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El Paso Ranked 5th in ‘Top Places to Retire’ By U.S. News and World Report

El Paso ranks among the top 5 places to retire, according to a 2018 U.S. News and World Report of 100 Best Places to Retire in the USA.

“This recognition is a testament to the quality of life that El Paso has to offer retirees,” said Mayor Dee Margo. “To be ranked in the top 5 acknowledges the effort by our city employees to deliver on our vision for a vibrant community.”

El Paso is listed just ahead of Austin (9th) and McAllen (6th) and just behind San Antonio (3rd) in the 100 city list.

El Paso is lauded as the 5th Best Place to Retire in the analysis intended to help people narrow their choices of where to live in retirement.

Profile author Alexis Garcia writes, in part, “It’s easy to write El Paso, Texas, off as another southern cow town. Sure, you’ll find an overwhelming number of steakhouses here, and you’re bound to come across someone sporting a wide-brimmed cowboy hat. But gone are the days when old El Paso was known as the “Six Shooter Capital” – a place known for its outlaws and vices.”

The publication’s rankings were based on a weighted average of these six indexes: Housing Affordability, Happiness, Desirability, Retiree Taxes, Job Market and Healthcare Quality.

To view the entire list, click here.

Destination El Paso Outlines Convention Strategy for City Council

Destination El Paso presented their strategy to position and promote the city as a desirable destination on October 31, 2017 to the City Council.

“The growth and number of quality convention hotel accommodations we will see in the next few years in close proximity to the El Paso Convention Center is impressive and allows us to once again attract the larger, more impactful groups and organizations to the destination.” said Bryan Crowe, General Manager for Destination El Paso.

“Currently there are only 432 hotel rooms available downtown but by the close of 2019 we will have over 1,200 rooms. This growth in new high quality inventory will position El Paso as a destination for meetings and conventions,” Crowe added.

Since the announcement of the quality of life bond projects and substantial private investments in the downtown core, the team has increased travel and participation in state and national trade shows, implemented aggressive incentive packages and increased the size of the sales team.

Additionally, significant investments have been made in both traditional and digital marketing allowing us to increase our reach and exposure with decision makers.

“At the direction of city council, the city has aggressively incentivized convention hotel development. As these projects are under construction and renovation, we are strategically increasing our effort representing El Paso as a destination for meetings and conventions. These efforts will result in increased jobs, economic impact, and increase visitor revenues.” said El Paso City Manager Tommy Gonzalez.

City, Borderplex Alliance Work With FullBeauty Brands to Retain, Expand Workforce

FullBeauty Brands, a digital and catalog retailer for the plus-size consumer, announced Tuesday that the company is retaining its current workforce and laying the groundwork for future growth.

The company is hiring an additional 80 new employees this year alone for its local customer service center, and they plan to hire up to 500 employees in the next 3 years.

“FullBeauty Brands’ commitment to retention and growth in El Paso demonstrates their investment in our workforce and community. The potential for job growth is promising for the region and sends a signal to other businesses that we are a prime location for investment,” said Mayor Dee Margo.

FullBeauty worked with the Borderplex Alliance, the local regional economic development organization, and The City of El Paso to ensure viable expansion of its workforce. With the approved incentives package from the El Paso City Council, the company will retain 525 employees and continue to be a key employer in the business services sector of El Paso.

“El Paso is a fantastic place to do business. We are proud of our local team and we are excited to expand our impact locally and nationally through outstanding customer service,” said Alfonso Espinoza, the Director of Human Resources for FullBeauty Brand’s El Paso location.

“Our company has been successful in recruiting and keeping talent. We have many examples of homegrown talent moving up to senior positions and recruiting local individuals into these positions-myself included,” Espinoza added.

Over the last few years, FullBeauty has seen a significant increase in its retention rate, which exceeds the industry average.

According to company officials, through investment in recruitment and training efforts, they have been able to identify strong individuals in the community that they plan to develop over the years to come.

“FullBeauty Brand’s decision to expand in El Paso reflects a positive business climate in our city and community. El Paso remains a compelling place to do business and a great area to invest,” said Jon Barela, CEO of the Borderplex Alliance.

