BY DINA ARÉVALO
EDINBURG — The future looks bright in Hidalgo County’s second-largest city and officials here are doing what they can to continue that trend.
Not only is Edinburg’s population booming, but so, too, are the number and caliber of commercial investments being made here, according to Raudel Garza, executive director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.
Garza was speaking during a roundtable hosted at Edinburg City Hall as the EDC gears up to attend the International Council of Shopping Centers, or ICSC, trade show in Las Vegas next month.
There, the EDC hopes to showcase Edinburg’s residential and commercial assets to potential investors.
But before making the trip out west, the EDC wanted to gather input from developers, real estate brokers and other local stakeholders about what Edinburg’s growth trends currently look like.
“The idea of today is to equip you all with what we have and what we know,” Edinburg Mayor Ramiro Garza Jr. explained to the small group who attended Friday’s roundtable.
“And what we don’t have, hopefully you all will share that with us today. … We’re always open to ideas,” the mayor added, inviting attendees to share examples of successful developments they’ve seen in surrounding communities.
The mayor quipped about just how fast the city’s growth has become.
“The only reason we keep up is because everybody has to come here to get a permit, right?” Ramiro Garza said.
The EDC director concurred, noting that — in the first three months of this year alone — Edinburg has already seen $100 million worth of permit valuations. That figure puts the city on pace to surpass the $300 million in valuations the city approved in 2022.
“That’s an incredible number when you really think about it,” Raudel Garza said.
The permits approved thus far this year are split evenly between residential and commercial.
For residential land developers, they’re investing in both single-family and multi-family housing to accommodate a population that is growing at about 2% — or more than 2,000 people — per year.
Some 4,000 lots have been or will soon be platted, the EDC director said.
Meanwhile, commercial developers are not only investing in new retail spaces, but in revitalizing existing commercial footprints, as well.
And consumers have been responding.
“Right now, we’re at about a 14% growth rate over the same time last year in terms of sales tax growth,” Raudel Garza said.
The double digit rise in sales tax revenue generation follows last year’s growth, which similarly saw stellar performance.
“We were at almost double digit growth last year. So, double digit growth on top of double digit growth is really, really phenomenal,” the EDC director said.
Those sales tax figures also indicate that people from outside the city are coming to shop in Edinburg.
That’s part of what can make the city an attractive candidate to commercial and manufacturing investors.
And while the EDC wants to continue encouraging developers to invest in Edinburg, Raudel Garza said he’s looking to change the way the EDC offers economic incentives.
Garza was named executive director of the EDC about six months ago. When he first took the helm, he noticed that the incentive packages the EDC had been approving had all been custom-built on a “case-by-case” basis.
He wants to change that to a performance-based system whereby investors will see bigger incentives based on three factors: the size of their investment, the number of jobs they create and the amount of sales tax revenue their business generates.
Developers could receive anywhere from 12.5% to as much as 50% in sales tax rebates, Garza said.
Under the new incentive program — which has yet to be implemented — developers will receive an economic benefit after they’ve invested here, rather than before.
And priority will go toward developers who haven’t yet decided where to locate their investments.
He wants the EDC’s incentives to be used to entice those who are still weighing their options. He wants the incentives to be the factor that tips the scale in Edinburg’s favor.
“If they’ve already made up their mind, then I don’t need to be using taxpayer money to reward them,” Raudel Garza said. “We’re gonna stop the rewards and focus more on the incentives.”
Garza said he hopes the new way of approaching incentives will provide consistency for developers.
The bottom line, however, is that Edinburg is “booming.”