If you are interested – here is a link to the page to view our monthly reports, or meeting agendas. AGENDAS/REPORTS/MINUTES
Ambassadors – our community is chock full of them and we need more.
Some say we are our own worst enemy. I say we should be our own best friend when it comes to Weslaco. I’m proud to boast I am the city’s lead cheerleader. It is my belief that lights sparkle from within and it is up to us to let Weslaco’s light shine throughout the Valley. People are noticing.
It isn’t just me and my vivid imagination – solid numbers tell the story. Our tax base is growing through a rich and diverse business economy. In April the retail sales tax payment to the City of Weslaco from the State Comptroller’s office was over 934 thousand dollars, reflecting almost 50 million dollars in taxable sales in our community. This number does not include car sales; it is clothing, eating out, groceries, appliances, furniture etc.
The Mid Valley has had steady measured growth since 2008 when my family moved to Weslaco from El Paso. It isn’t the same community I moved to and it is changing for the better. Our community is rallying together to make sure we continue on the right track.
This week we put together a postcard campaign asking the CEO of Jason’s Deli to take a look at Weslaco. I can’t tell you how many people from here I know who go to McAllen to eat at Jason’s or have an event catered by the restaurant. Yes, they gladly send their smiling delivery persons to our town with their famous lunch boxes. So why not let the CEO know we want Jason’s in our town, paying into our tax base.
In the past we produced the same type of fun postcard campaigns for Luby’s and Academy Sports which now are in Weslaco. We also sent out postcards to the CEO of Chick-Fil-A a couple of years ago and now we have a commitment from them to start building before the end of 2013.
Basically, I’m asking you, the Weslaco resident to take an inventory of what your community offers. Shine your light locally first. Be our Ambassador. Because when you shop Weslaco, you grow Weslaco, and then we all win. Reacquaint yourself with some of our unique Weslaco retail shops. You will be happy you did.
Our city coffers grow as property and retail sales tax increase. With more money, the city can do more to increase the quality of our community. The better the quality – the more diverse business we can attract. Corporations and small businesses look at communities that offer a quality lifestyle to grow their investment and their employees. Weslaco is getting some notice, but we cannot let our guard down. We have to stay diligent in shining our light.
The first thing I noticed when I moved here was the warmth of the people, with open and inviting arms, proud to call Weslaco home. So, with those arms open wide, let’s grow our community together. The Weslaco Advantage – Bienvenidos!
Music is a universal language. It’s personal and speaks to everyone in a different way. Some speak it fluently and others just listen intently and for others it is in the background. But any way you look at it, music is everywhere.
Recently a McAllen based music school expanded into Weslaco. David and Annette Rios started MusicAdemy as a small two-room school in 2008. David, a trained guitarist and graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, has music in his blood. His grandfather, a composer and musician, was in the movie VIVA Zapata as a mariachi and his dad was lead of the David Rios Trio for many years. He grew up on music and music is his life.
Before moving to Boston, David trained at a culinary school and became a chef. He loved to cook and enjoyed this way to make a living to pay his way through music school. In Boston he worked as a chef and studied Music Production and Engineering with the goal of moving to Los Angeles one day. In 1998 he came back to the Valley and met Annette, the love of his life – and his life changed. Just as we all do with our best laid plans, David adapted and altered his plans and he and Annette moved to Austin, the music capital of Texas. He was able to play his music and work as a chef but his passion to teach music wasn’t going to be part of the cards in Austin so the pair moved back to the Valley in 2008 and opened the school.
David and Annette’s two sons also have music in their blood. When we met, their two year old son was on the IPAD maneuvering through different music videos – it seems between the Beatles and Motown the youngster has his favorites!
David had a business plan. He knew he wanted to start a school and bring in others to teach and create a community of learning. The idea took off and they soon moved into a 2000 square foot facility with multiple classrooms where teachers are able to give individual lessons and students are able to learn to work in a collaborative environment. The business has grown; the business model has worked. David and Annette decided it was time to expand.
They researched different communities in the Valley. They ultimately chose Weslaco for their expansion because they found that we have a positive brand and people generally have good things to say about our community. They heard about Alfresco Weslaco and they felt like we are a welcoming city wanting to foster and help business grow. They are right.
So they opened their doors about six weeks ago in the San Patricio Plaza, behind the old Elsa State Bank. They are on the corner of Kansas and Fourth Street, in the back in Suite 2. They have classes in piano, guitar, bass, orchestra, drums and voice. David and Annette are slowly growing their Weslaco location and plan one day to move into a larger facility like they have in McAllen. The music community approach is working – teaching students to be better strong minded individuals who can work together on projects.
Between their base school in McAllen and their new location in our community, they have around 150 students. They chose Weslaco because we are a growing and young community and we embrace music as the international language of love. That is the Weslaco Advantage.
