EDINBURG, RGV – The 84th legislative session was great for the City of Edinburg, says Mayor Richard Garcia.
Lawmakers gaveled out with a new state budget that includes $3 million for a new hangar at South Texas International Airport at Edinburg, $2 million for the construction of a multiuse DPS training facility (contingent on the donation of 200 acres of land by the City of Edinburg), approval for construction of a large capacity DPS driver license office in Edinburg, and $30 million for the new UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, much of it being built in Edinburg.
“Edinburg did wonderful like we have been doing and we are going to be doing. The good news is the pluses that we have are now been recognized locally by our investors, by out of town investors and by state leaders,” Garcia said.
“Think of all the growth and what the future is going to bring us with the medical school. It is great for UT-Rio Grande Valley and it is great for the whole Valley. As I have said in the past, I would rather be lucky than good and it happens that the main campus is in our city. We know it does not belong to us but we certainly embrace it.”
Garcia said praise should go to the entire Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation but he singled out state Sen. Juan Hinojosa for special mention.
“We have got an amazing senator who is well-positioned in Austin that I think has done a whole lot to steer the ship for us here. He believes in us. He is not from Edinburg but he believes in Edinburg. He knows what the potential is and while he is an advocate for all of us this (city) is an easy one, a no brainer. He has done great for us,” Garcia said.
He also referenced the work of lobbyist Rene Ramirez and his company, Pathfinder. “Pathfinder that does some lobbying for us in Austin has been great and pulling the strings for us over there. It does not hurt anything that their head guy used to be chief of staff to our senator so that is a plus for us. We are in a great position to help this region grow to what it is going to be.”
Mayor Garcia recently held his annual State of the City address and it was notable for the wide array of projects currently under construction. Asked what reaction he has received since his speech, Garcia said: “We have had calls from people thinking about coming in and I have been proud to help carry the flag not just for the city. I think the speech was recognized by the region. I had some interesting calls in addition to investors. I got a call from Wingert, I guess he is the head guy with The Monitor asking if I might be interested in writing a column for the paper and just yesterday I accepted an offer to join the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s Texas branch. This is headed by Colin Powell. It sounds like a very interesting group, dealing with different issues that need addressing in the United States, including immigration. I am proud to serve.”
Gus Garcia, executive director of Edinburg Economic Development Corporation was also asked about the growth of his city. Specifically, he was asked about comments he made recently on KURV News Talk 710 about how he and his EDC team were getting inundated with calls from potential investors.
“I think I said we are getting inundated with phone calls from developers and different companies that want to come here. So, being able to accommodate all those calls… everybody wants more, it is a competitive environment so have to work our way through those different programs, incentives. There has not been a better time for the city in my ten years in public service. It is really good time for the Valley and the whole region,” Gus Garcia said.
Garcia and his assistant, Nelda Ramirez, have four colleagues in the EDC team. One, who works on a contract basis, is based in Mexico and focuses on development from Latin America. The other three are all fulltime staff members. One handles business retention and expansion, one handles marketing and research, and another handles administration. Gus Garcia said the six-member team stays busy.
“With the announcement of the medical school, it made national news, the growth of the university, the superhighway, the crossings, the trade, the arena, the sports facility, a lot of stuff is happening. So, we are getting calls, quite a few of them, from developers interested in housing. You are going to get a lot of housing needs whenever you have a new medical school and the expansion of the university,” Gus Garcia said.
“We are also getting calls by developers who want to do retail shopping plazas or retail malls or develop retail space, something we probably did not get as often before. As you have noticed, we have announced several hotels, operators are calling and they are looking for any opportunities available for that. And, we are looking for the small business owner that is asking how they can expand and what they can do to meet the demands that they are seeing coming up.”
Gus Garcia said his office also helps with calls about the city’s zoning and platting processes and with inquiries about real estate opportunities, such as what the cost of land is and where it is available for purchase. “Interestingly, we have also been getting a number of calls because of those things that are happening on a regional level. SpaceX, the Valley is benefiting from that. As you know, the population density is here in Hidalgo County and so, when people look to the Valley, certainly they look at the McAllen MSA when they are looking to go somewhere and invest. They are naturally attracted to this MSA because it has a 700,000 to 800,000 population density, as opposed to maybe other areas in the Valley. So, I think we are getting our share of those phone calls. And, I am sure everybody else in the Valley is getting their fair share of phone calls but we are certainly getting ours.”
Asked how he juggles all this work, Gus Garcia said: “The council is constantly challenging us, the board is constantly challenging us, taking us out of our comfort zone and wanting us to do more and better and go bigger. So, yes, it is challenging and you want to field those calls. I am very lucky that Nelda, who has been an executive director, is very familiar with the process and allows us to go out and capture more business and be on the road and at the same time be able to handle what is coming in.”
Gus Garcia was also asked about the soccer complex Edinburg is developing with a private partner.
“We think it will be a regional draw. It is not just a soccer complex, it is a regional fairground. When you think of a regional fairground, you think of the Cotton Bowl. They have the stadium and then they have fairgrounds around it. We are incorporating it with our existing municipal so there will be some bridges and walkways. As it is we have a few miles of walkways at our municipal park. So, we are going to incorporate that in our fairgrounds so we can have those 5ks and 10ks and walkathons and charitable events and outdoor concerts and just a number of outdoor regional events. We think soccer is a big, up and coming market. If you have a United States League Pro, if you think about it, you look at the expansion teams in USL Pro it is cities like Oklahoma City, Charlotte, North Carolina, Sacramento, Austin, and Edinburg. Same with the medical school, Austin, Dallas, there are only nine in Texas and then Edinburg. Edinburg is going to be home to a medical school, a sports arena and a USL soccer team. It is pretty exciting stuff, from an entertainment perspective.”
Asked if there was anything else he was working on, Gus Garcia said: “We still maintain a focus on industry and distribution and logistics and manufacturing. Santana Textiles has been a long time coming but we have finally got them there. We have got logistics, fresh produce; warehousing, call centers, service and hospitality are all part of what we work on. Education and government is also big for us.”
Editor’s Note: Santana Textiles is holding a Job Fair at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance on Wednesday. It starts at 9 a.m. and finishes at 1 p.m. The goal is to hire 300 employees for its start-up operations in north Edinburg.
Editor’s Note: The main picture accompanying this story features Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia.