Hospital Outlines Growth Plans During Speech


Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance continues to look locally to expand.

The Rio Grande Valley’s only doctor-owned hospital wants to double its capacity, train physician specialists and its own technicians and nurses. And it hopes to look to local residents to fill those jobs, Israel Rocha, the hospital’s chief executive, said during its first “state of the hospital” address Thursday evening.

“We want to be daring and take on the biggest challenges that we can face,” he said. “We are no longer waiting for cures to come to use but we want to make that cure.”

Rocha outlined plans for a new 300-bed medical tower equipped with a helipad, an eight-bay ambulatory trauma center, an 80-bed emergency room and 18 operating suites — but only if approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. There’s a planned 1,000 spot parking lot and a private hotel in the works.

Overall, the improvements would cost $200 million.

Rival private hospitals have criticized the doctor-owned hospital’s ambitious expansion plan, petitioning federal regulators to deny it, saying the hospital has not done its part to provide enough uncompensated care to low-income and indigent patients.

In 2014, Doctor’s Hospital grossed $1.85 billion, according to Medicare and Medicaid payment data calculated by the Becker’s Hospital Review. During that same year, the hospital provided $137 million worth of…

Read more at The Brownsville Herald.

Weslaco Takes Comprehensive Approach to Business Recruitment

Economic development leaders say new retail business will soon be making its way to the Mid-Valley as a result of a comprehensive study undertaken by the City of Weslaco.

Local consumers should begin seeing retail they have never seen before in the Mid-Valley, according to EDC director Joey Treviño.

“We are planning expansion of our retail activity,” Treviño told the Rio Grande Guardian when asked about what he foresees in the immediate future. “I think we are at a prime spot in the Mid-Valley to create that.”

The City of Weslaco has embarked on a new study being conducted by the Retail Coach, a market research and retail recruitment firm charged with formulating the plan to increase and retain business in the mid-Valley.

The firm will help Weslaco plan for anticipated growth and recruit those businesses that the area’s needs, Treviño said.

Retail Coach will conduct the study in two parts. The firm will begin by establishing a Retail Trade Area Determination, finding out which areas in Weslaco are attracting the most business. The second part will include a Retail Gap Analysis that will determine the goods and services consumers are leaving the city for.

Using data specific to Weslaco and national and regional site selectors’ criteria, the team will create a Retailer Match List, or businesses that would likely be successful and welcomed in Weslaco. Customized marketing packages will be sent to contacts with these national and regional brands and developers in hopes of recruiting them to…

Read more at The Rio Grande Guardian.

$10M Mercedes Hotel Conference Center Planned

55b823a7bcaaf.imageA $10 million hotel conference center is set to soon move forward, with construction near the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets expected to be complete by October 2016.

Mercedes city officials signed a memorandum of understanding with San Antonio-based developer Hagee Hospitality Group in November 2014 for the project, which has been filed with the state, but no bank loan has been secured. The developer declined to comment for this story.

Filings with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation published this week outlined the basics of the Home 2 Suites hotel and conference center, which will have about 89 rooms in a three-story building.

The Mercedes Economic Development Corp. is set to transfer $75,000 to Hagee Hospitality after it secures a loan for the project and has agreed to commit a maximum of $150,000 to help defray startup costs for the project by covering its hotel franchise fee.

In exchange, the developer agreed to operate the hotel for at least five years and lease the conference center for a decade.

The EDC could also contribute up to $1.5 million paid in installments if the project passes certain milestones, such as when the hotel is certified to open and stays open at least one year.

“The goal is to have a hotel product that’s attractive to the international customer,” said Hernan Gonzalez, executive director of the Mercedes Economic Development Corp. “It’s a project that we’ve been working on, it’s not quite there yet, there are several details that are soon to be…

Read more at The McAllen Monitor.

New Businesses Open Downtown

Downtown Harlingen, Courtesy of Valley Morning Star.

Downtown Harlingen, Courtesy of Valley Morning Star.

There’s more action brewing in the heart of Harlingen.

