PHARR, RGV – The new interim executive director of Pharr Economic Development Corporation has stressed the need for regional cooperation.
Sergio Contreras will continue to handle governmental affairs for the City of Pharr while heading EDC operations.
“We are part of the Rio Grande Valley. We are working with our neighbors and as such we are in sync with the Port of Brownsville and we are in sync with Rio Grande City. From one end of the Valley to the other, what benefits one benefits us all. We look forward to being part of the growth of the entire region,” Contreras said, soon after his appointment was confirmed.
“I think it is important that those of us who are in economic development realize we are all neighbors and we are all part of the economic powerhouse that is the Rio Grande Valley. Here in Pharr we are striving to be a big component of that engine. Our residents might live here and work in a neighboring city or vice versa. A lot of businesses that have a presence here have a presence in our neighboring cities. So, it is imperative we work for the betterment of the entire region. The City of Pharr is open for business and wants to continue to be a driving force for the region and this country.”
Contreras was born and raised in Alamo, Texas. Before joining the City of Pharr 11 months ago he worked for AT&T for 20 years, rising to the position of director of external affairs. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, the Border Trade Alliance, the Alliance for I-69, and the PSJA Foundation. He has previously served on the boards of the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Laredo Chamber of Commerce, the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Alamo/San Juan Boys and Girls Club, among others.
The board of directors for Pharr EDC met Saturday to consider a replacement executive director for Fred Sandoval. Sandoval had been city manager and EDC chief but severed all ties with the city administration after a change in the composition of the city commission.
Asked if he had been provided with a report on the pending business deals Sandoval was working on, Contreras said: “I am looking forward to reading the report Fred produced and picking up where he left off. I know I have big shoes to fill. As we all know Fred had many years of service with the City of Pharr. You look around at all the developments he brought to Pharr and it is very impressive.”
Asked if he can handle economic development and governmental affairs at the same time, Contreras said: “I am focused on delivery for the board and the residents of this great city, along with the legislative component of my job. Being here 11 months, my predecessor ensured that we all focus on economic development; that we are all in economic development and delivering customer service. I am looking forward to focusing on it but we have been built and trained to always sync in with economic development and customer service.”
Asked if he had been asked to focus on any particular aspect of economic development, Contreras said: “I have been asked to focus on business retention and helping provide resources for those companies that are here. We are all partners in this. It is a team effort, all the department heads have to function as one. At the end of the day, businesses look to see what type of public safety you have, what type of utilities are in place, planning and zoning regulations, roads. We are all in this together. We are one team.”
Asked if he will apply to become executive director of the EDC on a permanent basis, Contreras said: “At this point I am looking forward to serving the city in a meaningful way and I am looking forward to making a difference.”
Pharr Mayor Ambrosio ‘Amos’ Hernandez is chair of the Pharr EDC board of directors. Hernandez said: “We are pleased to make this appointment. Sergio Contreras has years of experience on the political front. I think he will be a great asset. We move forward in looking for a replacement, preferably we want someone who has had five or six years in the economic development realm. Also, if they have a business background that would be ideal, and a political background. The advertisement for a permanent executive director will be posted as of Monday and we hope in the next six months to have the job filled.”
Asked if Contreras has been asked to continue the economic development strategy developed by the former mayor, Polo Palacios, and Sandoval, Hernandez told Ron Whitlock Reports: “We are excited about the fact that we are moving in a new direction. We have a new administration, a new executive director and the new city manager. It will be a new direction to the one before. It will be in a positive direction.”
Asked what the top issues for the EDC are right now, Hernandez said: “The top issues are the expansion of our bridge, the revenue generated from the bridge, and we would like to see new business deals in place that take into account the needs of the citizens.”
Pharr City Commissioner Edmund Maldonado, Jr., is also on the EDC board. Maldonado said he was most concerned about business retention. “My main thing is business retention, keeping the businesses we have. Somehow, perhaps we can help market the businesses that here. We see some of our businesses struggling and we need to see how we can help them.”
Asked what top attributes Contreras has for the role of EDC chief, Maldonado said: “He is very professional, very outgoing, very public-relations oriented. He does a great job for us in Austin. He is a great asset to the city.” Asked if Contreras has the qualifications to make a great EDC chief, Maldonado answered affirmatively.
“He has experience and that counts for a lot. Sergio is an extension of Fred Sandoval. He learned a lot from him and they worked closely together. So, in effect, we have an extension of Fred, someone who can help provide continuity.”