Sunday, December 27, 2009

JC Penny Returns to Weslaco

JC Penny Returns to Weslaco

WESLACO, TX – The Weslaco JC Penney store opened October 2, 2009 and the economic impact from local sales tax will be felt for years to come. However, Weslaco has seen a positive impact since the construction began on the 104,000 square foot store more than a year ago. Money has been spent in Weslaco as contractors and equipment were hired to prepare the land and construct the building as well as the folks who are merchandizing the store. Local hotels, eateries and entertainment venues have benefited. The store is getting ready to open and more than 125 people have been hired, most of them from the Weslaco area. Ventures like this create so much more than just sales and property tax for the area; the impact begins from the earliest stages and has a lasting impact.

The Weslaco trade area has more than 200,000 people residing in a ten-mile radius of Texas Blvd and the Expressway. Money from this population for years has been spent in McAllen and other metropolitan areas for goods and services that can now stay in our trade area. Hernan Gonzalez, the Executive Director of the Economic Development Corporation of Weslaco says that bringing in retailers like JC Penney will begin to stop the leakage of those dollars. “Bringing in JC Penney is just the beginning of the phase. We will be able to attract other national retailers and restaurants to our city, which will keep more of our trade dollars here. It’s a cycle,” he adds. “Once you begin this cycle you then can attract more visitors to the area’s attractions like downtown and the nature centers. Everyone benefits.”

The General Manager of the Weslaco JC Penney, Maribel Jacquez, has been a dedicated employee of the retailer for last 16 years but has been a loyal shopper of the store since she was a child. She grew up in a farm community outside El Paso, Texas and has fond memories of driving into the city with her mom to shop at JC Penney, never dreaming that one day she would be running her own store for the company. On one of those outings to the El Paso JC Penney, she applied for a job and was hired on the spot and has been with them since. Reopening a JC Penney store in Weslaco means so much more for Ms. Jacquez, “it means we are back to stay and make a difference in our community!” She feels strongly that the staff at the store is proof of the commitment that Weslaco has in its people and their desire and willingness to grow. She adds “Weslaco has been amazing! We appreciate the support that we have received at our new location. It has been a joy to see the anticipation growing as customers show up daily to see if the store is open.” The customers are excited and ready to shop and the staff cannot wait to open their doors. JC Penney is very committed to the communities which it serves. Ms. Jacquez said in Weslaco they will be supporting the 4H programs with volunteers as well as financial donations.

The assistant store manager, Susie Hernandez has been with JC Penney for many years, starting with the McAllen store and then the Edinburg store last year. She is excited to be part of the growth of the company as she helps in opening another new store in the valley. “Weslaco is an exciting place to be these days – The community wants growth. You can see it in their efforts such as beautification projects and revitalization of downtown,” said Hernandez.

The long anticipated opening of the new JC Penney store in Weslaco has deeper meaning for Sales Manager, Jesse Rodriguez. The Weslaco native started with JC Penney more than thirty three years ago while he was still in high school, and then continued to work for the store while going to college and made it his career once he earned his degree. When JC Penney closed its doors in downtown Weslaco he worked for the McAllen store. It is with great pride that he is part of the opening of the new store in his home town. He knows that the people are starving for this type of establishment. “JC Penney is a company you can be proud to work for, but I take greater pride in the fact that I’m helping to bring this store back to Weslaco and in a big way,” Rodriguez said. “The store front right on the expressway shows people that as a city, we are growing and have a lot to offer visitors and the people who choose to make Weslaco their home,” he added.

The opening of the Weslaco JC Penney store is not just about the economic impact it will have on the city, it is about jobs, the people and more importantly the community.

Rumors Circulate Santa Aiming for World Speed Record for One Night Deliveries

Rumors Circulate Santa Aiming for World Speed Record for One Night Deliveries
Source: Mission Economic Development Authority
Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Residents in South Texas are expressing joy and excitement over the news that Santa may be relying on America's newest International Bridge in his bid to break the previous world speed record for deliveries in a single night.

The Anzalduas International Bridge, a $168 million dollar bridge connecting Mission and McAllen, Texas, to the industrial hub of Reynosa, Mexico, features technology that aims to speed safe crossings.

