Ron Garza built a reputation as an administrator who could foster cooperation among Rio Grande Valley cities when seeking state funding and developing transportation systems.
He served for years as the executive director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council. The job allowed him to work on projects with county judges, mayors and city managers across the Valley. Regional agreements are becoming more the norm in a historically divided area when it comes to recruiting business and securing state infrastructure funding.
Garza enjoyed those challenges but the right opportunity to take on a key leadership post at a fast-growing Valley city came along a year ago. The San Benito native took it and is now the city manager in Edinburg. The city has indisputably seen robust growth. At the same time, it has also experienced its share of political turbulence and turnover of administrative leadership.
Garza has worked to bring more professionalism to city administrative functions and gain the confidence of his City Commission in streamlining and reorganizing some key components of local government. One area of particular focus has been economic development. Garza has revamped those efforts from two separate organizations to merging them under the umbrella of city government.
Edinburg still has an economic development entity with its own board. It now also has a city department of economic development. One manager oversees both parts while reporting to Garza and an assistant city manager. For Garza, it’s a matter of avoiding duplication when it comes to recruiting business and industry, and aligning those efforts under the vision and priorities of the city manager and commission.
“It was a bold move,” Garza said of reorganizing economic development in Edinburg. “We want to sync all these efforts. We sought to create a stable model that would achieve a healthy balance where there’s some autonomy, but there’s also alignment with the city.”
In some Texas cities, there are struggles to achieve cooperation from the local economic development corporation and city government. Turf battles can ensue. This makes it difficult to attract industries and companies to a city that appears to be at odds with itself. Garza hopes to avoid that in Edinburg, and have one point of contact. This is where developers and business interests can efficiently deal with the city on issues pertaining to permitting, and planning and zoning matters.
Garza’s model, which the City Commission approved, seeks local input outside of city government via EDC board members who represent different economic sectors in the city. Education, the medical industry, small business owners, and public entities each have representatives on the EDC board.
Poised For More Growth
The city, as the historical home of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and as the county seat, has seen considerable growth in facilities from both institutions in recent years. Edinburg’s medical district is filled with hospitals, specialists and clinics. Many of those institutions are located on McColl Road, bordering McAllen. Then there’s the university system’s medical school which has its regional main office located in Edinburg.
The city also has plenty of room to grow, especially to the north. Garza sees more industrial parks opening up north of Monte Cristo Road that will include cold storage facilities.
All in all, Garza sees a city on the upswing with plenty of possibilities. He wants a city government that works efficiently and supports what he calls “smart growth.”
“You want to leverage the assets you have,” Garza said. “We want to avoid duplication when it comes to recruiting (business), eliminate red tape, and form partnerships, (with other cities), where we can all benefit.”