Leadership El Paso Now Accepting Application for Class 40

The Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce seeks applicants for Leadership El Paso Class 40.

“The Leadership El Paso experience is ideal for those individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to community service,” GEPCC officials stated via a news release.

If selected, the tuition fee for the all-inclusive program is $2,000 for Chamber members and $2,600 for non-members.  Limited slots may be available at a lesser tuition rate for not for profit charitable organizations seeking to further develop their key leadership.

Chairs, Mr. Mauro Monsisvais (EPISD) and Mr. Tyler Smith (SBNG), along with their selection committee, seek representation from a cross section of the community who are active in business, education, politics, the arts, religion, government, community-based organizations, and ethnically diverse groups, in order to reflect the diversity of the community.

Applicants who have achieved leadership positions in their field and are willing to accept greater community responsibility will be chosen for a year-long curriculum.  The curriculum is designed to educate and enlighten Leadership El Paso class members about all subjects El Paso, and further engage these leaders in El Paso’s progress through executive positions in boards, associations, organizations and elected office.

Deadline to submit an application is October 31, 2017 (class to be announced November 9, 2017).

A two night retreat January 12-14, 2018 will kick off the year.  For more information, contact Ms. Maggie Benham, at 534-0526 or mbenham@elpaso.org

Application packet: LEP Application 2018

Hunt Family Foundation Commits $12M to Advance Education Attainment in El Paso

The Hunt Family Foundation (HFF) announced Tuesday it will grant $12 million dollars to the Council on Regional Economic Expansion and Educational Development (CREEED), a not-for-profit education policy and advocacy group focused on creating measurable outcomes and dedicated to closing the achievement gap for El Paso County students.

“This is an investment in our region’s students, teachers, and future workforce. If we want to get serious about El Paso’s economic future, then we must invest in our students now so they are able to successfully pursue a postsecondary credential and have a prosperous career. Expanding high quality opportunities in our region’s K-12 system is a necessary step to get us on the right path,” said Woody L. Hunt, founder and chairman of the Hunt Family Foundation.

Earlier this year, CREEED released the 60×30 El Paso report, which highlighted the education challenges and opportunities that currently exist in the El Paso region in meeting the statewide goal of having 60% of Texans ages 25-34 obtain a credential or degree by 2030.

The report found that El Paso’s high school graduation and postsecondary attainment rates are below the state average, and that too many students are graduating from high school without the skills necessary to thrive in postsecondary work without remediation.

While the report acknowledged the progress that has been made in recent years to close education gaps, it also notes that the pace of change has been too slow and too small.

Since its founding, CREEED has invested in local school district initiatives that improve student achievement and expose students to the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century workforce. The $12 million grant will support CREEED in advancing the recommendations in the 60×30 report, especifically around the creation of a portfolio of high-performing schools as well as strengthening the teacher talent pipeline in the region.

“I want to thank the Hunt Family Foundation for their generous support and tireless commitment to improving our region’s education system over the years. Woody, Josh, and the Hunt Family Foundation have set the example for civic involvement and philanthropy for our community. We look forward to working with our workforce and education partners to ensure this investment produces measurable outcomes for our students and families,” said Richard A. Castro, chairman of CREEED.

Over the past 30 years, the Hunt Family Foundation has awarded over $87.7 million in grants and charitable contributions to programs and initiatives in the Borderplex region focused on healthcare, education, arts and culture, and economic development. The $12 million grant builds on the $55 million that the Hunt Family Foundation has already invested in higher education initiatives across the region.

“This grant is an expression of our commitment to the future of this community and our belief that this region’s best days are in front of us. Every student deserves the best chance possible to succeed and contribute to our region’s future; and that is why we are investing in their education,” said Josh Hunt, president of the Hunt Family Foundation.

