Monday, January 17, 2011

Harlingen, Texas, Has Lowest Cost of Living in the U.S.

Area Development Online News Desk (01/17/2011)
Harlingen, Texas, has the lowest cost of living among U.S. metros, according to the 2010 ACCRA Cost of Living Index. The report, based on annual average data from the first three quarters of 2010, is compiled by the Council for Community and Economic Research. 

“The economic situation in the United States has many companies looking at the bottom line cost of doing business. The ACCRA ranking is just another way for Harlingen, Texas to compete in attracting good, quality companies and employees,” said Bill Martin, CEO of the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation. “The ACCRA ranking is another boost for Harlingen and the Rio South Texas region.” 

Harlingen’s composite score of 82.8 equates to a cost of living 17.2 percent below the national average. Two other Texas cities, McAllen and Brownsville, also ranked among the cities with the lowest costs of living, taking the third and seventh spots, respectively. 

The report compiles data from 318 urban metros and considers the cost of consumer goods and services. Prices for items including housing, utilities, grocery products, transportation, and healthcare are weighed.

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IDEA plans state expansion, lobbying agenda

WESLACO – IDEA Public Schools plans to expand into Texas beyond the Rio Grande Valley in the next two years with the help of a new $41.4 million construction bond, said IDEA founder and CEO Tom Torkelson.
Charter schools face significant hurdles just to get financing for proposed construction projects, and Torkelson will be lobbying the state Legislature during the next few months to change that process.
But he said the new bond should push IDEA past its "2012 Plan" to launch 22 schools in the Valley and allow the charter to revise its master plan to operate 38 schools by 2015.
"Not all of those 38 schools are going to be just in the Rio Grande Valley," he said. "By 2013, we anticipate that schools in different regions in the state of Texas will be coming online."
Torkelson would not cite specific areas for expansion, but he did not rule out San Antonio or Houston, cities with large low-income populations.
The new construction bond – the third and largest in the charter’s 11-year history – will allow IDEA to build two new campuses in Edinburg and Weslaco, both of which should open next year and push the "2012 Plan" to 24 schools instead of just 22.
The Alamo and Pharr campuses will also get more classrooms, and a brand new College Preparatory location in San Juan will help accommodate that campus’s growth, said chief financial officer Wyatt Truscheit.
"Paying close attention to costs … lets us do a lot with less," Truscheit said. "We actually build classrooms, so we can put more kids in the schools. We get more kids ...