EDINBURG – It Is critical that a new facility, dedicated to social services, is located in Edinburg, according to Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs.

Most locations in Texas can't compete with the region when it comes to highly sought-after bilingual workers, said Suehs, who took a tour of the new Maximus call center last week, with Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg.

Suehs, who oversees the operations of the five health and human services agencies, including more than 50,000 employees and combined annual budgets of $30 billion, said he was "thrilled" that the company, which handles Medicaid, Medicare and other services, chose the South Texas area to service the State of Texas.

"It's very important because there are some areas of the state where we can't hire bilingual staff," Suehs said. "By locating a call center here (Edinburg), and our eligibility system being flexible and automated, we can use the bilingual staff here to service other geographical areas of the state. That is critical for a Commission that not only has to worry about South Texas but the whole state."

Suehs, who was on a whirlwind trip through the area to discuss the rollout of managed care in the Valley, also took time to tour the region's eligibility offices over the course of two days. He emphasized the importance of a bilingual workforce in the Valley to media and service providers at several meetings last week.

"We have been here two days, meeting with the provider community and our eligibility staff. I had not been down here but I had committed to the Maximus people that I would be down here as soon as I could," Suehs said. "It was important for us to have a call center located in South Texas, particularly a call center where we can hire a significant number of bilingual speaking individuals that not only serve this area, but the entire State of Texas. We are thrilled that Maximus picked this area in South Texas. We are thrilled to have Rep. Pena work with us, and getting the site here."

The issue of bringing the call center to Edinburg began with requests to Gov. Rick Perry in January of this year, according to Peña. The formal announcement of the facility was held off for nearly six months because of the sensitivity of budget negotiations during the Legislative Session, he said.

The city held a formal ribbon cutting for Maximus in August. Locally, millions in direct and indirect economic impact are expected as a result of the call center, according to an analysis performed by UTPA's Data Center.

The new call center, located at Edinburg's Renaissance Industrial Park, is projected to bring in close to $18 million in total economic impact, according to the study, which takes into account company investment, payroll figures, and total number of jobs proposed.

More than 400 jobs are expected to be created at Maximus by the end of 2012, and are slated to pay about $25,000 yearly for employees. Annual payroll should be close to $11 million once those jobs are in place, according to the study.

Quality bilingual is a niche culture that exists along the border. If you go to central Texas, many Hispanics lack in one language or the other. If you come to the border, you have true bilingualism and biculturalism, particularly on the American side," Peña said. "If you want to find quality Hispanic speakers that speak the language of Americans of Hispanic descent, this is the place to find it."