EDINBURG — The new city manager will temporarily take over the reins of the city’s economic development arm to streamline services between both entities as the effects of COVID-19 become more apparent.
The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EDC) board has been searching for a permanent executive director for almost a year now, ever since it fired former director Plinio “Joey” Treviño in June 2019.
Since then, the board has named two interim directors: Ruben Ramirez, who initially took over the post and resigned in January; and Richard Hinojosa, the interim Edinburg city manager who agreed to take over Ramirez’s post at no additional cost to the city or EDC.
The EDC board knew, however, it had to say goodbye to Hinojosa after the council hired Ron Garza as the new city manager.
So a search to find a permanent director began in February, but the EDC board was not satisfied with the pool of applicants, prompting it to once again advertise the position for another four weeks.
The second round of the applications ended earlier this month, and although the board felt confident in its pool of applicants this time around, it still named Garza interim director during a meeting last week.
Part of that decision stemmed from the board’s desire to be fiscally conservative in a time of economic uncertainty and its vision of aligning services between the city and the EDC, Garza said Monday.
“I’m very comfortable in this role, and I know that, really, for the most efficient services, the more alignment that you can have between departments, the better,” he said. “You can’t have one without the other. They cannot live in silos.”
The novel coronavirus has made it especially important to work hand in hand as both entities work to keep businesses afloat. On one hand, the city is trying to make sure that the essential businesses that remain open are following the newly implemented work-safe plans, while the EDC works on connecting all businesses with local, state and federal resources.
“This is a new challenge for every city and jurisdiction,” Garza said. “We understand that there’s a lot of businesses that are hurting because they’re not in operation.”
Part of his duties as interim EDC executive director is to make sure businesses can bounce back once social distancing rules have been relaxed, but it’s going to take a concerted effort.
“We know there’s going to be programs designed particularly for small businesses to get up and running,” Garza said. “We’re keeping a keen eye on what those incentives are going to be.”
And though the EDC’s budget is likely to take a hit as sales taxes plummet, Garza said he is determined to implement programs to help fill in the gaps left by state and federal efforts.
“Part of that budget is going to be assessed very carefully to see what kind of programs we can offer,” he said, noting it will take at least another two months to begin to develop those efforts.
“Our main course of action for our services is ensuring we’re doing everything that we can to keep the safety of our community,” he said. “Then we can help and do our best to fill in any gaps.”