The new business, Juiceology, an organic juice bar, has opened. Juiceology offers freshly-made vegetable and fruit juice, smoothies, and protein shakes. The new juice bar will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Sisters Melissa Zepeda and Renea Perez, owner of Bod Squad Training, are partners on this new venture.

Another business, Escañuela Fine Art, also has opened, at 103 W. Jackson, Suite 1, at the front corner of the Rialto Reception Hall. Escañuela Fine Art features work by two members of the Escañuela family, who have been vendors at Jackson Street Market Days for five years.

Featured are paintings by Cristian Escañuela and furniture and decorative items made from reclaimed wood by his father, Agustin. The business is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Several other businesses have leased space on Jackson Street in Downtown Harlingen and will be opening soon. These include…

Read more at The Valley Morning Star.

First Bale of Cotton in the Nation

(From left to right) Saul Ortega, Jose P. Ortega, Jr. and Arturo Ortega.

(From left to right) Saul Ortega, Jose P. Ortega, Jr. and Arturo Ortega.

The official certified First Bale of cotton in the United States was delivered to Mark Abbott of the Harlingen Gin Company by brothers Saul, Arturo and Jose P. Ortega, Jr. Ruiz, of Platon Farms, Inc. on Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 5:25 pm. The seed cotton weighed in at 1,660 pounds and was picked entirely by hand at their farm located in Mercedes.  This is their first time to win this contest, sponsored by the Harlingen Cotton Committee, and will receive a reward of $3000.  Once ginned, the bale of cotton will be delivered to the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We are so proud in delivering the first bale of cotton for 2015,” Saul Ortega of Platon Farms, Inc. stated, “Platon Farms, Inc. accepts this award in memory of my role model and father, Jose Platon Ortega, Sr. He was an excellent role model and began farming in the early fifties. He migrated to the U.S. in search of the American Dream and we are grateful to him and his vision.”

Platon Farms, Inc. was established in 1997 and produces cotton, sugarcane, corn and sorghum.

Since 1953 Harlingen has auctioned the first bale of cotton grown in the United States and this year will be no different.  Harlingen Cotton Committee of the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce, which for more than 61 years has verified that the nation’s First Bale of cotton was grown in the Rio Grande Valley, celebrates the 2014 cotton crop with a First Bale Auction and Scholarship Fundraiser set for Thursday, August 14, 2014.

“This event has grown tremendously over the years, and our goal is to continue to serve the agricultural community of the Rio Grande Valley and support and inspire students to take an active role in this field,” said Harlingen Cotton Committee Chairman Brady Taubert.

“Agriculture is about one quarter of the area’s economy, so the industry is not only important to the actual farmers but to consumers as well. Cotton grown in the Rio Grande Valley gets shipped all over Texas and the U.S. and is transported to many countries overseas. Without the American farmer, we would be a nation with no clothing or food,” Taubert continued.

Along with auctioning off the First Bale, the Harlingen Cotton Committee will be awarding $5,000 in scholarship money to students attending Texas State Technical College. TSTC Lozano Long Opportunity Scholarship will match those funds bringing the total scholarship to $10,000 to support agriculture students in the Rio Grande Valley. The students are required to actively be pursuing enrollment in a college or university for the upcoming school year and planning to pursue a degree in an agricultural-related field.

Pharr Town Center to Begin $5.3M Expansion Next Month

A $5.3 million expansion is set to begin next month at Pharr Town Center, located at Jackson Road and Expressway 83.

Filings with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation show 125,951-square-foot and 12,360-square-foot developments set to begin work in August and continue into April 2016. The project is dubbed only “Building ‘A’ Shell” and “Building ‘C’ Shell,” with no details about potential tenants. The project is being constructed by McAllen Levcal, also known as Levcor, which owns Pharr Town Center. The site has undergone redevelopment since…

Read more at The McAllen Monitor.

