Good afternoon, Buenas tardes!
Welcome to the 2020 City of Pharr — State of the City Address!
First and foremost, thank you to God for another blessed year. Many thanks to my beautiful and devoted wife, Cristina, our son Joseph, for being my rock and source of strength, and for so graciously allowing me to share my life in public service to our community. Thank you also to our extended network of family and friends for your constant support.
To my colleagues on the Pharr City Commission and our city employees. Thank you for your support. Without you, none of the great things we are doing in Pharr would be possible.
Gracias, Valente, for leaving the bright lights of Hollywood to return to your South Texas home community and to our great city of Pharr – where it’s really happening!
What a year it has been!
As I look across this room, each of you is here today because you have made such an impact, either directly or indirectly, on the success and prosperity that our great City of Pharr enjoys.
It is because of you that we are here today. You took the time from your busy schedule — a break away from your daily lives in your respective industries — to spend time with us today and listen to what makes Pharr truly a remarkable place to be. You are the educators, business professionals, community partners, mothers, fathers, students, members of the religious community, industry representatives, and more, that have a vested interest in seeing our great city thrive.
So, thank you for being here and for your continued support of the great City of Pharr.
I am humbled to stand before you today, as Mayor of my hometown – leading the city that raised me into rapid and incredible growth, prosperity, and opportunity for our Pharr citizens.
I have been entrusted by you to make a difference in the lives of our residents, families and our children, who are the future.
Five years after first taking office, we are here to celebrate our 4th annual State of the City!
And let me tell you – no need to adjust your vision – Pharr is a perfect 20/20 and this year we will have several milestones to celebrate, and we have much in store for 2020.
Ladies and gentlemen, citizens of Pharr, business leaders, and community partners, on behalf of the Pharr City Commission and as your Mayor, I am proud to report that the state of the City of Pharr is the best it’s ever been, and it’s only getting better!
I want to start with our economy because as we all know, our economy will shape the future of the city as it is an indicator of our prosperity and growth.
This year, for the first time in Pharr’s history, I am excited to announce that our sales tax figures indicate that Pharr surpassed more than $1 billion dollars in sales!
This profound number represents an approximate $140.6 Million increase in total sales in the City of Pharr from the previous fiscal year.
Pharr continues to expand our tax base by recruiting, attracting, and retaining businesses and companies to invest in Pharr.
It makes us proud to know that we are significantly contributing to the success of our region, our state, and our nation – so to our governor, our federal, state, and local leaders… on behalf of the city of Pharr and its residents….you’re welcome!
We thank our business community partnerships, at the local, state, national and international levels, for continuing to expand opportunities in the various retail, food, entertainment, and other industries, that allow our Pharr residents and those from the surrounding communities to shop, eat, and stay in Pharr.
Our economy would not be nearly as robust if we didn’t have an educated and skilled workforce – this is key, for not just us but for the state and the country.
This past year, we welcomed many new businesses in Pharr, such as Carmax, which provided new, high-paying jobs, with a starting average salary of nearly $50,000. As part of our educational partnership commitment, we have a program where high school students in Pharr experience first-hand sales practices, body shop work, and mechanics through internships and practical education opportunities.
And, we are excited to announce that we are bringing manufacturing jobs to Pharr!
The City of Pharr and the Pharr Economic Development Corporation are proud to announce that a global manufacturing company that has been operating in South Texas for more than 20 years will be relocating their operations to the City of Pharr.
The company, Bissell, will be using the facility to support its manufacturing, remanufacturing, and replacement parts operations.
With a total investment in Pharr of $14.5 million dollars, the Bissell manufacturing facility will create jobs in advanced manufacturing.
We continue to move Pharr forward … and again, it’s only getting better!
Our workforce is strengthened by our relationships and one of our strongest is the U.S.-Mexico-Canada partnership.
With the new U. S.- Mexico-Canada Agreement, USMCA, we are certain to reap the benefits of this trade deal which continues making our Pharr International port of entry one of the busiest land ports of entry in the state and nation.
In 2015, we devised a strategic bridge plan with our city commission, bridge board, and bridge employees – and in Pharr, we don’t just strategize, we execute, and we bring about real, tangible results!
Our Pharr bridge recently celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, a notable milestone indeed, and we are delighted to announce that the Pharr International Bridge now ranks as the third-largest border crossing in Texas!
In 2019, trade in Pharr exceeded $35 billion, growing six percent in imports and five percent in exports.
We have grown by over $1 billion dollars in trade every year…that is astonishing growth that has no end in sight.
We continue to be the preferred and #1 border crossing for produce, crossing almost 70 percent of the nation’s produce.
Our city leaders recognize the importance of our bridge and have made it a priority to invest in port infrastructure improvements to keep up with the demand for services and to expedite trade.
This year, because of strong partnerships and collaboration with Texas Department of Transportation, General Services Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Border Patrol, we will be investing $35 Million in major construction, infrastructure, and technology improvements projects that will help to accommodate current and future growth, expedite the flow of trade, and reduce border wait times.