To grow a community you must grow commerce. Did you know that for every dollar paid in property taxes by each business, fifty to sixty cents are spent by the city in services and $1.60 is spent for every home? Successful and growing communities are balanced. Attracting the right businesses is strategic and planned.
Conservatively, I can tell you that with projects that are underway in Weslaco, there will be 13 million dollars added to the tax rolls. In these challenging economic times, it is critical that our resources and strategy continue to make investments possible in Weslaco.
By the end of 2013, LongHorn Steakhouse, Arturo’s Bar & Grill, Payne Auto Mall, Bridgestone Distribution, and Blue Wave Car Wash and other companies new to Weslaco will be open for business. Chick-Fil-A along with others yet to be announced will be under construction. In many cases, attracting business takes an incentive, a little push to help the decision makers choose Weslaco. The investor may have ninety cents of the required investment dollar and can use a little help with that last ten. When Weslaco attracts these businesses, we win with the added property taxes and, in some cases, retail tax increases. Add the employment factor and the economic impact grows – and continues to grow for years to come.
This long term strategy has been working well for our community. I know perception is reality when I hear people from other communities complimenting Weslaco for “having it together”. At least once a week, we get a call from someone wanting to expand or relocate their business in Weslaco. In the last month the MusicAdemy from McAllen opened up a Weslaco location. Apparently many Mid Valley parents were driving to McAllen for their children’s music lessons; now, because the owners recognized that Weslaco is growing, those families are experiencing the benefit of learning right here in Weslaco.
Downtown façade grants are beefing up the 500 block of Texas Blvd, while a new restaurant is preparing to open on the corner at Sixth Street. The old oil and lube store just south of Sixth is being renovated into a convenience store called El Gallo with two drive thru bays.
The offices of Walsh, Anderson, Gallegos, Green &Treviño moved their offices to Weslaco so that they may serve their clients better from a more central location. They chose the second floor of the historic downtown building where Bugambilia’s is located. Altura Homes located their Rio Grande Valley office in Weslaco so that they are close to the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council to work with their Disaster Recovery Program.
So, as our commerce grows, so grow our service companies. Business owners perceive Weslaco to be a growing and interesting community and they choose to locate here and the circle of business life continues. Retail sales tax receipts are telling the story as Weslaco is almost 12.5% above last year’s receipts. The trend is expected to continue as more businesses open.
Strategy and careful planning are key to growth. The ability to entice someone to invest a large expenditure is important – sometimes we are that last push to help make a deal. Investors see Weslaco as a community which is willing to invest in itself to grow. That, my friends, is the Weslaco Advantage.
Our center relies on volunteers who help run it and give it life all year. But during the Winter Texan season the Weslaco Business Visitor & Event Center becomes a meeting place where old and new friends congregate over a cup of coffee. The regular volunteers look forward to seeing familiar faces return to the Valley. There isn’t a more perfect place than the Visitor Center to reunite.
But our Visitor Center is so much more than a social setting. The volunteers donate their time because they believe in service. Dan O’Donnell from Ohio has been coming to the Valley for 17 years and has always given back to our community. “It’s better to give than to receive, as the Good Lord tells us,” he says. It snowed back home last week, and Dan said he doesn’t miss it a bit. He worked for the electric company for almost 40 years and volunteered in his community. Retirement didn’t mean he would retire from serving and while he is here enjoying the Valley, he gives back.
Another volunteer is a good friend who spends his summers in the mountains of New Mexico and winters here in the Valley. Eddy Ramsey has been volunteering for the Visitor Center and the Weslaco Chamber of Commerce for years. While service is the goal, he genuinely loves people. He spends almost every Wednesday morning greeting people as they come in looking for information about the Valley. I wouldn’t doubt if Eddy isn’t responsible for more than one person deciding to make Weslaco home. He is quite the champion for our community.
I have never been to Canada, but plan to one day because the folks I have met from our neighbor to the north are warm and friendly. Some of our best volunteers come from the country of the maple leaf. Eileen Newton from the province of Manitoba has been coming to Weslaco for 22 years. She and her husband own a home in Magic Valley Park and haven’t missed a year yet. They arrive in December and are back in their homeland by April. She said the center is a perfect place to volunteer because she loves meeting new people and sharing her knowledge of what is happening in the Valley with her new and old friends. Eileen has enjoyed seeing the transformation of her winter home over the years. She remembers when there wasn’t an expressway and now Weslaco has just blossomed – to her liking.
I love it when my friends greet me with a big hug when they arrive in the fall and always give me a parting hug when they leave in the spring. I can imagine what it must be like for their families back home when they leave to come to their winter homes here in the Valley.
Come and enjoy what our Winters Texans love about the Rio Grande Valley or maybe catch a film about the Sugar Mill or Texas Ranching. There is so much to see at the Visitor Center.
Winter Texans come here because they want to, because they love our community – they love us – and they give back because they know it is the right thing to do. Winter Texans are the Weslaco Advantage.