"I completely understand why Santa would have confidence that the new Anzalduas International Crossing would save him some serious time on his deliveries this year," says Pat Townsend, CEO of the Mission Economic Development Authority in Mission, Texas. "With the strategic location of the Anzalduas Bridge, he would certainly be able to make his Christmas deliveries to the good little boys and girls across North America faster than ever."

Though facts have been difficult to verify, some reports show Santa also holds the previous speed record for single-night global deliveries from 1973, a year besieged by rising oil prices that kept traffic to a minimum.

"We are all rooting for Santa here in South Texas," says Daniel Silva, Project Manager at the Mission Economic Development Authority. "This new International Bridge was designed to speed the flow of traffic safely between our country and our neighbors of Mexico to the south. But even Santa would save some time this year by using Anzalduas."

Louis Grinch, President of the Society to Undermine Perfect International Deliveries (STUPID) is not convinced. "It's not 1973 anymore. Santa is simply not taking into consideration the increases in international security measures and the huge increases in global traffic. That better be one magical bridge if he's placing his hopes in saving enough time there."

The bridge is ready, having opened for traffic only days ago. The Anzalduas Crossing may well hold the key to Santa's successful record breaking attempt. Delays are anticipated in North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Detroit, and Santa will need to make up at least 2 nanoseconds at Anzalduas to have a shot the record.

Others are more supportive. "I love Santa," says 4-year-old Monica Lopez of South Texas. Lopez is planning to be asleep when Santa crosses Anzalduas late on Christmas Eve. "I like toys."

Recent pictures of Santa show that he appears to be up for the challenge, looking more fit and trim than in recent years.

Whether or not Santa succeeds, Mission Economic Development Authority has agreed to post the results on the Anzalduas website the day after Christmas at and on Santa's record-breaking attempt website,

Pat Townsend Jr.
Mission Economic Development Authority
Source: Mission Economic Development Authority

McAllen’s Downtown Is a Destination

McAllen’s Downtown Is a Destination
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McAllen continues to pump more lifeblood into its heart.

In 2004, during the city’s 100th birthday celebration, McAllen officials introduced a Heart of the City initiative. The goal of the project was to restore vitality to the historic downtown area by attracting new businesses‚ providing adequate parking‚ attracting international shoppers‚ creating new jobs and increasing property values.

Six years after the initiative began, city officials point out that downtown McAllen has become much more energetic, having attracted many more shoppers and several new businesses to the district. Examples of a revitalized look include venues like Buda Bar & Espana that welcomes a more affluent clientele, and the McAllen Chamber of Commerce that has moved into a beautiful downtown building along Ash Avenue.

In addition, the historic Marriott Renaissance Casa de Palmas hotel has been renovated but remains a reminder of the city’s colorful past, and Nuevo Santander Gallery now has a Mediterranean look that reflects McAllen’s history and heritage among the fine art, antiques and Old West collectibles it sells.

Other recent improvements throughout the downtown community include a new bus terminal along with decorative lights along several downtown sidewalks. In addition, a five-story parking garage was constructed and opened downtown in 2007, and the historic El Rey Theatre has been revitalized.

Heart of the City officials point out that continued development of a strong retail sector in the downtown area will bring in even more shoppers to contribute to sales tax revenues, while a more scenic and decorative district further enhances the overall civic image. Future goals for the district include registering McAllen in the Texas Main Street Program, installing a trolley system, creating an arts culture destination for the Rio Grande Valley, and attracting large anchor stores to support and attract new businesses and merchants.

Also, the city hopes to establish more parks and green space areas, and have more high-rise condominiums and lofts available for people looking to live in a downtown environment.

Story by Kevin Litwin
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McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX Ranks 12th in Farmers Insurance Group's Most Secure U.S. Places to Live for 2009

Farmers Insurance Group's Most Secure U.S. Places to Live for 2009:
Large Metro Areas (500,000 or more residents)

Austin-Round Rock, Tex.

Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa

Madison, Wis.

Bethesda-Gaithersburg-Frederick, Md.

Rochester, N.Y.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Syracuse, N.Y.

El Paso, Tex.

Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Me.

Nassau-Suffolk Counties, N.Y.

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Tex.

