Rio Grande Valley, Texas Empowerment Zone
Latest Progress Reports
Benchmark Project Map (20k)
Starr County Project Map (20k)
Hildago & Willacy Counties
Project Map (28k)
Cameron County Project Map (20k)
Counties (Census Tracts): Cameron (012301), Hidalgo
(023101, 0245, 0246), Starr (9505), Willacy (9506)
Zone Population: 29,859
Zone Area: 227 sq. mi.
Poverty Rate: Average poverty rate is 52%
Unemployment Rate: 30%
Per Captia: $6,000
Education: Over 53% of residents lack a high school
The Empowerment initiative has resulted in collaboration by four counties that had rarely come together prior to 1994. The Rio Grande Valley Empowerment Zone (RGVEZ's) fifteen member board, incorporated as a 501c(3), works diligently with the community to encourage the integration of programs to maximize funding, formation of partnerships, experimentation, innovation, and to coordinate local efforts and other contributions critical for volunteerism, mentoring and personal responsibility.
Economic Accomplishments: The Rio Grande Valley has long been an agricultural and livestock dependent area. Youthfulness and strong work ethic characterize the workforce. Jobs exist and the regional workforce is rapidly acquiring the skills necessary to take these positions. Most of the employment gains are in construction, retail and health care services. RGVEZ has experienced success with the One Stop Capital Shop, the Minority Business Opportunity Committee, and Laguna Madre Enterprise Center (small business incubator). A very successful Historical Preservation and Redevelopment Program complement tourism and serve to increase civic pride. Business development is assisted through the Community Investment Fund—a revolving loan fund established for the subzone communities.
Educational Accomplishments: Project VIDA, the high skills training program, continues to experience success in the entire region and Zone residents now hold jobs in highly skilled areas. The Health Occupations training program has yielded Registered Nurses and licensed Vocational Nurses. Both of these occupations are in demand in the Valley. The College and University Laguna Madre Center was completed this year and distance learning courses are attended by VIDA participants and other Empowerment Zone residents. Community Centers have been established across the region that are the hub of local school districts and other non-profits have yielded programs for Boys and Girls Clubs in several subzones. Programs with Boys and Girls Scouts of America have also been very successful.
Increased Housing: RGVEZ has experienced success in housing that includes weatherization, rehabilitation, and new home construction. Partnership with Habitat for Humanity has yielded seven homes for residents in the Cameron Subzone. The zone broke ground on the first tax credit private partnership, 128 multi-family unit.
Projects and Accomplishments: Included among the Rio Grande Valley Empowerment Zone's many accomplishments are:
- College and University Laguna Madre Center Education and Training Center---Will accommodate a myriad of programming including: basic skills, G.E.D, citizenship, technical training, undergraduate and graduate level courses. A second center will provide the La Villa Independent School District with a variety of education, human and employment services to ensure that students and their families have access to appropriate providers. A third community based education center will be developed to serve areas of the Lyford Independent School District. The Lyford ISD will include a functional education program for "summer learning.
- Homes for Rio Grande Valley---A joint effort with "National Partners for Home Ownership." This locally targeted initiative referred to as Action 62 will provide greatly needed affordable housing opportunities to families living in south Texas's major trade route. Partners in this demonstration include HUD/USDA/HAC/FANNIE MAE, mortgage lenders, real estate professionals, non-profits and local housing agencies. Products of the partnership include: flexible housing costs, down payment, closing costs, and unsecured down payments.
- Historical Preservation and Redevelopment---Program aims to improve the quality of the community and its residents and create sustainable features to attract people and businesses. The program is closely linked to a "Hospitality Program" which offers training and career guidance in the workplace and a "disadvantaged adults and youth" training and employment program.
- Community Investment Fund---A revolving loan fund to implement the revitalization of local economies through the creation and retention of jobs and businesses development with the following implementation of three investment programs: 1) industrial loans, 2) small business development loans, and 3) existing zone business.
- Minority Business Opportunity Center---In coordination with the University of Texas, Pan America the MBOC will obtain reliable information which can be of assistance to the development and implementation of strategies and activities to assist in the formation, development and growth of minority-owned businesses.
Key outputs (1998):
- Computers donated to organizations in the community through Federal surplus: 1,000
- Jobs created or saved: 1,577
- Leveraged funding: $92,629,200
- Youth served by development programs: 3,200
- Persons trained: 866
- Waste/wastewater projects: 8
Dalia Rodriquez, Chief Executive Officer
416 South Alton Blvd
Alton, TX 78573