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Friday, May 24, 2024
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McAllen
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Edinburg’s Strategic Land and Industrial Growth

Strengthening Regional Development

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Raudel Garza. Photo by Roberto Hugo González
Raudel Garza. Photo by Roberto Hugo González
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By Roberto Hugo González

McAllen, TX – To continue fostering community engagement and promoting informed economic discourse, the McAllen Citizens League (MCL), backed by 2024 Platinum sponsor Rio Bank, recently hosted a forum that spotlighted regional economic updates crucial for the local and surrounding areas.

Economic development veteran Raudel Garza shared his extensive experience and insights at this forum. With over two decades as a leader in economic development across various cities in the Rio Grande Valley, Garza has been at the forefront of economic progress. As the former CEO of the Rio South Texas Council, he was key in attracting thousands of jobs to the region, developing industrial parks, and supporting small businesses during challenging times, including the recent pandemic.

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Addressing the attendees, Garza noted the familiar faces in the crowd and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to speak. Residing on the border of McAllen and Edinburg, he has witnessed firsthand the growth and changes in the area over the last 17 years. His career began in 1993 when he joined the Pharr Economic Development Corporation at just 28 years old. His journey through public and private sectors, including a stint in real estate with NAI Rio Co. Realty, has given him a unique perspective on the needs and opportunities within the community.

During the event, Garza He highlighted Edinburg’s rapid growth and development, noting that the city currently has 145 subdivisions in various stages of development, representing over 4,500 residential lots.

Garza also addressed potential challenges, particularly the region’s water scarcity issues, which could hinder future growth. He explained that Edinburg is actively investing in infrastructure to support commercial and industrial development. This includes the construction of a million-gallon water tank and significant investments in sanitary sewer extensions to better serve longstanding businesses in the area.

Garza highlighted the Valley’s critical challenge— the lack of sufficiently large buildings. “Currently, the demand is shifting towards facilities that span half a million to a million square feet,” Garza explained. “In the Valley, such buildings are scarce; you can count the ones that exist on one hand. However, we are actively working to encourage our developers to invest in and construct these larger facilities.”

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The focus then moved back to Edinburg’s development, a key point of interest for Garza, given its rapid growth and strategic importance to the region’s economy. He detailed the significant role of DHR Health, which straddles the McAllen and Edinburg city limits, as one of the largest employers in the area. “DHR Health recently expanded with a new wing, adding several hundred jobs to their already substantial workforce of 6,000,” said Garza.

Furthermore, Garza discussed the anticipated opening of Driscoll Hospitals in Edinburg, which is expected to hire an additional 600 employees. “Driscoll Children’s Hospital is not only a major development in terms of healthcare services but also in economic impact, pulling some of its new workforce from existing institutions,” he added.

These developments reflect Edinburg and the larger Valley’s ongoing transformation into a hub for healthcare and large-scale commercial investments. Garza emphasized the need for continued investment in infrastructure to support these developments, which are vital for the economic sustainability and growth of the region. Through these initiatives, Garza and other leaders in economic development aim to meet the growing demands of the region’s evolving economic landscape.

Garza highlighted a critical need within the educational sector: the demand for more nurses. “With significant healthcare facilities expanding and new ones opening, such as Driscoll Hospitals, there’s a pressing need for more trained nurses in our region,” he explained. This need reinforces the bigger economic growth strategies, especially in education-driven cities like Edinburg.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) is central to Edinburg’s economic development narrative. Over the past decade, UTRGV has seen remarkable growth, with current projects worth nearly $70 million in design and construction phases in Edinburg alone. This excludes additional developments at its other Harlingen, McAllen, and Brownsville campuses. “UTRGV’s expansion is not just a boon for education but a decisive economic driver that leads to more residential development and, subsequently, increased retail opportunities,” Garza noted.

Discussing the mutual relationship between educational advancements and retail growth, Garza emphasized that the economic development efforts in Edinburg, unlike in McAllen, span multiple sectors. “While McAllen focuses primarily on retail through its economic development corporation, Edinburg and similar communities are fostering growth across both retail and industrial sectors,” he stated. This approach ensures a balanced economic environment that can sustain various types of businesses and services.

Retail development, according to Garza, naturally follows the creation of high-paying jobs and an increase in residential zones, known as ‘rooftops’. “Retail growth is contingent upon having the right jobs and demographics in place. It’s a derivative of our primary focus, which remains on creating high-paying jobs that foster a prosperous community environment,” he affirmed.

Garza also touched upon his broader promotional strategy for the Valley, emphasizing a regional approach rather than focusing solely on Edinburg. “When I represent our area, I speak about the Valley, encompassing all our assets across multiple counties. The businesses we’re looking to attract don’t see city limits; they see a region ripe with potential,” he remarked. This strategy is designed to attract diverse businesses, from logistics to back-office services, which have been actively set up in Edinburg’s industrial parks.

In his concluding remarks at the McAllen Citizens League forum, Garza detailed the strategic initiatives underway to secure Edinburg’s economic future through land development and industrial growth. His insights provided a roadmap for how public sector efforts can complement and sometimes lead regional development.

Garza explained the dynamic state of land availability in Edinburg, highlighting the rapid pace at which industrial land is being acquired. “When I arrived at Edinburg EDC, we had about 75 acres available; now we’re down to 25 acres, and these are likely to be purchased in the coming months due to high demand from companies eager to establish their presence here,” he said. This significant decrease in available land is prompting a dual strategy: encouraging private sector development and, where necessary, taking a more active role in land development to ensure growth.

Unlike some cities, Edinburg does not engage in vertical development—constructing buildings itself—but focuses on preparing land for private investment. “We aim to facilitate, not replace, private development. Historically, Edinburg divested its owned buildings to foster a healthy private sector, and we continue to prioritize this approach,” Garza clarified.

A key focus for Garza and his team is the recruitment of high-paying, high-tech healthcare jobs, identified as a target industry due to its potential for sustainable economic growth. This sector, alongside the manufacturing base linked with Reynosa Tamaulipas and Matamoros, and operations through the Port of Brownsville, emphasizes a broader regional strategy. “The Port of Brownsville is really the port of the Rio Grande Valley, supporting a substantial workforce that commutes from our area for well-paying jobs,” he noted.

Garza also mentioned efforts to promote the region, such as joining forces with Brownsville at trade shows in Mexico, emphasizing a unified approach to regional promotion and development. “Partnerships across cities and with our neighbors in Mexico are crucial in driving our joint economic destiny,” he added.

As the forum concluded, Garza expressed a deep commitment to the region’s growth and his continued role in it. “It has been a privilege to serve in this capacity, and I am enthusiastic about continuing to contribute to our community’s prosperity,” he concluded, signaling an ongoing dedication to enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of the Rio Grande Valley through strategic economic development.

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