The last two hours, I have had the pleasure of talking with a true gentleman, businessman and someone who knows some of the unique history of our community. He put a smile on my face and gave me energy and knowledge of knowing I am on the right track living in Weslaco.
Paul (Pablo) Peña was born and raised in Weslaco. He graduated from Weslaco High School. In junior high and high school he spent six years on the marching band playing the trumpet and the baritone. Those formidable years gave him great leadership qualities that he would use to build his business over the years. Mr. Peña is the son of a mechanic who was also an entrepreneur who owned a Laundromat. Young Pablo worked for his father throughout high school and knew that auto mechanics wasn’t his cup of tea.
He cut his teeth working for a plumbing wholesaler, and like his father, his entrepreneurial spirit gave him the moxie to go into business for himself in 1964. When his father built a new facility on the lot next door to his business on Kansas, the young Mr. Peña took over the old 2500 square foot building and started his little business – Central Plumbing Supply. He and his beautiful wife Eva worked long hours to make a go of business while raising a family of three sons, Gene, David and Paul.
In 1974 he moved the business to a larger facility on Border just south of Business 83 and three years later opened a Cash and Carry Lumber yard on the same property. The Cash and Carry business, with his son David at the helm, was very successful however Central Plumbing Supply was growing to become the largest plumbing wholesaler in the Valley and they were about to add electrical supplies to their repertoire and they needed David to help with the expansion. After 20 years of being in the lumber business, they decided to close the lumber yard and focus on the growing business. They opened Central Plumbing and Electric Supply stores in McAllen, Harlingen, Brownsville and Pharr.
Along the way, Mr. Peña felt that it was time to serve the community in a larger capacity so he decided to run for mayor of Weslaco. In April of 1971, Pablo Peña became the first Hispanic mayor of our fine city following Joe Stephens. Mayor Peña and Mayor Stephens were like minded when it came to developing the Mid Valley Industrial Park. As mayor, Peña appointed Stephens to the board of the Economic Development Council and they focused on the MVIP. Together they brought Hagar to Weslaco who employed almost 600 people at the time.
Mayor Peña also went after a Texas Parks and Wildlife grant of $500,000 and built the Weslaco City Park on Airport Road. With a big bright smile, he said, “that was one of my proudest moments as Mayor – that area needed a park.” I took him down memory lane where he was able to revisit many accomplishments and some great history for our community. He cares deeply for Weslaco and the legacy he has built for his children and grandchildren. He has high hopes for the future of our town as we grow in the middle of the Valley.
People like Mr. Peña are a wealth of information and history that need to be tapped now and then so we can remember where we came from and where we are headed – in the right direction. That is the Weslaco Advantage.
Forty years ago a couple from Weslaco opened a language school in Brownsville and called it Texas Language Academy. In a ten year span after opening, they opened two more campuses and became accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools giving students the opportunity to receive grants and loans.
Carlos and Elma Rodriguez had a passion for career training and development and the success of their school showed it when they founded their first campus in 1973 and just seven years later opened the second in their hometown of Weslaco after which they renamed the school South Texas Vo-Tech. They were the first to build in what is now our Industrial Park with the main north/south artery being named after the school.
By 1983, Carlos and Elma opened their third campus in McAllen. The school was training a well needed workforce in the Valley. For a short period of time, the Brownsville campus was sold – but then reopened by Elma nine years later. Their passion along with the Valley’s need for this type of training was strong so it was important to both her and her husband to keep the campus open.
South Texas Vo-Tech’s Weslaco campus grew under their tutelage as did the others. Programs were being added to the curriculum at all campuses as the need for workers grew. Today they offer more than ten certificates in skilled trades, health and wellness as well as computer, accounting and legal assistant and paralegal programs.
Carlos and Elma sold the school in 2007 to a company based in Dallas called ATI. They kept the name as the school’s reputation was strong. They opened two more campuses in Corpus Christi and San Antonio under the same name which is a testament to their hard work over the years.
With more than 250 students are enrolled in just the Weslaco campus, with five occupational programs including a Combination Welding class with more than 60 students in that program. This class takes ten months to complete and students are being placed in a high demand field not only in the Valley but in nearby communities that are growing due to the Eagle Ford Shale project that is booming. There just are not enough welders – so this is a great time to get into this field. Students come from as far away as Raymondville for the class.
Other programs offered by South Texas Vo-Tech’s Weslaco campus are in their Health and Wellness department. Accredited programs for Nursing Assistants, Medical Assisting, Medical Administrative Assisting Technology and Dental Assisting are all offered in Weslaco. The school has a placement service for all their programs.
South Texas Vo-Tech is celebrating 40 years of providing career training in the Valley with more than 30 of those years here in Weslaco. They have taught a skilled workforce and met the needs of many employers in the Valley and beyond. The founders knew years ago that having a campus centrally located would make a difference. And that is the Weslaco Advantage.