“Mr. Hunt’s vision for strengthening our region’s education ecosystem from kindergarten to college, has provided us with the roadmap and resources we need to accelerate the transformation of El Paso into a leader in educational excellence and success. The continued investments of the Hunt Family Foundation in innovative initiatives, and the data to measure progress, makes our work that much more meaningful and impactful,” said Dr. William Serrata, President of the El Paso Community College

After Pro-bono Work and Remodel, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store Ribbon-Cutting Set

Thanks to local architectural and engineering firm Parkhill, Smith & Cooper (PSC), the renovated St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store is set to once again help the borderland’s less fortunate.

Irma H. Trujillo, General Manager of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, El Paso Thrift Stores, said the volunteer efforts for the repair and remodeling of the group’s thrift store at 2104 North Piedras in El Paso are vital to the society’s mission of helping the poor.

PSC provided a site evaluation, a charrette session with the Thrift Store Committee, development of concept exhibits, budget estimates, construction drawings, and construction administration services.

The improvements made include remodeling of the entrance and bathrooms for ADA compliance, replacement of plumbing, mechanical, and electrical systems, repair of structural damage to the floor, adding a Clothing Change room, remodeling the volunteer and employee break room, improving the layout of the sorting room, installing a cart lift between the basement and ground floor, remodeling the storefront, and making floor room enhancements to better showcase items for sale.

The Thrift Store in Central El Paso provides second-hand clothing, furniture and household goods to low-income families in need, as well as serving the community by selling inexpensive basic need items, such as refurbished mattresses.

As part of a Catholic outreach network, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul aims to embrace the hurting poor in a network of charitable help.

Parkhill, Smith & Cooper opened its El Paso office in 1958, as a multidisciplinary firm that provides comprehensive architectural and engineering design services for a multitude of projects in government, commercial and institutional sectors – including K-12 and higher education, public works, water resources, infrastructure, transportation, healthcare and church facilities.

A blessing and ribbon-cutting for the renovated St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store will take place at 3 p.m. Monday, September 25th. Bishop Mark Sietz will officiate.

El Paso Appoints New City Engineer

The City of El Paso recently announced the appointment of longtime City of El Paso engineer Sam Rodriguez as the new City Engineer and Capital Improvement Department Director.

Rodriguez, a professional engineer with approximately 20 years of diverse public and private experience, replaces Andy Goh, who recently resigned citing family reasons and choosing to relocate back to Arizona.

“Sam Rodriguez brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to his new role that will allow us to provide the continuity necessary to deliver on the City’s nearly billion dollars in capital investments from quality of life bonds to our transportation infrastructure,” said Ted Marquez, El Paso’s Interim Deputy City Manager.

“He joined our organization over a decade ago and has been a critical member of our management team. Today, we are able to capitalize on our own talent and professionals using the City’s strategic plan, which has set the foundation we needed to retain and promote a skilled workforce. Sam’s high level of expertise makes him the prime appointment to oversee our capital program. This is an excellent example of growing our own and the strength of our succession plan.”

Rodriguez most recently served as Assistant Director of Aviation at the El Paso International Airport where he oversaw facility maintenance operations and the development of the airport’s capital improvement program and major airport projects, such as the airport’s Rental Car Center and runway rehabilitation projects.

He came to El Paso from the City of Big Bear Lake in California, where he served as the City Engineer. He began his professional career working in the private sector working for AECOM (formerly URS) and Atkins (formerly PBS&J) focusing on highway design and land development.  The fact that Rodriguez brings a private and public sector mentality; he is able to hit the ground running with the external and internal stakeholders.

In 2006, Rodriguez relocated to Texas when he accepted a position as the City of El Paso Engineering Division Manager for the Capital Improvement Department, then the Engineering Department. Upon arriving in El Paso he was a critical member of the engineering team leading the development of major programs, such as the 2006 Storm Recovery program, the Airport Capital Improvement Program, and joint projects with the Texas Department of Transportation.

This opportunity speaks directly to our succession planning program that really focuses on developing our talent internally so when opportunities present themselves, we can move quickly.  Rodriguez will be working off a 100-day plan that will focus on the effective delivery of our capital improvement program.

