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Monday, May 27, 2024
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McAllen State of the City 2023 Address

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Texas Border Business

Mayor Javier Villalobos welcomed distinguished dignitaries and guests to McAllen’s State of the City 2023 address.

Friends, Welcome! ¡Bienvenidos! Thank you for joining me on such a momentous day.  Today I stand with my fellow commissioners, residents, guests, friends, and family – united in purpose- to inform you of our successes, challenges, and plans for a better and brighter future.

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We are also united by the power of McAllen to bring people together to achieve momentous things. The power of McAllen’s community partners is why your support keeps today’s event at zero-cost to taxpayers, with all proceeds going to local nonprofits.  You know, since we began hosting our state of the city programs the generosity and support from our community has been amazing.  Thank you to Linebarger and Vantage Bank Rioco who have supported this event at the diamond level.  Thank you for your generous support of our community nonprofits. And to all supporters and sponsors, we offer you our thanks and a well-earned round of applause- thank you so much.

Slideshow below 91 beautiful photos:

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On behalf of the City of McAllen, I welcome our dignitaries: senators, congressmen, mayors, consuls, council members, trustees, federal and state judges, and university leaders – thank you all for your service.

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On a personal level I would like to recognize the person that has inspired me to reach this stage and help build a better future for us, our family, and everyone in our beloved city, my beautiful wife Annette. I also want to recognize the first woman I ever loved.  I am blessed to have my mother Elida Villalobos with us today. And my dad, I know he is beaming with pride looking down from heaven.

2022 was a momentous year for McAllen, and the power behind it was us- not just those within this room, but our residents and partners who worked together to achieve great things.  We emerged from 2021’s post-pandemic economy into a world of rising fuel costs, supply chain problems, and stubborn inflation. Yet the power of McAllen to turn challenges into opportunities created a year of innovative solutions and hard-earned achievements.

2022 was the year our city, earned record sales tax revenue.   People chose McAllen as their post-pandemic retail destination. It was the year we invested that revenue back into our community through tax relief, crucial infrastructure, and capital improvement projects- all to bring yet more prosperity to our city.

The power of McAllen’s public servants made our city safer, healthier, and more compassionate. It was the year when the power of McAllen’s forward-thinking delivered outstanding quality of life, world-class events, and projects of global importance.

Today, we will share the facts and figures behind McAllen’s momentous year and reveal the human impact of our efforts.  But first, I have the responsibility of reporting the state of our city- and I am proud to say, the state of McAllen has never been stronger.

The power of McAllen to achieve big things earned our city momentous recognition in 2022. McAllen was chosen by realtor.com as the 5th best city in the nation for middle-class home buyers, one of the most vital segments of our community.

McAllen remains among our nation’s least expensive places to live and was recognized by Kiplinger in 2022 as America’s 3rd most affordable city. McAllen’s own South Texas College was noted by Niche.com as one of the 10 safest campuses in the state. For the 1st time, McAllen was recognized with the prestigious IFEA World Festival and Event City Award for creating tremendous community and economic capital, by creating and improving events.

In 2022, the power of McAllen’s prosperity was truly momentous. McAllen’s retail dominance earned a 12.5% year-over-year gain in sales tax revenue. Our retail partners helped generate a record-breaking $91 million for our city- a momentous 31% increase from McAllen’s pre-pandemic sales taxes.

McAllen rose through the ranks of the nation’s top 20 cities in total sales tax revenue and ranked number 4 in total sales tax per capita. For perspective, McAllen nearly doubled the total per capita sales tax revenue of Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin. Through the power of McAllen’s prosperity, our city had the resources to reinvest in our community- starting with tax relief.

We did something really momentous- we reduced the property tax rate back to a level not seen since 2014! Cutting property taxes helps ease the sting of economic pressures and makes McAllen an even more desirable place for people to raise a family, to buy a home, or simply retire. As one of the Valley’s cities with the lowest property tax burdens, McAllen is creating the blueprint for fiscally responsible prosperity.

