After two months of what McAllen leaders saw as negative attention on the area, the city received a rare shoutout from the state’s top executive.
“We’ve been complaining about the bad publicity,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said. “So when you get some good, you gotta take it.”
Gov. Greg Abbott wrote an editorial this week, praising McAllen’s contribution to the state’s economic growth.
“Jobs are growing in McAllen,” Abbott wrote to begin the piece, “with large gains seen in retail, education and health services. And continuing job growth is predicted.”
Darling, and others in the city, were not pleased with the recent attention on the city. Immigration became a national focus when President Donald Trump’s administration announced this spring that it would separate immigrant children from their parents under a new “zero-tolerance” policy.
Once immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border were apprehended by federal authorities, they were brought to the U.S. Border Patrol’s centralized processing center in McAllen. That was where law enforcement often separated the families. Parents were ushered to federal court to be criminally charged and their children were brought to youth shelters.
Keith Patridge, president of McAllen’s Economic Development Corporation, welcomed the governor’s piece.
“I think he sees that we’re getting beat up,” Patridge said, “that it’s out of our control and that it’s an accident because of our geographical location. We’re kind of suffering the brunt of these political battles going on.”
After nearly two years of declining sales tax revenues — a large contributor to the city’s economy — sales tax has been trending positively since October.
The most recent numbers released this week showed May sales tax revenues were up 9.2 percent from May 2017.
“We need more elected officials touting the benefits and positive things happening here,” said Steve Ahlenius, president of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. “That’s part of our challenge.”
Abbott wrote that limiting government restrictions, the opportunity for business to succeed is limitless.
“To keep businesses and jobs growing in McAllen and all areas of the state, I will continue to implement a blueprint for a new era of economic expansion.
“We will focus on reforming taxes, removing regulatory barriers, encouraging participation in the sharing economy, investing in our education system and securing Texans’ freedom to aspire.
“Because liberty is the root of prosperity, and the future is bright in the Rio Grande Valley.”