Another major project we are working on at the bridge is through the first-of-its-kind collaborative partnership with our esteemed University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, the U. S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Texas International Produce Association (TIPA) for a regional agriculture laboratory and training center.
We are truly blessed.
I would be remiss if I didn’t stress the importance of education in our formula for success.
Education, not just for our children, but for our entire community is vital.
My administration has always been a big believer that we reward and promote those individuals doing better for themselves.
I have always been an advocate for innovative programs that stand out from traditional methods because in Pharr we are different, we think outside the box, we don’t see a problem but rather a solution that has yet to be thought of.
We have in the audience our Partner RGV College who graduated its first cohort of nurses right here in Pharr.
We also have representation from Region One who reported from the TEA that our region out-performed the entire state of Texas.
Together with parent ambassadors, we are working on educating our community on the importance of the census, this is hard work but you know what?… we are no stranger to being told that it can’t be done – we do it anyway.
Education is key to being counted and we are very aware of the importance of OUR role in making sure it happens.
Another proud educational endeavor is with the PSJA school district…
We are on the verge of opening the highly anticipated and much needed PSJA-City of Pharr Ag campus .. located on city property for the benefit of our students.
We continue to cultivate a positive learning environment for all Pharr residents and are particularly committed to providing opportunities for higher education right here in Pharr.
This past year, we broke ground on the PSJA-UTRGV-City of Pharr Natatorium, which will serve as an anchor for health and wellness facilities.
Pharr’s commitment to higher educational opportunities for our Pharr residents remains one of our highest priorities, and it’s only getting better!
In order to move forward – we need infrastructure. Transportation is a key element for the city to be able to deliver goods and services.
As you all are aware, major moves of historic significance were made in the past year that will dramatically and forever change the landscape of the Rio Grande Valley.
With the merging of the three regional MPOs, the Rio Grande Valley can now tap into billions of dollars of state and federal transportation funding to improve and expand roads and transportation infrastructure that we could never before access – a staggering $2.2 billion dollars, and we will be fighting for more!
It was an honor to be elected by the entire Cameron and Hidalgo County delegation to serve as the inaugural chair of the new RGV MPO.
This wouldn’t have been possible without the support and vision of Cameron and Hidalgo County trailblazers; Mayors Trey Mendez, Jim Darling, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, and County Commissioner Eddie Cantu.
I can assure you that both Pharr and the entire Rio Grande Valley will now definitely have a seat at the table when it comes to transportation planning and funding.
We have numerous projects in the works that will improve our roads and transportation and infrastructure in Pharr.
The city continues to invest millions in city road repaving and reconstruction projects… more than 18 million in city funds have been invested throughout our citywide repaving projects, through street light improvements and median installations to improve transportation and safety in our city.
An additional $44.7 million more in MPO funding has been allocated to projects in Pharr and there is much more on the horizon.
One of our highest priorities has been the expansion of the Pharr Interchange, which for years has been inadequate.
We will all soon enjoy a new interchange and rest assured, it will accommodate future growth.
In recent years, we have experienced unprecedented rain and flooding impacting our residents, amounting to millions of dollars in damages to homes, businesses, and properties.
Pharr residents were not alone, we experienced this together and the city answered the call.
It was clear to us that our city’s drainage infrastructure and water supply capacity are in critical need of improvements.
As city leaders, we are committed to making these investments now to take care of our current needs and prepare for our future.
As you all are aware, we recently passed a countywide, multi-million dollar drainage bond. We have partnered with the Hidalgo County Drainage District to build and expand this infrastructure.
To achieve this, I reached out to our very own Precinct 2 Commissioner, Eddie Cantu. Commissioner Cantu and I stood side by side to promote County drainage project because we knew it was needed and the right thing to do for our community.
So I want to thank Commissioner Cantu and I also want to thank your staff for their steadfast approach and commitment to help the residents of the city of Pharr.
Our $40 Million drainage plan will increase drainage capacity to accommodate a 500-year flood.
Our plan is to save lives, homes, and our properties once and for all. We will no longer accept this type of devastation. My administration will fix it now.
How? With great partners.
We have the greatest minds working together not only to achieve our drainage and infrastructure goals but to also provide an educational, real-life experience with our PSJA Southwest Early College High School Architecture students.
They are working with our city engineers, engineering consultants and are providing input, research, and ideas to address these issues with innovative solutions.
We are upgrading the city’s aging water service delivery system, to meet our current demand for safe, sanitary water, while at the same time, accommodating for future growth and development.
We are also partnering with students from Thomas Jefferson T-Stem Early College High School on a project for a new raw water reservoir, and with students from PSJA North on the North-Central Wastewater Interceptor project.
Not only are we engaging these young minds with civic responsibility, but we are also providing opportunities for them to actively participate in creative solutions for real issues that need addressing.
We are proud to partner with PSJA ISD on these critical infrastructure projects, and I’d like to ask them to please stand and be recognized.
