Thursday, February 4, 2010

Edinburg mayor delivers state-of-the-city address

Edinburg mayor delivers state-of-the-city address
The Monitor February 03, 2010 11:42 PM
By Jared Janes
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EDINBURG - The growth that has marked this city since Mayor Richard Garcia’s first stint in office has come with its share of challenges.

First and foremost, the mayor said Wednesday during his state-of-the-city address, has been finding jobs for its newest residents.

With an eye on growth, the city established a Monterrey office to attract foreign investment, traveled to conventions to lure a mall development and offered innovative incentives to interested investors, said Garcia, a board member on the city’s economic development corporation since May 2003. While the rest of the nation was hit last year by a deep recession, Edinburg’s sales tax collections grew by 2 percent, it saw a large increase in home construction, and its credit rating went up.

But Garcia said the real proof that the city was resilient enough to withstand the recession was the year-end unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, well below the county, state and national averages.

“Job creation,” Garcia said on numerous occasions Wednesday. “We got it then. We get it now.”

Speaking in the historic school auditorium housed on the grounds of City Hall, the mayor touted Edinburg’s financial stability, infrastructure improvements and quality-of-life improvements.

In his first state-of-the-city address since re-assuming the mayoralty last year — he first held the position from 2003 to 2006 — Garcia initially highlighted projects that began his first term, including a new City Hall, police and municipal court facilities and a water plant.

But he moved quickly to the city’s ongoing projects, most notably its efforts to revitalize its downtown.

The city hired a consulting firm to develop a master plan that could bring life back into a downtown area that dies after the regular working day, Garcia said.

The city is gathering input for the master plan, which would incorporate plaza and street improvements, a pedestrian connection to the University of Texas-Pan American and arts, culture and entertainment options.

Saying he wanted the city to continue to be a college town that remains culture- and family-oriented in its development, Garcia envisioned a downtown venue focusing on the arts for residents of all ages and walks of life.

The mayor also emphasized the partnerships the municipality is building with other entities.

The city is partnering with the university on several projects, including