Construction in Edinburg, UTPA in past two years approaching $376 million

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Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr., featured left, a former member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, and Francisco Fernández, M.D., Photograph by MARK MONTEMAYOR
Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr., featured left, a former member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, and Francisco Fernández, M.D.,
Photograph by MARK MONTEMAYOR

Mega Doctor News – 

By David Diaz

Mayor Pro Tem Elías Longoria, Jr., a former member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, and Francisco Fernández, M.D., the founding Dean of The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, reflect on the economic and medical care impact of the $54 million Medical Education Building. Construction activities in Edinburg during the past 23 months, based on the value of the work listed in the required building permits issued by the city’s Code Enforcement Department, have reached more than $236 million between January 2013 and November 2014, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. The city’s $236 million figure does not include the value of three new major facilities and their furnishings and equipment at The University of Texas-Pan American, worth almost $140 million, which were approved for construction during the past two years by The University of Texas System Board of Regents. If it did, total construction activities during the past two years in Edinburg would approach $376 million.

Regarding UTPA, which will be renamed The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley next fall, area legislators are working with other state lawmakers to help secure passage of a bill by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, which would authorize funding for a $50 million Interdisciplinary Engineering and Academic Studies complex at the Edinburg campus. But already opened, or approved for funding since January 2013, are $135.9 million worth of new facilities at the Edinburg university campus – a $70 million science-building annex, a $54 million medical education building, and an $11.9 million student academic center.

During a Tuesday, November 18 dedication ceremony, led by Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, UT-Pan American’s Interim President, the 46,000-square-foot $11.9 million Student Academic Center became the first new building constructed on the campus since 2007. “The idea is to make this place (Student Academic Center) the hub for student engagement and experiential learning. We know for a fact that the students involved in those initiatives have higher probabilities of being retained at the university and graduating from the university,” said Rodríguez, who also serves on the EEDC Board of Directors. “This is what this building is designed to do – to ensure that students at UT-Pan American and at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley come here and to the Brownsville campus to have these types of experiences and are successful.”

These most recent construction figures are milestones in recent history for the city and the university. In related positive news, Edinburg’s unemployment rate for November 2014 was 5.5 percent, the best showing in the city for that month since November 2008 (5.2 percent), and the second-best figure for all cities in November 2014 in the Rio Grande Valley, the Texas Workforce Commission announced on Friday, December 19.

In November 2014, there were 34,104 persons employed in Edinburg, compared with 33,892 during October 2014, according to TWC, which is the state agency charged with overseeing and providing workforce development services to employers and job-seekers in Texas.

Meanwhile, according to another independent source  – the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts  – Edinburg’s retail economy for the month of October 2014 was more than nine percent stronger than the same period last year, while year-to-date, it was almost 12 percent better than the same 10-month period last year. From January through October 2014, Edinburg also continued to outperform the majority of cities in Texas.

The average of all Texas cities’ retail showings from January through October 2014 was up 7 percent over the same 10-month period in 2013, compared with Edinburg’s 11.73 percent improvement during the same period last year, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.