Speaking of partnerships, Pharr continues to strengthen and nurture its relationships on a wide range of issues.
Among those, Pharr leads the efforts to plan and prepare for a successful 2020 Census.
It is imperative that everyone gets counted.
The population count held every ten years is what the federal government uses to allocate resources, representation, and funds.
We cannot stress how important this year’s census will be for all of us, and here in Pharr, we are taking the necessary steps to educate and inform our residents to be counted in the 2020 Census.
We have once again led the nation in creating a first of its kind – the Pharr Parent Ambassador Program with our local school districts. This program engages parents to educate and promote the importance of being counted in the 2020 census.
At this time I’d like to ask all parent ambassadors to stand and be recognized. Let’s give them a round of applause.
Under our administration, we have sought to identify ways to ensure our government services are functioning efficiently to better serve our citizens.
As part of our efforts to maximize productivity, we had all department heads go through UTRGV’s Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center Lean Six Sigma training and certification program.
The training was provided by TMAC, who stated that “Pharr is the first government entity that it has trained through this program, which is typically utilized by companies in the manufacturing industry”.
Here in Pharr, we welcome leaders who are poised to help move Pharr forward.
This past year, we welcomed a new generation of leadership – We joined forces with Texas Workforce Commission to further create opportunities and support employees that want to advance their education and training, that is representative of our values, culture, and goals, but also one that celebrates equity, diversity, dedication, and growth – this led to the promotion of Anali Alanis and Hilda Pedraza – the first female Assistant City Managers in the history of Pharr.
Congratulations, and keep up the great work ladies!
Complementing this change in leadership is the modernization of our first floor… designed to be a state-of-the-art facility, to meet the needs of our citizens with efficiency and comfort.
This new, modern, open-floor concept will include offices and conference rooms with glass windows, as a true representation of the transparency we all deserve from our government.
Finally, last year, we launched Pharr’s newest way to have citizens connect with their local government at the tip of their fingers.
Pharr’s new 311 app is an interactive mobile application that allows citizens to easily access critical information from the City of Pharr, including news, calendar of events, online payments, and more.
One exciting feature of the app is the capability to have Pharr citizens be able to report issues of concern.
We are improving access to government services for our Pharr residents and families, and will continue improving the quality of life for all.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there’s no doubt that there is power in numbers.
It is because of you, because of us, and because of the great leadership and partnerships that Pharr’s future is bright, and will only get better!
At this time, as is our tradition that began at our inaugural State of the City address in 2017, we would like to present the Polo Palacios Award, awarded annually to an individual who carries the torch of service and pride for our Pharr community.
This year’s recipient may not necessarily reside in Pharr, but he is definitely considered an honorary resident – he has done so much to improve the quality of life for our Pharr residents and families through workforce trainings and partnerships.
This year’s Polo Palacios Service Award goes to… Texas Workforce Commissioner Julian Alvarez!
Thank you for your years of service being a voice for our Pharr families. Would you like to say a few words?
Next, to continue our State of the City tradition we want to recognize those organizations in our community that are doing amazing things for our Pharr families.
As mentioned earlier, today’s event is supported with 100 percent sponsored funds – thank you, sponsors!
Because of your generosity, we are able to use our excess funds to donate back to community organizations.
The first organization is Su Casa De Esperanza, represented by Belinda Simons and Bianca Velazquez.
Su Casa De Esperanza, your house of hope, is a nonprofit organization based in South Pharr whose mission is to improve the spiritual, emotional, physical, economic, intellectual, and social well-being of families in the Rio Grande Valley. Su Casa’s vision is to improve the quality of life of children through a faith-based family education program. Pharr is proud to support this organization and its mission to help children and families of Pharr.
The next organization is The PSJA ISD Education Foundation, represented by Commissioner Eddie Cantu and President Jorge Palacios.
PSJA Education Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes excellence in education by developing and sustaining financial and non-financial support from the private sector to Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD students and staff. The Foundation was founded in 2013 by a group of citizens that believe education is the key to a bright future. Pharr is committed to continuing to support educational opportunities for our Pharr students.
Finally, we would like to present our last award to the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, represented by Stuart Haniff and Olivia Lemus.
The Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley is passionately committed to improving lives through food assistance, nutrition education, and access to community services. The Food Bank RGV, located in the heart of Pharr in the historic Valley Fruit Company packing plant, has grown to become the 40th largest in the nation and 5th largest in Texas based on distribution, helping to feed up to 42,000 on a weekly basis. Pharr continues to support the Food Bank RGV in its efforts to combat hunger in South Texas.
I want to thank everyone for joining us for today’s event.
As your mayor, I am proud of the transformation that Pharr has achieved in such a short period of time.
The eyes of the nation, state, region, and beyond – are upon us.
We look forward to an exciting and prosperous future in Pharr.
God bless you and your families, God Bless our great United States, God Bless Texas, and God Bless Pharr!
Editor’s Note: The above commentary by Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez was the prepared remarks he gave at the 2018 State of the City Address. The event was held at the Pharr Events Center on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2020.