Rodriguez holds Professional Engineer licenses in the states of Texas and California. He is a certified Floodplain Manager, Accredited in the Congress of New Urbanism, and a member of the American Association of Airport Executives organization. He has been recognized as the Young Engineer of the Year by the local chapter of the Texas Professional Engineers organization.

He served in the U. S. Marine Corps and is a graduate of California State Polytechnic University where he earned a bachelor’s in civil engineering.

City, Borderplex Alliance Announce Bid to Attract Amazon to El Paso

Wednesday, Mayor Dee Margo and Borderplex CEO Jon Barela announced a partnership, along with civic and business leaders in the region, to submit a proposal for Amazon’s recently announced nationwide search for a second headquarters.

“Our region won’t take a backseat to anyone. El Paso should set its sights on big, ambitious projects that are reflective of the talented, ambitious people in our community. We are a competitive, smart choice for Amazon,” said Mayor Margo.

Over the last four years, Borderplex Alliance has been working with regional economic development partners, including the City of El Paso’s Economic Development department to recruit businesses to the region.

“No doubt El Paso has been thought of as an underdog in the past, but in the last decade, Fortune 500 companies have entered the marketplace successfully, finding a hardworking and innovative workforce and great partnerships with PK-12 and higher education institutions. This region is the best-kept secret in business, it’s time to change that,” said Jon Barela.

The City of El Paso and Borderplex Alliance are working with regional partner organizations on the proposal, which has a national deadline of October 19.

West Nile Virus Cases Double Last Week

A total of six new cases of West Nile Virus confirmed over the past week has brought the total number of cases in El Paso to 11 so far this season.

“We need to remember that it takes about a teaspoon of water to create breeding conditions for mosquitoes that carry the West Nile Virus,” said Lead Epidemiologist Fernando Gonzalez.

“As soon as we see rain, we need to start thinking about getting outside our homes and getting rid of it,” Gonzalez added

The news comes as the Sun City continues to experience seasonal rains with more expected in the coming days.

To report standing water or mosquito breeding, call 3-1-1.

The following is a compilation of cases identified by Department of Public Health epidemiologist:

Case Gender Age Residence  
11 Male Mid 20’s Central New
10 Male Late 50’s Mission Valley New
9 Male Late 70’s Westside New
8 Female Late 60’s Central New
7 Female Early 70’s East Colonia New
6 Male Mid 70’s Socorro New
5 Male Late 40’s Westside
4 Male Mid 70’s Central
3 Male Mid 40’s Mission Valley
2 Male Early 50’s Eastside
1 Male Mid 40’s Eastside

The most effective way to avoid mosquito-borne illnesses, is to prevent mosquito bites and use the 4 D’s:

  • DEET – Use insect repellents that contain deet when outdoors.
  • DRESS – Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors.
  • DUSK and DAWN – Although mosquitoes associated with Zika can be active throughout the day, residents should take extra care during peak mosquito biting hours (from dusk to dawn) or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.
  • DRAIN – Drain standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, and birdbaths.

Residents can also mosquito-proof their home by repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out.  For more information on mosquitoes, visit www.EPHealth.com or www.EPSalud.com.

2017 Community Preparedness Expo Set for Saturday

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health and emergency response partners invite the community to celebrate “National Preparedness Month” by participating in the 2017 Community Preparedness Expo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 9, at the El Paso Convention Center.

“In the aftermath of recent Hurricane Harvey, we are reminded of the importance of being prepared for an emergency,” said Department of Public Health Director Robert Resendes. “While we can’t predict unforeseen emergencies and disasters, we can have an emergency plan in place.”

The free educational and family-friendly event provides information on how to prepare, respond and cope with unexpected community emergencies and disasters. The event allows visitors to get a first-hand look at emergency response units from the El Paso Fire Department, Homeland Security, Office of Emergency Management, and many other agencies (great phot opportunities for children).

In addition, the expo will include workshops, hands-on displays, dozens of informational booths and demonstrations from a variety of organizations.
As part of National Preparedness Month, which is recognized in September, the event is co-sponsored by the El Paso City-County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the El Paso Fire Department.

