Everyone likes a good comeback story, and Starr County’s is one I am happy to tell.
As a rural border community, we have seen our share of difficult times, and the budget is always one of our biggest challenges. Finding the funds to meet the needs of our residents can be difficult, and just two years ago, we were forced to take out loans to keep the county running. Jobs were lost and critical government departments, including the sheriff's office, saw severe budget cuts. Our situation was dire.
This year, I was proud to announce our county has paid off its debt. This was, in large part, due to the arrival of wind energy in our community. It saved us. A diversified tax base and a new stream of tax revenue has revived our county’s economy, and it is not just local government that has benefited: wind projects have paid millions to our school districts and other taxing jurisdictions.
This change did not happen by accident. We worked hard to attract wind and other industry to our community. Through the local economic development tools known as Chapter 312 — the Property Redevelopment and Tax Abatement Act — and Chapter 313 — the Texas Economic Development Act — our county offered competitive incentives to attract billions of dollars of new investment.
Now, instead of debt, Starr County has a rainy day fund of $750,000, our unemployment rate is dropping and we are committed to lowering tax rates for our residents. None of that would have been possible without new development in our community. Hopefully, as a result of our partnerships, we can change the outcome for current and future residents of the Rio Grande Valley.
This is not the time to slow down. We must continue to strive for new economic investment. I am optimistic this positive trend will continue only if we preserve the vital economic development tools that have been tremendously successful for Starr County and other rural communities across Texas. I strongly encourage the 86th Texas Legislature to authorize the continuation and preservation of both Chapter 312 and Chapter 313. Help us keep our comeback story alive, and give other communities the opportunity to experience economic progress.