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The Lower Rio Grande Valley has enjoyed solid economic growth throughout the past decade despite some employment losses due to the peso devaluation and recent losses in the manufacturing sector. The region -- which is made up of Cameron, Hidalgo, Willacy and Starr counties -- has a current population of more than 848,000. A major portion of the region's economic support comes from trade, manufacturing, services and agriculture employment.

In 1994, selected tracts in the four South Texas counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, Willacy and Starr were designated the Valley Empowerment Zone and received $40 million in federal social service block grants. In addition to federal funding, the Valley Empowerment Zone also received more than $29 million in local and state government funds to attack the problem of colonias. Overall, the objectives of the Empowerment Zone's activities are to improve the quality of life for citizens, provide job opportunities, initiate regional business development, and improve access to quality housing and health care. The objectives will be accomplished through state and community-based partnerships with UT-Brownsville, Southmost College, UT-Pan American, Texas State Technical School, Texas A&M Extension Service and South Texas Community College.

Since 1992, area employment has increased by nearly 18 percent, from 194,900 jobs in 1992, to 229,400 jobs in 1996. Annual employment growth in the Lower Rio Grande Valley area has averaged 4.2 percent per year. Unemployment rates in the four Lower Rio Grande Valley area counties, while still above state and national averages, have fallen due to an expanding economy. Exceptional employment gains were made in 1994, when 10,500 new jobs were created during a period of expansion in service industries, trade and government, and in 1996 when 7,000 new jobs were created in the area.

Some of the area's largest employers include public schools, hospitals, health care services and textile and food products manufacturers. Electronics' and food products' manufacturing remain important sources of income, but the region has a broad economic base including border trade and agricultural production. Wholesale and retail trade, government and services account for 76 percent of the jobs in the Lower Rio Grande Valley area.

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Street improvements are only one of the economic improvements now taking place throughout the City of Alamo


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