Portland-Beaverton, Ore.-Vancouver, Wash.

New Haven-Milford, Conn.

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.

Pittsburgh, Pa.

Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash.

Colorado Springs, Colo.

Denver, Colo.

Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

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Nelsen: Rio Grande Valley is biggest education lab in U.S.

Nelsen: Rio Grande Valley is biggest education lab in U.S.
Posted: 12/16/2009
Author: Rio Grande Guardian

EDINBURG, Nov. 18 - Robert Nelsen says the Rio Grande Valley is the biggest education laboratory in the United States, which is why he wanted to be president of UT-Pan American.

Nelsen will become UTPA’s eighth president on Jan. 1, 2010. He explained how humbled and thrilled he was to be taking the new position in a brief but passionate speech to students, faculty and staff in the Student Union auditorium on Wednesday afternoon. He has big ambitions for the university.

“I am humbled and thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with you to make UTPA the shining star of education, in the Valley, in Texas, in the nation,” Nelsen said. “We will be the university that everybody else wants to emulate. We will be the one that they will say, ‘we got it right,’ because we will do it together.”

Among those listening to Nelsen’s speech were UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, UT System Regent Janiece Longoria, and UTPA Interim President Charles Sorber. Longoria was on the search panel that recommended Nelsen to the UT System Board of Regents. She described him as “formidable, articulate and charismatic.” She said he spoke compellingly “from the heart.”

Nelsen threw out a lot of statistics in his speech showing just what a challenge the university and the region face. The Valley covers 116 square miles and has a population of 700,000 people, he said. The region is slated to grow by 15 percent by 2015, he pointed out.

Nelsen said nine out of ten kids in the Valley want to go to college. The good news about those entering UTPA is that 80 percent arrive college-ready, he said. The “sad part,” though, is that 42 percent of them will end up in developmental education class. The Valley is also socio-economically challenged, he explained, stating that 66 percent of its people earn less than $30,000 a year.

“At UTPA last year $100 million went in financial aid to these students. Eighty percent of the students were on aid. Fifty eight percent of the students needed Pell grants. We are reaching out there and offering opportunities to a generation that is going to be able to change this Valley and this world and we are doing it because we care about them,” Nelsen said.

Nelsen said that when he was asked why he wanted to be the president of UTPA, the first answer he gave was because it was in the middle of the Rio Grande Valley. “It was in the middle of the biggest lab there is for education in the United States. It was an opportunity to come to that lab and see education blossom and see people’s lives change.”

He said he wanted the job also because of the students. “Because of the chances and opportunities they will have and because of all of the other children in the Valley and in Texas,” he said.

Nelsen said there is no more important a region than the Valley when it comes to education.

“As the Valley goes, so goes Texas. I’ve heard that so many times and I really believe it. But I also believe something else. And that is if we don’t get it right in Texas we aren’t going to get it right anyplace. And if we don’t get it right in the Valley, we aren’t going to get it right anyplace whatsoever,” Nelsen said.

Nelsen said he and the faculty and staff will make UTPA the nation’s “shining star” through collaboration, cooperation and partnerships. “They will be the road to our success and they will be the road to getting it right in South Texas. Instead of building walls we need to be building bridges,” he explained. He then went on to describe where those bridges are needed.

“We need to build bridges to the industries, we need to build bridges to families, we need to build bridges to politicians, we need to build bridges to school districts, we need to build bridges to the community colleges, we need to build bridges to moms and dads out in the Valley so that their kids want to come here,” he said.

“And we as faculty members need to be building bridges amongst the various disciplines, tearing down silos, creating new and exciting things that are out of the box; that are going to allow those students to have opportunities.” There was applause from the audience after that line. “These bridges are the pathways to our success and to the students’ success,” he added.

Nelsen was accompanied by his wife Jody, who is also in higher education. He explained that he was born and raised in a Valley, but one very different to the Rio Grande Valley. In the Montana Valley he grew up in, there were 30 kids in his senior class. That was the highest number the school had seen, he said. Everybody worked on ranches and dreams were hard to come by, he said. He said he got good at tests and was “lucky” to get out of his Valley.

There has been a lot of lip service paid to the Rio Grande Valley over the years, Nelsen said, but there has also been ...

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