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McALLEN, RGV – The Rio Grande Valley and Silicon Valley have never really gone together, have they? Congressman Rubén Hinojosa hinted Wednesday that this is about to change.

“I am glad to announce that meetings are already taking place right now on setting up an initiative, name to be disclosed soon, but it is going to be a combination of an initiative on healthcare and information technology combined,” Hinojosa said.

“Silicon Valley, representatives from Facebook, Google, Apple, Dell, all the big companies, are eager to come down to HESTEC and they are eager to be a part of the initiative that I am saying will occur in the Spring of 2016, right here in the Rio Grande Valley.”

HESTEC, which Hinojosa founded, is UT-Pan American’s big push to get Valley students interested in pursuing careers in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math. By 2016, UT-Pan American will have been dissolved and HESTEC will be part of the new UT-Rio Grande Valley.

Hinojosa made his remarks at the signing of an articulation agreement between Texas A&M Health Science Center and South Texas College. Under the agreement the two institutions will launch an undergraduate program so that Valley students can earn a bachelor of science in public health.

Hinojosa said he and others could only have dreamed 20 years ago of UT and A&M having a major presence in the Valley. He praised McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and the McAllen City Commission for their commitment to investing in education. Darling was present at the ceremony to read a proclamation for National Public Health Week.

“There is no doubt in my mind this whole region is going to benefit and the example that you, McAllen, Edinburg, Mission and Pharr, showed by working together is something we all dreamed of,” Hinojosa told Darling. “Instead of fighting each other we are working together. We are making this region a great place to live in, to raise families in and of course to continue to raise the level of educational attainment.”

Hinojosa also praised Shirley A. Reed, president of South Texas College, and her staff for the work they are doing in training students for good paying jobs.  “Ladies and gentlemen, it is unbelievable at the growth we can anticipate in the next 24 months. Just two years. The medical school will have started in 2016, the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley will be hosting probably the biggest HESTEC we have ever had in the first week of October,” Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa said the articulation agreement “is yet another stepping stone to the great things that are happening in the Rio Grande Valley.” He said that as a congressman and one who has served at many levels, including serving on the South Texas College board, it makes his heart “swell with pride” to see the region growing in a “very, very, positive manner.” Hinojosa said the training that Valley higher education institutions are providing are allowing students to secure high paying jobs.

“We want them to be able to graduate them so that they can offer a good quality of life for their families, their children and their grandchildren. So, Jim, thank you for your great work. To Dr. Jay Maddock, dean of this health science center, thank you for what you all are doing to help us continue the growth,” Hinojosa said.

“Dr. Reed, I never get tired by saying that the work that is done by your community college and your staff throughout the whole Rio Grande Valley is a great example of how we need to continue to work, public, private, projects and to be able to eventually look like San Antonio. We are at the same point as San Antonio was many years ago when they announced their new medical health science center. And so, there is no reason why Olga Gabriel and her staff can’t contribute to helping us get to that point.”

Hinojosa said that when he helped found South Texas College many years ago, he knew it would become the “catalyst for the economic development” by training workers for the jobs of the future. And he said that as a member of the House Committee on Education he has listened to hundreds of witnesses come to Washington and talk about the numerous opportunities available in the healthcare field.

“Healthcare is by far No. 1 in the creation of jobs. Do you know that healthcare is No. 1, information technology is No. 2? And we know that energy, because of oil and gas and the Eagle Ford Shale and the new Burgos Basin in Mexico are creating thousands and thousands of good paying jobs and they are crying not only for the professionals that we are giving them through STEM but they are eager for us to do regional projects that will give them vocational, technical, graduates with associate degrees in jobs, that pay $30,000 to $50,000 to $60,000 a year,” Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa said that with the new A&M-STC bachelor’s program and with the new medical school, “the Rio Grande Valley is even better positioned to take advantage of the new jobs being created in the field of allied health.” Students who study in the Valley are more likely to remain in the region, Hinojosa said. “We desperately need them to stay. We need more healthcare providers to meet the healthcare demand of the newly insured, under the Affordable Healthcare Act, the families moving into our community and our aging populations are demanding that there be more and more doctors and nurses and folks involved in allied health.”

Hinojosa said he wanted to thank Shirley Reed, Chancellor Sharp and Mayor Darling for “all of their efforts in negotiating this agreement that will improve the quality of life for everyone in our region and allow our students to attain their dreams. I hope there will be more such collaborative efforts in the future.”

In his remarks, Mayor Darling said: “It is an exciting day for me because I am a huge fan of South Texas College.” There were big cheers from the audience when Darling made the comment. “I don’t know if it is because I am product of junior college, like Shirley Reed but that is part of it,” Darling said. “When people ask me what is the biggest thing that happened to McAllen I think the game changer is South Texas College and what it has done for the many kids that who would never have had the opportunity to be where they are now. So, Shirley and your board, thank you very much for that.”