Most importantly, McAllen reinvested our record sales tax revenue into our most ambitious city budget ever. I’m proud of a new vision for McAllen from our commissioners, city manager, and myself- a momentous $641 million budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year. This budget, backed by a $133 million general fund, provides more than 220 days of working capital, a number exceeding our city’s 140 day required reserve. Ladies and gentlemen, the power of McAllen is undeniable.

McAllen’s residents will experience a transformative series of projects to strengthen our economy and improve our quality of life: strong infrastructure, like roads and transportation hubs, modern fire stations, and crucial drainage improvements that will benefit generations to come. Because we created the power of McAllen’s prosperity together, we believe every McAllen family should benefit from better city services and the quality of life they ensure.

But McAllen’s services are only possible thanks to the passion of our city’s loyal team. For all they do to keep our city running strong, our budget provides a 3% cost of living adjustment to city employees and 4% increase to our firefighters and police force. To all our city employees, thank you!

We continue working with landowners in our southern area to keep promoting economic development. We want to thank Killam Development, a Diamond Sponsor of this event, for working hand in hand as we look to tackle one of the biggest developments our area has ever seen.  Thank you so much Cliff!

We are also excited to welcome Zoho to McAllen!  Friends, Zoho is a multinational technology company that makes computer software and web-based business tools and they have made significant plans to expand their presence in McAllen.  I am so glad that our friends from Zoho, another amazing diamond sponsor of this event could be here with us today.  Thank you so much!

Now, the power of McAllen has space to create new facilities, public projects, and ambitious partnerships to drive economic growth for years to come. The power of McAllen’s partnerships created momentous achievements in 2022. It was the year McAllen partnered with UTRGV to create the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Cancer and Surgery Center supported with the advisory services of the world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The city’s million-dollar investment will give McAllen residents access to advanced treatments and advisory services, with underserved specialties in surgical oncology, radiation therapy, clinical and medical services. As the first of its kind, this 100,000 sq-ft facility will transform healthcare in South Texas as phase one of UTRGV’s McAllen Academic Medical Campus. This partnership will also develop homegrown talent by training UTRGV medical students- a momentous resource that benefits our community. McAllen partnered with South Texas College, investing up to $2 million to increase the much-needed nursing program to augment the number of nurses necessary for our hospitals and clinics, all to assure that McAllen’s quality of life is always at its best. 

I would like to recognize UTRGV President Dr. Guy Bailey, and South Texas College President Dr. Ricardo Solis for ensuring McAllen’s education and quality of life are at their best. Gentlemen, please stand and be recognized. 

The partnership between UTRGV and McAllen powered by the generous support from McAllen ISD will be even greater these coming years as we break ground on the new Center for Urban Ecology at Quinta Mazatlán. When complete, guests from around the world will travel to McAllen to experience a first of its kind research center, while our local students will study the native plants and wildlife in our unique South Texas ecosystem.

These partnerships demonstrate the power of McAllen’s ability to unite diverse organizations to do something momentous. I thank Doctor Guy Bailey and UTRGV, Senators Chuy Hinojosa and Eddie Lucio, State Representatives Guerra and Canales, our entire valley delegation, McAllen ISD, Congressman Gonzalez, Judge Richard Cortez, County Commissioners Elle Torres, Eddie Cantu, Ever Villarreal, friends of Quinta Mazatlán, and our many community partners- please stand and be recognized.

The power of McAllen’s partnerships also drives efficiency within our city government. In 2022, multiple city departments partnered for Project Smart- a plan to improve customer service by connecting utility billing, finance, and HR departments.

They worked together and invested in new Enterprise Resource Planning Software, that once deployed, will give residents better service with less internal overhead. While our city residents benefit from the power of partnerships, every American will soon benefit from McAllen’s momentous new project.

