Rio Grande Valley, Texas Empowerment Zone

Latest Progress Reports

Annual Report

Funding Report

Benchmark Summary Report

Map of Rio Grande Valley EZ

Benchmark Project Map (20k)
Starr County Project Map (20k)
Hildago & Willacy Counties Project Map (28k)
Cameron County Project Map (20k)

Executive Summary

State: Texas
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 diploma


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:

Key outputs (1998):