Gov. Abbott touts business, statewide economic growth in McAllen visit

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during the Governor’s Small Business Summit luncheon held at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

McALLEN — Gov. Greg Abbott stressed Thursday the success of his legislative priorities in making Texas a fertile locale for business, a thriving economy local leadership says the Rio Grande Valley has become a key player in.

Abbott was in town to deliver the keynote address at the Governor’s Small Business Summit, one in a series of the events held across the state meant to enable entrepreneurs.

The governor delivered a speech that emphasized his commitment to the business community.

Aside from some warm words for a few local representatives and a reference to international commerce, Abbott’s speech didn’t include much about the Valley in specific.

It was heavy on statistics, rankings and economics — all glowingly positive.

“There are so many reasons why Texas is leading the nation with regard to economic development,” Abbott said. “With regard to jobs, with regard to economic expansion. But the bottom line is this: 127 years after Texas was founded, there has never been a better time to be a Texan. Texas is the economic engine of the United States. Where entrepreneurs can come here and cast a vision about what they want to be able to achieve and know that they live in a state where you will be able to achieve their vision.”

Abbott attributed at least some of that success to policies that have been priorities during his term, including a special aversion to red tape. A result of the good economics, he said, is savings for Texas residents through increased tax cuts and exemptions.

“I know that a lot of you all are frustrated by the property taxes that you have to pay, especially in this region which is so fast-growing and your property values are going up so much,” Abbott said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott poses with attendees Rosalinda Serna, left, and Viviana Espinosa as he arrived to speak at the the Governor’s Small Business Summit luncheon held at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

On Wednesday, Abbott signed a bill passed during a special Legislative session that he has touted as the largest property tax cut in the state’s history.

Abbott’s speeches in the Valley in the past have generally had a less optimistic note.

South Texas often appeared to be the governor’s favorite campaigning ground during the last election. He frequently visited, using it as a backdrop for addresses on border security.

The DoubleTree Suites hosted the business summit Thursday.

Several Texas Game Warden trucks were visible in the parking lot, along with over half a dozen Florida Highway Patrol cruisers.

Florida began deploying resources along the Texas border earlier this summer.

Some — including representatives of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, South Texas College and the Hidalgo County Prosperity Task Force — have complained in recent months about misconceptions of South Texas they encounter, some saying those misconceptions make things more difficult.

McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos said Thursday that the border is no longer such a driving issue of concern in McAllen, like it was a couple years ago.

“First, we have a good law-abiding community. Two, we have great law enforcement. And three, I really do believe that Operation Lone Star — whether you agree with it or not — has helped, as far as safety,” he said.

Villalobos said he feels the amelioration of that situation has cleared the way for a change in reputation for the city. He says instead of being known as a border crisis hotspot McAllen is increasingly making a name for itself as a booming economic hub with national and international influence.

Villalobos noted that after the summit he had a meeting with Miami Mayor and presidential candidate Francis Suarez.

The McAllen of yesteryear, Villalobos said, likely wouldn’t have gotten that sort of attention.

“There’s no question about it. Washington’s paying attention. The state’s paying attention,” he said. “It’s something that’s incredible. We were never in the national spotlight, unless it was something not that impressive. McAllen is doing fantastic, financially and pretty much in all aspects.”