are three other new developments under construction. Kamper Investments recently announced that they would be constructing a new 16,000 square foot retail center on Salinas International Blvd. Two other retail centers have also been announced and will be located on Business 83 and are being constructed by Mexican investors.
On Interstate 2, three travel centers have been proposed and will soon be announced publicly. The first new travel center is a Corner Store at The Shops at 493 Two additional travel centers have submitted for building permits to begin construction in the near future. The first of these will be a Circle K on the intersection of Interstate 2 and Val Verde Rd. The Donna EDC and the City of Donna agreed to extend sewer lines to the property making it feasible for the new Circle K travel center to develop.
Extending utility lines to undeveloped property along economic corridors has been a priority for our City Council this year. The City Council recognizes that the installation of utilities along Interstate 2 will pay major dividends in the long run. The third travel center will be announced later this Summer and should create a great sense of excitement for the traveling public.
The extension of utilities along East North Avenue has also played a vital role in attracting a new housing development into the city. A proposed 20-acre development will consist of a 212-unit apartment complex on the north side of town and will complement the retail development on Interstate 2. The city will be issuing 10 million dollars in bonds later this summer to pay for the widening of North Avenue, and utilities to the proposed development. Without the City’s involvement in providing utilities for the project, the housing development would have not been possible. We’re excited to have this new project coming to Donna and welcome the opportunity to attract new residents to our community.
The City of Donna and Donna 4B EDC recently completed a park improvement plan valued at $400,000 to bring upgrades to city parks. The upgrades included new bleachers, shade structures, sidewalks, and other improvements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Improving the Quality of Life for Donna residents is very important to all of us at the City and our elected officials.
We plan to continue prioritizing and addressing issues that are important to City Council members and the community. I conclude my 100-day report by saying I am very excited to be part of Team Donna with all of these new and exciting developments and improvements underway for our citizens.