The Community Preparedness Expo is free and open to the public. For more information call the Department of Public Health at (915) 212-6524 or visit their website.

El Paso Coyotes Arena Soccer to Host Tryouts for Dance Team

The El Paso Coyotes, in coordination with LAT Studio dance company, will be hosting tryouts for the professional arena soccer team’s dance squad at 9 a.m. Saturday, September 9.

Tryouts will be held at LAT Studio, 11500 Pellicano. To be a Coyote Girl, participants must be at least 17 years old. The registration fee is $20.

Callbacks will take place the same day as tryouts.  For more information call LAT Studios at 915-590-7000 or the El Paso Coyotes directly at 915-400-7585

 

Goodwill, Western Tech Partner to Support Hurricane Harvey Victims

As the City of Houston and Southeastern Texas continues to battle one of the worst storms to hit the state in decades, Goodwill Industries of El Paso, in conjunction with Western Technical College, is transporting donations of clothes, shoes, and linens to aid in relief efforts.

“We are very appreciative of the El Paso and Las Cruces communities that donate to us regularly to help us fulfill our mission to provide training, skills and services for people with barriers to employment,” says Melinda Jordan, CEO of Goodwill, El Paso,  “However, there comes a time when these donations need to be used to help those that have lost everything as a result of this historic storm.”

“We are also thankful to Western Technical College for transporting the donations to Houston showing how caring and compassionate our cities are — cities we are proud to be a part of,” Jordan added.

Goodwill Industries of El Paso, Inc. serves Far West Texas and Southern New Mexico, and Western Technical College – Founded in 1970 – has been a family-owned and operated nationally accredited institution of higher education for four generations in El Paso.

WHO:                   Goodwill Industries of El Paso and Western Technical College

WHAT:                 Hurricane Harvey Relief Donation

WHEN:                 Friday September 1st, 2017

Website Names El Paso ‘Second Safest City in America’

The City of El Paso is pleased to announce that El Paso came out as the second safest city in a “50 Safest Metro Cities in America – 2017” report published by SafeWise.

“We are proud to be recognized as the second safest city in the country. It’s a testament to the excellent work by our police department and first responders. We must support their efforts,” said City of El Paso Mayor Dee Margo.

To compile the report that was released August 14, SafeWise used the most recent FBI crime data from 2015 to analyze and rank cities that have a population greater than 300,000 residents. New York City came out on top as the safest city.

According to SafeWise, the rankings are based on an aggregation of violent crime and property crime. Both property and violent crime were equally weighted and city ranking was determined by the per capita rate of crime. SafeWise also evaluated overall improvement in crime rates from previous years.

In part, the site states, “Because El Paso is a border town, its low crime rate may surprise you, but it shouldn’t. Officials say that this community is made stronger by the hard-working ambition of immigrant families and individuals who make border towns their home.”

“This recognition clearly reflects that our police safety initiatives are working well for our diverse community. We will continue our 10 year staffing plan of 300 new officers so we can continue to lead our country in public safety,” said El Paso City Manager Tommy Gonzalez.

SafeWise is a home-security and safety brand committed to increasing safety education, awareness and preparedness in American communities. SafeWise has been recognized by The Huffington Post, AngiesList, Mashable and Homes.com for their home security-brand comparisons and safest-cities reports.

The complete list of the “50 Safest Metro Cities in America – 2017” is available online.

El Paso City Council Votes Down City ID Program

The El Paso City Council narrowly voted against creating a municipal identification card program amid concerns that the measure would lead to the border city being perceived as the kind of “sanctuary” jurisdiction that has been the target of President Donald Trump and Texas’ Republican leaders.

In a 5-4 vote, the council voted down funding the program, which immigrant rights groups and advocates for the poor have called for since 2014 as a way for those unable to obtain a driver’s license or other state-issued identification sign up for bank accounts and access city services such as libraries. Applicants would have had to prove they reside in the city to obtain the card.

Mayor Dee Margo cast the deciding vote against the measure, explaining that he didn’t want El Paso to be perceived as “sanctuary” city – the common term for a jurisdiction that doesn’t enforce state or federal immigration laws.