Last September, we officially broke ground on the $83 million Anzalduas Port of Entry Expansion Project. McAllen partnered with the U.S. Dept. of Transportation and Secretary Buttigieg to receive the largest grant in our city’s history- $25 million.  The INFRA grant for Rebuilding America, awards funds for logistics and transportation projects of national significance. On top of that, the City also received the support of the Texas Department of Transportation and received an additional $22 million grant towards this historic project. 

McAllen’s own GPS study confirmed the momentous impact this new commercial inspection and cargo facility will have on international trade, increasing travel and the movement of full commercial cargo between the U.S. and Mexico. I thank our City Manager, Roy Rodriguez and our superintendent of bridges, Juan Olaguibel, and all our city staff who worked so hard on this truly momentous project.

In July, we signed a sister city agreement with beautiful Puerto Vallarta with Mayor Luis Alberto Michel Rodriguez, committing to share our complementary expertise in tourism and infrastructure. 

In August, we solidified another sister city agreement with the industrial powerhouse of Nuevo Leon, … Apodaca! The city of Apodaca, like McAllen, is a mighty municipality, and I am delighted to have a good friend and ally in Apodaca, Mayor Cesar Garza Villarreal- saludos mi amigo!

Closer to home, McAllen partnered with South Padre Island this year to create and grow economic, cultural, and tourism opportunities. I thank our friends in South Padre Island for their momentous support.

The power of McAllen to connect people is momentous. In 2022, Metro McAllen took connectivity further with the new Transfer Center and Maintenance facility on 23rd street. This 8,000 sq-ft facility will be north McAllen’s transit hub and will connect passengers with better routes and more access to STC, Texas A&M, and UTRGV campuses. It will greatly expand Metro’s offerings to passengers, add additional drivers, and more routes with greater frequency. The Transfer Center’s $8 million cost was fully funded by a Federal Grant and Development Credits- a momentous benefit to McAllen residents.

The power of McAllen to connect people is international in scope. With our fully reopened International Bridges, leaving pandemic restrictions in the past, families and businesses finally reconnected and increased total northbound crossings by 27%.

McAllen welcomed 11.5 million personal vehicles to visit our stores, stay in our hotels, conduct business, and experience our award-winning festivals. Southbound combined crossings increased by 51% with more than 3.7 million personal vehicles and a million pedestrians. I am proud to say it was a momentous reunion.

McAllen International Airport also connects travelers with our fast-growing destination city. In 2022, our airport invested $34 million in multi-year improvement projects to the airfield stormwater management system, commercial runway, boarding bridges, and refreshed amenities. McAllen International Airport welcomed nearly 876 thousand passengers in 2022, exceeding the prior year’s all-time high- a momentous achievement for the Valley’s preferred airport.

The McAllen International Airport team goes above and beyond to connect travelers with world-class destinations and experiences. In 2022, they used the power of McAllen’s partnerships to raise our city’s profile as the Official South Texas Airport of the Dallas Cowboys- the first partnership of its kind in the United States (a big win for the cowboys and our City this season).

This exclusive partnership connects McAllen airport guests with the world’s top sports brand, with nonstop flights to games, player meet and greets, giveaways, and the new Skybox Fan experience at McAllen Holiday Parade.

Now here’s a special message from Eric Sudol of the Dallas Cowboys on this momentous partnership.

As a destination city, McAllen connects people with festivals and events year-round that raise our quality of life. McAllen hosted the 65th Annual IFEA Convention, welcoming representatives from the world’s greatest festivals, including the Rose Bowl, Kentucky Derby, and Indy 500. There, McAllen earned the International Festival and Event Award for hosting over 800 events and generating more than $87 million of economic impact, joining the likes of Dubai, Sydney, and the City of Philadelphia.

Festivals and events help drive McAllen’s hospitality industry. McAllen hotels saw revenue per available room climb by a record 9.6% and reached a 73.5% occupancy rate in 2022.  Work is underway on a new five-story ALOFT Hotel that will bring an additional 135 rooms to the McAllen Convention Center entertainment district. It’s yet another way McAllen welcomes guests and residents to our more than 800 festivals and events.