New $5M Entertainment Center to Open in McAllen

Miguel Kamel flipped through glossy pages of artist renderings of his new $5 million entertainment center inside a coffee shop on Expressway 83 on a recent weekday afternoon. He traced a finger along the company’s logo of the letter “e” inside a glowing circle and said it stood for Europa.

“Not too expensive, but a completely different experience and place for adults to hang out at night,” Kamel said. “I think it inspires the image of elegance from the old country (in Europe), inside it will be just beautiful.”

On a 2.4-acre lot, a sleek geometric grey building with glass paneled balcony, fountains and underground parking garage is planned to sit on the corner of Expressway 83 and Taylor Road by summer 2016.

Inside the more than 26,200-square-foot building there’s planned to be space for several bowling lanes, two of which may be separated for private parties, about 30 arcade games and VIP rooms. Modern spherical chandeliers are planned on the inside bar area, with…

Read more at The Brownsville Herald.

McAllen Least Costly in US for Retirees


McAllen has long done its best, and has been quite successful, at attracting Winter Texans to the City of Palms. But now we’re learning that McAllen has been ranked the most affordable place to retire in the United States. Therefore, we suggest that retirees give us another look and perhaps consider living here year-round.

The website analysis by SmartAssets stated that a nest egg of just $369,857 would be sufficient to enjoy a comfortable retirement here, based on the cost of living and current local tax rates. It cited tropical climates, lots of sunshine, low-cost living and lower taxes as making this a wonderful place for seniors to locate permanently.

Compared to Honolulu — which also has great scenery and tropical weather — McAllen is much more affordable. The website says to retire comfortably in Hawaii, a senior needs $1.6 million in savings. Likewise, it dubbed McAllen the “Texas Tropics,” and stated: “Unlike Hawaii, however, you don’t need to be a millionaire to retire in the Texas Tropics.”

The only other Texas cities to make the Top 10 include…

Read more at The McAllen Monitor.

Brownsville Hotel to be Replaced by Retail Plaza

The end is near for the Holiday Inn, formerly the Sheraton, on the expressway frontage road across I-69E from Sunrise Commons.

A demolition permit has been issued and the work is scheduled to begin Aug. 1, according to city permitting director Evaristo Gamez.

Utilities to the building have been shut off and a perimeter fence erected. On Friday, furniture, beds, TVs, lamps and everything else that wasn’t nailed down was up for sale and walking out the door.

Gamez said the demolition work should take six to eight weeks. Once it’s done, the contractor will submit drawings for “Las Palmas,” the retail/restaurant development proposed to take its place.

Preliminary plans call for a retail plaza fronted by four restaurants: Applebee’s, Longhorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden and Palenque Grill, Gamez said. Construction of the 45,000-square-foot project will take between six months and a year to complete, he said.

The developer, McAllen-based Rubiano Commercial, is in a hurry to get it built, Gamez said.

Other proposed commercial projects contained in the permitting department’s April 1-June 30 quarterly report include a plan to renovate the 217,858-square-foot former Tex-Mex Cold Storage building at 6665 Padre Island Highway and turn it into a seafood-packing business.

Gamez said the property has recently changed hands and that company representatives claim the packing facility will create about 300 new jobs.

Also, H&M clothing store will submit plans for a 20,000-square-foot store at Sunrise Mall, with construction likely commencing before the end of the year, he said.

Rue21 clothing store will submit plants for a shop at Sunrise Mall within 90 days, and Carter’s Children’s Clothing will open a store this year in Sunrise Commons, according to the quarterly report.

Sunrise Mall itself is undergoing $6 million worth of major interior renovation., while construction of Dick’s Sporting Goods at the mall is on schedule and about…

Read more at The Brownsville Herald.

2015 Legislative Update Luncheon


Join fellow Chamber members and delegates as they discuss the 84th Legislative Session 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Registration: 11:00 a.m.

Program: 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Rancho Viejo Resort & Country Club

Casa Grande Conference Center 


Luncheon Speakers include:

 Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. – District 27

Rep. Rene O. Oliveira, – District 37

Rep. Eddie Lucio, III – District 38.

For more information call the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce at (956) 542-4341 or email