In May, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4, which punishes elected and appointed officials for enacting policies that ignore federal immigration laws. The punishment for doing so could be jail time and the denial of grant funds from the entity in violation. Opponents of the measure have filed a lawsuit to halt the law, which takes effect Sept. 1. A federal judge has yet to rule on that case.

The Trump administration has also spoken in recent months about cutting off some federal funds from “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

“I do not want to give the inference that we are a sanctuary city, as we are not,” Margo, a former Republican state representative, said in a statement. “Redevelopment grants are critical to the economic development of our community, and we cannot afford to put those funding opportunities in jeopardy.”

Margo added that the cost of the program was too high when he considered the city’s other pressing needs like public safety. The city was debating a potential match of $320,000 with the county for the identification program, according to the city council agenda.

In a statement, the Border Network for Human Rights, which launched the petition in support of creating the program in 2014, said the city gave in to political pressure.

“Fear mongering ran deep in today’s discussion. SB 4 was invoked — even though it does nothing to prohibit a Community ID program,” BNHR spokesperson Gabriela Castaneda said. “The Council was threatened, intimidated, and bullied by racists, and, ultimately, it worked. This bodes ill for our city.”

The vote shouldn’t be a complete surprise after the council expressed concerns as early as April 2016 over how the ID card would be viewed by state leaders, according to a city report issued then.

In the past year, there has been legislation filed at both the state and federal level regarding ‘sanctuary cities.’ These bills seek to prohibit local government entities from having policies, ordinances, and rules that prohibit or interfere with the enforcement of immigration laws,” the city’s report states.

Proponents of the measure cited similar projects in Oakland and San Franciscoas examples of where the municipal ID program has worked. They also made clear that the card wouldn’t have the same benefits as a Texas driver’s license and couldn’t be used for travel or to get through a TSA checkpoint.

El Paso County is still considering an ID card for its residents.

Disclosure: Dee Margo has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • An El Paso-based immigrant rights group could see its hopes for a municipal ID card dashed after leaders there determined that issuing the card could prompt immigration hardliners to label the town a sanctuary city. [Full story]
  • A standardized ID would aid the homeless, indigent and help undocumented immigrants prove they qualify for relief from deportation under the president’s recently announced executive action, an immigrant rights group says. [Full story]

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILAR – The Texas Tribune

El Paso Tops WalletHub’s 2017’s Best Places to Flip Houses List

If you’re among the millions of HGTV viewers who’ve seen an episode of “Flip or Flop,” you’ve probably thought about the thrill of gutting a house and turning a five- or six-figure profit.

WalletHub’s analysts compared the 150 largest U.S. cities across 22 key indicators of market potential, cost and quality of life. Their data set ranges from median purchase price to average full home remodeling costs to housing-market health index.

“But before you demo that pink-tiled ’80s kitchen, you need a stern reality check from the Property Brothers,” WalletHub’s release stated. “Any experienced home flipper would caution you that transforming a real-estate beast into a bankable beauty is never as easy as it looks on TV.”

“In other words, don’t get your hands dirty until you’ve learned a thing or two about real estate, construction and how much damage your project could do to your wallet — and to the beam that’s keeping the roof from collapsing.”

Breathing new life into a low-cost property won’t necessarily return a buyer’s full investment and allow them to pocket another $62,624, the average gross flipping profit in 2016.

While home flipping enjoys its highest rate since 2007, according to RealtyTrac, the current homeownership rate is near the previous half-century low of 62.9 percent, which may translate to fewer potential buyers off the bat, depending on the location of the revamped property.

Flipping a House in El Paso (1=Best; 75=Avg.)

  • 48th – Real-Estate Agents per Capita
  • 40th – Avg. Kitchen Remodeling Costs
  • 3rd – Avg. Bathroom Remodeling Costs
  • 77th – Avg. Full Home Remodeling Costs
  • 80th – % of Population with Walkable Park Access

To view WalletHub’s methodology, click HERE.

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