EDINBURG, RGV – Agustin ‘Gus’ Garcia, executive director of Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, says his efforts to recruit companies to Edinburg is made a lot easier because of the quality of local schools.

“People are coming to Edinburg because we have a great school system. Edinburg CISD has done a phenomenal job of educating our kids. Of all the distinguished schools in the Valley, Edinburg is always double what other cities have,” Garcia said, in an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian about the economic pulse of his city.

“The success of our schools is a direct reflection on the community and their engagement in their children’s education. It is also a reflection of the teachers, administrators and school board. It is my No. 1 selling tool, Edinburg CISD. How is it Edinburg can do so well? We have a vibrant economy because we have a population that is engaged with our children’s education.”

Garcia said the eagerly-anticipated Tres Lagos master-planned community being developed in north McAllen is within the boundary lines of Edinburg CISD. “It is going to be a huge selling point for Tres Lagos, to be based in Edinburg school district’s coverage area. We are very fortunate to have a good school system. They do more with less. We are here to support them,” Garcia said.

Edinburg EDC took out a five-page ad in the Rio Grande Valley Partnership’s new “Snapshot of Economic Progress” book. On the page dealing with education, the EDC points out that Edinburg CISD has 34,000 students, four nationally recognized high schools, and 11 distinguished schools – twice as many as any other school district in the Rio Grande Valley.

Edinburg is also, of course, home to UT-Rio Grande Valley, which is another big draw for companies looking to locate in the Valley, Garcia said.

“Our schools and university are core strategic assets to the City of Edinburg and Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. When we work side by side with the local schools, university, and college, our collaborative efforts within our communities accelerate innovation from the lab to the marketplace, and we help create jobs and ignite regional growth,” Garcia said.

“No city can achieve sustainable economic development without substantial investment in human capital. Education enriches people’s understanding of themselves and the world. Education raises people’s productivity and creativity and promotes entrepreneurship and technological advances.”

As an example of meaningful collaboration, Garcia pointed to the work Edinburg EDC and Edinburg CISD are doing to create a new community and school park off Doolittle Road. “The park is going to cover about 30 acres. It is next to Eisenhower Elementary and Memorial Middle School. We are really excited about this,” Garcia said.

Garcia spoke recently about economic development issues at a forum held by a realtor association at the McAllen Country Club. He pointed out that in 2014-15, the economic impact of current and future projects Edinburg EDC was working on was worth $2.5 billion. “Where is it occurring? On Monte Cristo and the Expressway, on University Drive and I-69 Central and Trenton Road. Those are the clusters of retail and real estate,” Garcia said.

Garcia told realtors that Edinburg’s population currently stands at 83,000. He said that number will increase to 89,000 as seven parcels of land are annexed by the city. Within the next ten years Edinburg’s population will be over 100,000, Garcia predicted. “We are one of the fastest growing areas in the region.”

Garcia also made a plea for regional cooperation at the realtors’ event. He ran through a list of projects cities from Rio Grande City to Brownsville are working on. “We have to make the pie bigger. We have to focus on all the assets we have,” Garcia said.

In his wide-ranging interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Garcia also spoke about Edinburg’s booming housing market. “We are doing $50 million to $60 million in housing permits a year. We are on par with McAllen and Brownsville. That is significant. The number of apartment complexes being built has gone up because of the university. I love going by Walmart and seeing it full of people. It means the economy is doing well,” Garcia said.

All the trends are moving in the right direction, Garcia said. “Large global businesses continue to be attracted to Edinburg because of its diverse workforce, business-friendly climate, and varied economic opportunities,” Garcia said. He pointed out that three corporations alone – Santana Textiles, Coronado Power Ventures, and Don Hugo Produce – had resulted in $1 billion in capital investment and 1,500 new jobs.

And on the healthcare front, Garcia said Edinburg has nine hospitals providing world class healthcare.

“Within the next ten years, the Edinburg Medical District expects to generate over 530 new permanent jobs, over $206 million in investment, spur business development resulting in $1 billion in new revenue, drive research innovation, and improve healthcare delivery and outcomes.”