MISSION, RGV – When he spoke at the official opening of the Center for Education and Economic Development, Mission Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas surprised some when he spoke about rapid population growth in western Hidalgo County.

Salinas said there are now close to 200,000 people living in mostly unincorporated areas to the northwest of Mission. He said many of them come to shop in his city. “You would be surprised, we have close to on 200,000 on northwest side, including Alton. This area is growing real, real, fast,” Salinas said.

Salinas had been invited to speak at the event because Mission Economic Development Corporation has named the Entrepreneurship Hall inside the CEED building in honor of the mayor. Alex Meade, CEO of Mission EDC, said Salinas was deserving of the accolade because he has been a small businessman and has fostered small business development during his many years as mayor.

After the event had concluded, the Rio Grande Guardian asked Salinas to expand on his comments about growth in the western half of Hidalgo County.

“When HEB built its superstore on 495 and Conway, they did not want to build one there. I convinced them it was a good move by taking them over to the northwest side of Mission. We found out we had 150,000 people there. That was about ten years ago,” Salinas said.

“So, HEB built that store and now they have built a new one on Three Mile Line, even further north. It caters to all the growth we are seeing in our ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction), north of Palmview and La Joya. Not many people know just how much growth there is but they are going to find out. It is a big volume.”

Salinas said people will likely find out about all the growth when the next Census is taken, in 2020. “People are going to wake up and find we have a lot of people living in that area,” he said.

Asked how many of the 200,000 or so residents that live to the northwest of Mission could be classified as living in colonias, Salinas said: “I would say 60 percent are colonia residents. It is a city in itself. We tried to bring them in to Mission a few years ago but they did not want it. But, talking to them the other day, some of them said, well, maybe we need to revisit with the city. I will give them the opportunity.”

Asked what impact growth just outside of Mission is having is having on his city, Salinas said: “They come to shop in Mission, which is good. We have provided water and sewer infrastructure all the way to Four Mile Line and we are going to provide it all the way to the Seven Mile Line. We will try to provide the services to some people in the area. We have had help from the Water Development Board.”

Asked what the benefit would be, if some of the colonias were annexed by Mission, Salinas said: “We could help them with new homes, with fire, police, added protection.”

Salinas paid tribute to the economic development being undertaken in Alton, to the north of Mission. “We get along fine with Alton. They are handling a lot of growth. They get a lot of people come and shop in their city, at the new Junior’s.”

Salinas also gave credit to Hidalgo County Commissioner Joe Flores. “Commissioner Flores has seen the growth and responded. He is doing a lot of improvements on Seven Mile Line and Three Mile Line all the way west. We have been able to get a lot of money from the state and he has been able to spend a lot of it, taking care of the roads and the drainage.”

Salinas predicted even more growth once certain road widening projects are complete. Mile 3 North Road from FM 492 (Goodwin Road) to FM 2221 (Jara Chinas Road) is going to be widened and reconstructed. “Once you extend 107, going west, that is going to give everyone a relief route. If you are coming in from Rio Grande City and western Hidalgo County, you will be able to get off Expressway 83 at La Joya and get on 2221 and get on Three Mile Line all the way to HEB. And, if you want to get on 107, the same thing. Commissioner Flores has got it covered,” Salinas said.

An Alton Perspective

Alton City Manager Jorge Arcaute said he is pleased more and more people are recognizing the growth that is happening in western Hidalgo County.

“The growth within the City’s limits matches the growth we are seeing in the adjacent, un-incorporated areas. Our population has gone from 4,384 in 2000 to 15,760 in 2015.  We believe it is the main reason that commercial developers are now looking for opportunities here,” Arcaute told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“A few years ago Alton was the outlying area, but as the area around us develops, we become more and more ‘in the mainstream’.”

Arcaute said the traffic counts on Mile 5 – Alton’s Main Street – and SH 107 are “very revealing” in that respect.

“This is why our top priority is the expansion of both these roadways. Our water provider, Sharyland Water Supply, recently completed a second plant here in Alton, and we have invested major dollars in sewer infrastructure to stay ahead of the population growth.”