RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – The second stop on the Rio Grande Valley Partnership’s Commercial and Investment Virtual Tour will be in Edinburg, the group’s president and CEO has announced.

Sergio Contreras said the first stop, held in Rio Grande City on Oct. 29 was a “great success.” The webinar included an online discussion with leaders from Rio Grande City Economic Development Corporation and a video presentation featuring Rio Grande City Mayor Joel Villarreal.

The Edinburg leg of the tour takes place Nov. 18 and will include the analysis of Edinburg Economic Development Corporation staff. The third leg of the day will be in McAllen on Dec. 10 and will focus on officials from the City of McAllen.

“With the nation still in the grip of the coronavirus it is not possible to host in-person events. So, we are conducting our tour virtually,” Contreras told the Rio Grande Guardian. “We want to highlight the great achievements being made by various communities across the Valley even during these challenging times. We want to know what investment opportunities exist in these communities and what great economic development projects are already underway.”

Sergio Contreras, president and CEO of Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

SAMES Inc., an engineering, construction and surveying form based in McAllen, is one of the sponsors of the tour and its public relations manager, Marie S. Garcia, is helping with the production. 

Garcia said the RGV Partnership wants to go back to Rio Grande City and other communities that it tours virtually, once the pandemic is over.

“Stay connected, we do plan to come back and go live. We want to meet again in person,” said Garcia, during the webinar.

Interviewed by the Rio Grande Guardian after the event, Garcia said much credit should go to Gabriel Garza, for kicking things off with Properties Tours RGV.

“We did many residential tours in Hidalgo and Cameron counties before starting the in-person commercial tours with several economic development corporations. Now we have collaborated with the RGV Partnership and Sergio (Contreras) is wanting to take the commercial tours to the next level, and for now, because of COVID, they are virtual,” Garcia said.

“I am so excited to be part of this unique platform to allow those from our industry to connect and collaborate to continue the successful development of the RGV.”

Asked what she thought of the Rio Grande City virtual tour, Garcia said: “It was great. I love that it gave Rio Grande City the opportunity to passionately showcase their beautiful city virtually. Once COVID passes – hopefully soon – we will resume the live tours and revisit Rio Grande City. Until then, we will continue to showcase our awesome region virtually.”

Marie S. Garcia, public relations manager for SAMES.

During the Rio Grande City tour, car dealership owner Billy Canales said cities in Starr County were doing well with sales tax revenues even though COVID-19 has hit hard.

“Even though we have gone through this pandemic, we are actually ahead in tax collections in La Grulla, Rio Grande City and Roma, we are doing okay, folks, we are ahead, year to date, of last year,” Canales said.

“La Grulla is up 24 percent, Rio Grande City is up 6.8 percent, and Roma is up 3.16 percent. We are doing okay. We just need to stay safe and do what is required (to stop the spread of the coronavirus).”

Dalinda Guillen, executive director of Rio Grande City EDC, said Canales was a great ambassador for her city. “No one promotes Rio Grande City as well as Mr. Canales,” Guillen said.

In her online conversation with RGVP’s Contreras, Guillen described the state of the Rio Grande City economy as “strong.” She pointed out that city leaders had just agreed to invest “millions of dollars” in key infrastructure projects. 

“I am really excited. Our city is growing by leaps and bounds,” Guillen said.

For his part Contreras noted that access to healthcare is improving in Starr County, citing new facilities currently under construction next to Starr County Memorial Hospital in Rio Grande City.

Contreras said the RGVP had just released a study showing the impact of the healthcare industry on the Valley. “It is producing an $13.7 billion of economic impact in our four-country region,” Contreras said.

Contreras asked Guillen to describe the impact higher education is having in Starr County.

“Well, we have South Texas College and UTRGV… but South Texas College came in first,” Guillen said. “It was a game changer for Starr County. Having this level of education conveniently available here in our community has really changed the whole mindset. We continue to see South Texas College grow.”

As for UTRGV, Guillen said: “Our UTRGV campus is more focused in their degrees but nonetheless they serve an important purpose. They might be looking at online classes for a while but it does not stop them from educating our workforce and we applaud them for doing everything they can to make sure the Valley is educated.”

During the webinar, the hosts paused to allow Guillen to play a ten-minute video Rio Grande City EDC has produced. The video shows aerial shots of economic development projects currently underway in the city. Commentary was provided by Guillen and Mayor Villarreal. 

(Nuestra Lindo (our cute) Rio Grande City is a historic community with modern appeal that embraces a high quality of life and where people come to live and to work and to enjoy the American Dream,” Villarreal said in his opening remarks on the video,

“The U.S. Census estimates that our current population is 15,376, and each day that number is expected to keep growing. The cost of living is very low, with 24 percent lower than the national average. Although we are weathering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic our business community is thriving and new businesses are opening every day.”

In her opening remarks on the video, Guillen said:

“Rio Grande City is a distinctive city, unique in its history and in its location along the U.S.-Mexico border. It serves as a gateway for travelers, tourists, and business enterprise. 

“Rio Grande City offers easy access to major highways, international ports of entry, rail lines and is is a short 40 miles from daily commercial flights at the McAllen Miller International Airport. 

“Rio Grande City provides remarkably affordable living, quality education and a young, dynamic workforce. It is also home to a strong business community with a comfortable mix of national and locally-owned businesses.”

Editor’s Note: The above news story is the first in a three-part series on Rio Grande City and a virtual tour of the city hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership. Click here to read Part Two, and here to read Part Three.

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