County officials say they are moving along with a project that is not only “hardcore,” but vital for potential outside businesses seeking quality of life issues for their employees.

Interim Hidalgo County Judge Rene Ramirez, along with UTPA administrators announced on Jan. 14 the latest phase of the “Ignite Hidalgo County” project. The marketing plan will highlight the region’s key assets, which include talent and infrastructure, to ensure that Hidalgo County can compete in a global economy.

The two main components of the plan will include asset mapping and strategic planning. UTPA is currently constructing an online database that will have all of the county’s assets, which includes schools, bridges, major roads and hospitals within reach for potential industry, according to Ramirez.

“I need numbers. We need data. We need something this hardcore, so that when the policymakers are making their decisions they are doing them on one set of unified facts. That’s just one of the components,” Ramirez said.

“The second component is when you have industry coming into an area, what’s the first thing they ask? They ask ‘tell me about your labor force and tell me about your access to hospitals’,” Ramirez said. “It’s not just about them creating jobs, they want to make sure their employees are taken care of, and have access to the best quality of life issues that are possible.”

Hidalgo County was awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to develop the asset map and strategy in 2007. The County then put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) in Oct. 2008. UTPA was awarded the contract in Feb. 2009.

The announcement last week by the county kicks off a slate of community involvement events, which includes four precinct outreach meetings, a mayor’s roundtable discussion, a health care forum, and a gathering of economic development and business leaders. The outreach effort will culminate in a county-wide community summit on Feb. 22 at UTPA.

“It’s so important because all of the communities have all of their assets located within them, whether it’s industrial parks. We have them very well defined within our city maps, but it’s very important to have that county wide,” said Ramiro Garza, Edinburg’s city manager and a member on the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Steering Committee.

“Many times when a business is looking, they’re coming to look at an area and not so much a city,” Garza said. “That is why it’s so important to have everything mapped out in one county area because they are looking at the whole area.”