EDINBURG, RGV – Former Edinburg city manager and economic development corporation executive director Ramiro Garza says he is now in a position to help other Rio Grande Valley cities achieve the same success as Edinburg.
During Garza’s time as EDC chief and city manager Edinburg was the fastest growing city in the region. Now, Garza has moved into the private sector as a consultant and economic development advisor. His company is called RG Economic Advisors.
“I formed RG Economic Advisors in order to embrace all the experiences I have had, working in economic development over the years, particularly in Edinburg and Cameron County. I want to do more for the entire region, based upon this experience I have. I feel like a lot of what we have done in Edinburg can be replicated across South Texas,” Garza told the Rio Grande Guardian.
Garza joined Edinburg EDC in 2000. He became Edinburg City Manager in 2009. He left at the end of last year. Asked what he has been doing since, Garza said: “I have been keeping busy because there are a lot of opportunities in the whole region. I have been able to work with private companies that have been investing in the region, advising them on both the best location and explaining what kind of assistance is out there. There are a lot of resources available from EDCs and cities. I want to help facilitate new investment and create better jobs for this region. I can help make economic development projects a reality.”
Among the big projects Garza worked on for Edinburg were the new University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, a new Hidalgo County Courthouse, The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, La Sienna, Santana Textiles, the new Vipers Arena, a new soccer stadium, and the expansion of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and Edinburg Regional Medical Center. He said he is “very, very, appreciative” of all the help he received on those and other projects from the wider Edinburg community, from the city council and from the EDC staff.
“We hear a lot about the recent things that have been built, the arena, the shopping mall, etc., but I am equally proud of what happened early on. When I first started it was not easy. Soon after I arrived, Haggar, the jean manufacturer, closed its doors. So did IEC Electronics, a circuit board manufacturer. Combined, that was 2,000 lost jobs,” Garza recalled.
“There were some challenges related to the closure of some large companies that the Edinburg community relied on for employment. By 2001, the two largest employers in Edinburg had closed their doors. In response, we devised a strategy to diversify the economy. We started developing industrial parks. We started buying land, putting in infrastructure and recruiting companies. We started with small- to medium-size companies. The idea was to have a good, diverse set of industries. Then we started focusing on commercial and retail. Then we started focusing on rooftops. We saw the need to invest in infrastructure. All of this groundwork led to the big, destination-type projects, we see in Edinburg today.”
Garza is also proud of his work in Cameron County, where he worked for the Empowerment Zone and later Port Isabel Economic Development Corporation. “The shrimping industry was in decline and we helped shrimpers and their families to learn new skills. We set up an incubator and later launched Port Isabel’s first strategic plan. We developed a plan to make the city a tourist attraction, which it has now become,” Garza recalled.
Garza predicted that the UTRGV School of Medicine will be seen in future years as a “monumental achievement” for the Rio Grande Valley. His involvement came as Valley legislators and Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia started negotiating with the UT System to have first- and second-year students based at the Edinburg campus. Garcia tapped Garza to be Hidalgo County’s point person in the negotiations, while Dr. Kenneth Shine was UT System’s point person. “I am so proud to have helped facilitate the Memorandum of Understanding between Hidalgo County, the bigger cities in Hidalgo County, and the UT System. Together we developed a $47.5 million plan over ten-year period to help get the medical school up and running,” Garza said.
Asked what sort of people call him today looking for assistance, Garza said: “Many of them are potential investors. I have formed an alliance with Noble Texas Builders. We provide a one stop shop, for site selection, designing, engineering and building. We can help with incentives, and even attract tenants.”
Rene Capistran, formerly of SpawGlass, is president of Noble Texas Builders. He and Garza set up NBT Development. “People think we have merged but it is more of an alliance. We have formed this entity to recognize the alliance we have,” Garza said.
“The other people that call are EDCs and cities that are looking for me to help in an advisory capacity. I can do an assessment, an analysis, things like traffic counts, and put the cities in the best position to grow. They value the experience I have and the work I have done on so many different projects over the years, industrial, commercial, residential.”
Asked what the Valley’s economy might look like in ten years, Garza was full of optimism.
“The Valley has so much potential to grow. And that potential is in every part of the Valley. Every community has its niche. No one community is like another. They are all very distinctive. They all have their own assets that they can grow. People ask me, why the Valley. I tell them, all of our communities are open for business. It is a very business-friendly area. We provide a warm welcome. There is so much need. We have to nurture that and make it as easy as possible for potential investors.”
Asked where the investors are coming from, Garza said “all over.” He said some are coming from the North East, some from the West Coast, some from Mexico and South America, and others from further afield, including Asia and Europe. “I can tell you, we are continually being looked at. I get real excited about seeing our part of Texas come together. For me, this will speed up investment. For example, the merger of the two universities, the potential merger of the metropolitan planning organizations, and doing an international MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area). it will help us leapfrog the expected growth. We will start to be looked at more seriously. We will be looked at as one big region.”