Friends, our holiday events were even more powerful this year because thanks to our friends at HEB and Boggus Auto Group local non-profits received generous contributions through McAllen’s 12 days of giving. 

Thank you to HEB for donating $144K in daily 12,000 contributions to McAllen’s nonprofits and Boggus for their generous $40K donation to the Children’s Bereavement Center.  Thank you to all our volunteers and event teams for your dedication.

The McAllen Holiday Parade and South Pole Illuminated festival were just two of many unforgettable events, like the McAllen Marathon, CarFest, Dinos & Dragons, our Independence Day Celebration, Halloween Fright Festival, Fiesta de Palmas, MXLAN, the Monarch Festival, Texas Recycles Day, Arbor Day, Ilumina Fest, and lighting the Tallest digital Christmas tree in America!

McAllen’s International Museum of Art & Science also helped improve our quality of life through exhibitions, educational programs, and experiences in 2022. IMAS is a momentous asset for our city, from the children’s museum to their expanded permanent art displays and science collections.

McAllen always strives to improve our quality of life. McAllen Parks and Rec is investing millions of dollars into a campground for guests to enjoy hiking trails, fishing docks, archery alleys, birding blinds, campsites, and picnic shelters. Parks and Rec is also developing new projects, like building splash pads in every district, and are making plans to improve the city’s walking and biking trails, lighting, and accessibility.  All this made easier with Park and Recs new 20,000 sq-ft facility located on 23rd Street.

McAllen’s greatest power is our sense of compassion. In 2022, the Development Corporation of McAllen and our general fund combined to provide more than $5.1 million to fund 17 local nonprofits. These organizations helped us mentor our youth, remember our history, improve literacy, inspire entrepreneurship, counsel those in need, and other compassionate work.  They are critical to the heartbeat that makes McAllen the caring community that it is: Comfort House, McAllen Heritage Center, Mujeres Unidas, RGV Literacy Center, McAllen Town Band, McAllen Chamber of Commerce, Amigos Del Valle, Boys & Girls Club of McAllen, Museum of South Texas History, Valley Symphony Orchestra, International Museum of Art & Science, Lift-Fund Inc., South Texas College, Affordable Homes of South Texas, Vida, and El Milagro Clinic.

But our compassion did not end at our city limits.  When our brothers and sisters in the Monterrey Nuevo Leon area were suffering from extreme drought, our city and our community jumped to action.  Within days, we had 50 pallets holding 144K bottles of water ready for delivery. But how do we deliver that water? 

Well, we have good friends- I want to thank our good friend Carlos Canales with Trancasa and Joaquin Spammer with CIL who, without cost to us, used their trucks and trailers to deliver our water all the way to Nuevo Leon.  Gracias Caballeros for what you did and for being Diamond Sponsors of today’s event.

I also want to thank our good friend Hershel Patel, who quickly mobilized organizing fellow hoteliers to generously donate pallets of water.  Thank you so much, Hershal and Ruby Red Hospitality for your Diamond Sponsorship.

This truly was a team effort. Thank you to all that helped and supported the effort. Here in McAllen, we care. Sometimes, compassion can be as simple as lending someone a hand. McAllen’s community toolshed program lent tools to residents to beautify their yards and neighborhoods- a small gesture with momentous personal impact. We enhanced Imagine Tomorrow in 2022- an incentive program for home and lot repairs, demolitions, and older home renovations in McAllen neighborhoods. This year, we will increase Imagine Tomorrow’s budget by 33% so more residents can help improve our city from the inside-out.

