When Teclo Garcia had the opportunity to take on the CEO position of the Mission Economic Development Corporation, he said he couldn’t turn it down. After working in other larger cities, Garcia wanted to help guide Mission in its new venture into international commerce. And as of Oct. 24, Garcia hit the ground running as Mission’s new leader in economic development.
The 56-year-old hails from Kenedy, Texas — a small town about an hour outside of San Antonio — but he has lived in the Valley for the last 21 of 26 years, he said. His background is in print journalism. Garcia worked as a sports reporter, writing for various newspapers throughout Texas and Arizona. But in 2008, he switched to local government when he took a job with the City of McAllen. He eventually gained interest in economic development and migrated to the Mission EDC in 2016. Garcia moved on to do a three-year stint as the City of Laredo’s Director of Economic Development before finding his way back to Mission as the new MEDC CEO.
“It’s really a fabulous time to be here because we’re seeing a lot of growth in the area of our retail,” Garcia said. “Sales taxes are up 13-18% over the last couple of years. So we need to take advantage of that.”
An EDC’s role in the community is to create jobs, investment opportunities, enhance the workforce and recruit and expand businesses. But Garcia hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the CEO role while focusing on those key pillars, especially as the Anzalduas Bridge transitions into a commercial bridge, bringing international trade to Mission.
Previously, the Anzalduas International Port of Entry was only for passenger and pedestrian vehicles due to the absence of federal inspection facilities. But once complete, the bridge will have the necessary provisions for commercial vehicles, increasing border trade and changing Mission’s economic outlook. Contractors broke ground on the $83 million project on Oct. 26, and it will take them approximately 11 months to complete.
Garcia stressed the importance of understanding the opportunities the Anzalduas expansion will provide for the Mission community.
“Not every city has an international bridge port. San Antonio doesn’t have one; they like to think that they do, but they don’t,” he said with a laugh. “Austin, San Antonio…Lubbock and Amarillo — all these places don’t have an international crossing, and we do. So that really makes us special. We need to take advantage of that to help our citizens and to help Mission grow.”
Mission’s population sits just above 86,000, according to 2021 census data. But Garcia and other Mission leaders believe the city is undercounted, and the actual population sits between 90,000 and 100,000. Accurate census data is crucial because a larger population means more funding. More funding means the city can provide more and better services to residents, such as green space, utility management and police and fire aid. Garcia said keeping up with the growth can be challenging.
“But we welcome that challenge because the more prosperous we get, the more funding that will go into the city’s coffers, and then we’re able to provide those services and create this quality of life. We can’t do that without economic development. We have to have that,” the CEO said. “And that’s our job here [at the EDC] — to create those opportunities, to create good paying jobs and then create revenue for the city to provide those services.”
As for the longtime Missionites that miss having a sleepy town, Garcia said there is still room for that in Mission. Little pockets of tranquility, he called them — the quiet neighborhoods further from the expressway and main corridors where most of the growth has occurred. He boasted about Mission still being one of the leaders with Winter Texans who have continued to spend half the year in town.
“Growth is good, and we’ll continue to do that,” Garcia said. “But we also understand that people like Mission because it has a really nice neighborhood feel and [it’s] more quaint. And we can still provide that. We can do both, for sure.”