Thank you so much. I promise I will be brief. Good afternoon and thank you all for taking time to be here with us.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Dr. Singh, Mr. Alonzo Cantu, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen. It gives me great pleasure and it is truly an honor for me to be here addressing such an outstanding group of people in Starr County.

We thank you all for taking time to come and visit with us and for all that you have done for our community. 

This morning, as I was putting thoughts together as to what I could talk about today, without being repetitious of what other people, I am sure, are going to talk about, the economic benefits, the actual construction that will happen, and so forth, as I was reminiscing I thought about something that happened 27 years ago. I had hair and it was black. 

Anyhow, all kidding aside, back then I was a county engineer for Starr County under the administration of the commissioners court, of County Judge Joe Martinez. Commissioner Garza was also on the commissioners court. 

But, anyhow, our poverty was through the roof, unemployment was at 35 percent. So, the commissioners court tried to do everything possible to get a prison built in Starr County. The state had gone out for proposals for three prisons. So we thought, we will throw our hat in the ring. When the time came, the day the leadership in Austin were going to come down and look at our proposal, the judge asked me to go to our airport and pick up some of our people that were coming. So I did. 

I was fortunate enough that one of the persons in my vehicle was the lead for the group of people that were coming down here to Starr. And as we were driving to the courthouse for a meeting they asked several questions, but three of them in particular. One of them, they asked, is there opposition for the prison. And I said, there is some. We have a handful of people that have voiced their opinion that they are against it. But it is very minimal. But his answer was, well, that is okay. I mean there will aways be people that don’t like what you are doing or don’t agree with what you are doing. And his words were, I believe that there will be opposition for the second coming of the Lord. So, if we have a little bit of opposition, it is not a problem.

Second question that he asked was education. Education opportunities for the employees because they were going to bring in about a thousand employees. At that time I was on the school board in Roma and I was very proud of that. And I said, our school districts are excellent. The Rio Grande City school, San Isidro and Roma continue to put out excellent students from their facilities. And he says, what about higher education? And I said, well, we are deficient. The only thing we had at that time was Pan American that would offer classes at the high school in their classrooms. And there were also just four or five classes. There was no online training or anything like that, back then. So, he did not like that but I guess that was okay.

The third question was what medical opportunities or services to you have for our employees. And I said, well, South Texas Memorial Hospital, I feel does a tremendous job with the resources that they have. We don’t have a lot of resources because we are a low-income county. But, nevertheless, we try to do the best we can. And he said was, well, one of the things that we noticed is that your ratio of doctors to population is very poor. And I said, yes, sir, it is because we have a difficult time attracting doctors into our community. He said, what about specialty clinics. And I said they need to go to McAllen, we don’t have any. He says, well, what happens if you have a major accident or someone has a heart attack or a stroke? I said, well from my understanding they go into our hospital, they do the best they can to stabilize them and if they are in serious condition they transport them to the Valley. I could tell he did not like my answer at all. Needless to say, we did not get the prison. 

So, this project goes beyond the economic development that it’s going to bring to our region. The jobs it is going to create. The monies that are going to be invested. This project is the future of Starr County. Now we have all these facilities. The education facilities that STC has in our community are second to none. UTRGV has brick and mortar in our community. Our hospital has done a tremendous job with recruiting doctors and also, with a partnership, with DHR that have partnered with our hospital and now we have some specify.

But this is beyond all that. So, for us, this is unheard of. This is really a guardian angels looking out for us. 

So, having said that, I do want to thank everyone that had anything to do with this project, getting it accomplished. The industrial foundation, Rose and her staff have worked countless hours. The Rio Grande City EDC, they have also put in a lot of hours. The cities, Rio Grande City, I mean, they have really gone into bat for this project. And, of course, the hospital, our Starr County Memorial Hospital. 

So, all them, I want to thank them. But I do want to give special thanks to some individuals. One of them, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Thank you so much, lieutenant governor. He literally championed the bill to get passed by the Legislature so that we could get part of the funding for this project. If that had not happened we might not be here today. So, we sincerely thank you (applause).

Also, Dr. Singh and Mr. Cantu. Their partnership with Starr County has never wavered. I mean, they have been there for any and all things we have needed and we thank you both, and your administration for everything that you have done for Starr County. You all have been excellent partners with us. So we sincerely thank you for that (applause). 

Again, if I forgot to thank anyone, please forgive me. But, you know who you are, you contributed and we thank you. 

Our local medical community. I see some of our doctors here. You know, they also helped tremendously to get this project on board.

So, again, thank you. Welcome to Starr County and I hope you have a good afternoon. Thank you. 

Editor’s Note: The above remarks were made by Starr County Judge Eloy Vera at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new DHR Health medical development center in Rio Grande City. The center will include a medical laboratory, residency program and housing, medical offices and research facility.

Editor’s Note: The “Rose” that Judge Vera referred to is Rose Benavidez, president of Starr County Industrial Foundation. That “Dr. Singh” that Judge Vera referred to is Dr. Manish Singh, CEO of DHR Health. The “Mr. Cantu” that Judge Vera referred to is businessman Alonzo Cantu, co-founder of DHR Health. 

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