The City’s Retail and Business Development Office reinvested in our downtown through the Refresh 50/50 grant program.  This helps our local businesses stretch their dollars by adding city money to improvements which helps small businesses beautify their storefronts and preserve McAllen’s vital downtown experience. I am so proud of these programs created in McAllen and which now serve as models throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

The power of McAllen’s community spirit kept our city safe in 2022. A SmartAsset study evaluating violent crime, poverty, vehicular mortality rate, and other factors ranked McAllen as America’s 6th safest city in 2022 – a momentous achievement. 2022 was also McAllen’s 13th consecutive year of declining crime reports with an overall decrease of 2.7% following the previous year’s near 3% decline. Among the four largest border cities in Texas, McAllen was ranked with the lowest violent and property crime rates.

McAllen’s Information Technology team partnered with our Parks and Recreation Department to upgrade 9-1-1 callboxes on the 2nd Street and Bicentennial walking trails.  Now we are installing them on the Bentsen Road Trail! McAllen updated existing callboxes from 3G to 5G and regularly services them to ensure our community is safe while they are being active.

We also congratulate the McAllen Fire Department on maintaining their Property Protection Classification of 2, among the best in our region. This rating keeps McAllen home insurance rates among the lowest in the state. McAllen is making a momentous investment in fire safety with a first of its kind, state-of-the-art training center on North La Lomita Road. When complete, we will enhance the training our firefighters receive right here in McAllen- a momentous 1st for our city. The proposed 10,000 sq-ft facility will give our firefighters stadium-style classroom seating, a lobby, administrative offices, conference rooms, and accessible parking.

The power of McAllen’s community spirit shined through in a Community Satisfaction Survey where you, our residents, rated our city. McAllen residents have a very positive perception of their home, far ahead of the state and national averages.

In 2022, 94% of McAllen residents were satisfied with McAllen as a place to live and 90% are satisfied with McAllen as a place to raise a family. McAllen residents rated our city above the U.S. Average in 63 of 71 categories, with much higher satisfaction in city services.

Safeguarding McAllen from mother nature is also one of the city’s most crucial responsibilities. The city acted decisively in 2022 to prevent yearly flooding from overwhelming our drainage systems. McAllen completed over $12.4 million of drainage projects last year. This year we are investing more than $22 million in 42 drainage projects to upgrade drainage throughout our city- a momentous investment in public infrastructure. You know we are blessed to have the best water system in the Rio Grande Valley!

Building permit growth was nothing short of momentous in 2022. McAllen issued over 1,643 residential permits for a construction value totaling over $215.3 million. With more homes came more businesses. 

McAllen issued over 791 commercial permits for a construction value of over $175.9 million; that, ladies and gentlemen, is momentous growth! With our city’s power we set a record budget for 2022-2023 of $641 million and more than 127 capital improvement projects and have the largest and most healthy fund balances in the history of McAllen!

McAllen’s success took off like a rocket in 2022, and like any mission, our city needed a steady hand on the controls.  I recognize McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez for his leadership and commitment to taking our city to new heights. Thank you, Roy. Please stand and be recognized!

For most of the country, 2022 was a challenging year. For McAllen, it was an opportunity to show our community’s strengths: resilience, innovation, and a sense of purpose.

As mayor, and on behalf of my fellow city commissioners, I am both humbled and inspired to pursue momentous goals for McAllen. We are ready to face any challenge.  When fuel costs were on the rise, we invested in better roads to reduce traffic and we partnered with federal and state governments to upgrade McAllen’s public transportation.  When the world faced supply chain problems, we partnered with federal organizations to expand the Anzaldúas Port of Entry.  When inflation would not ease, we cut property taxes to their lowest level since 2014!

We improved quality of life for families by investing in green spaces, parks, home improvement programs, and non-profits.  We improved public safety with investments in fire safety, law enforcement, storm protection and vital drainage infrastructure.  When economic uncertainty rose, we generated record revenue by becoming a top destination city for retail, business, and world class events.

2022 was a challenging year, yes it was. But for McAllen, for us, for our team, 2022 was a momentous year! Thank you and God bless you and our great city of McAllen.

This speech has been redacted due to space constraints

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