Mercedes Powers MVEC Through Its Eras Of Service
In the mid-1930s – at the height of the Great Depression – nine out of 10 rural homes in America lacked electric service.
It was no different in the Rio Grande Valley. It was in 1937 when a group of Valley farmers and ranchers came together to acquire a loan under the auspices of the just passed Rural Electrification Act (REA). The loan would finance the Valley REA, which later became the Magic Valley Electric Cooperative, (MVEC).
One of the first key decisions was where to put the headquarters of the new electric cooperative to reach the farms and ranches of the Valley.
“They chose Mercedes,’’ said Abraham Quiroga, the business and employee development division manager for MVEC. “We’ve been in Mercedes since day one. Our story is connected to Mercedes.’’
The city’s central location in the region was of prime consideration when MVEC got started, Quiroga said. The cooperative’s first office in Mercedes was on Texas Avenue downtown. It stayed there for about 17 years when MVEC’s growth required a move to new headquarters in 1954 on U.S. Highway 83 in Mercedes before the days of Expressway 77/83. Almost 50 years later, MVEC would celebrate a grand opening in 2002 for expanded headquarters at the same site on what is now Business 83.
Through it all, from the first handful of customers, or “members’’ as MVEC calls them, to the 115,000 they have today spread out over five counties, Mercedes has always been there for the cooperative. Magic Valley today has area offices in Edinburg, Pharr and Brownsville, but Mercedes remains the heart of its operations.
“Mercedes is near and dear to our hearts,’’ Quiroga said. “This is where it all started. We have a good footprint here in Mercedes.’’
Magic Valley has actively supported Mercedes schools for years along with the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show, which like MVEC, has an iconic presence in the city. From services perspective for its members, MVEC’s Mercedes office reaches the Mid-Valley, north to the ranchlands and over east to the Brownsville area. The cooperative has a total of 270 employees. In their Mercedes main office there are 130 employees who live all over the Valley and find the city to be a convenient central location.
Magic Valley like all cooperatives is member owned and a not-for-profit operation whose rate structure is designed to provide reasonably priced rates. It has seven principles that guide MVEC and among them is a concern for the community. Magic Valley actively supports non-profit organizations across the counties it serves. In recent months, it helped to finance a $50,000 playground in Lasara, a rural community in Willacy County.
“We’re here for our communities and to improve the life of our members,’’ Quiroga said of Magic Valley’s commitment to its communities. “We focus on areas that impact our members.’’
From the first MVEC utility pole put up in Weslaco in June 1938 to the present, the city of Mercedes has been a constant in the existence of Magic Valley.
“It’s been a great partnership and will continue to be so,’’ Quiroga said of the Mercedes and MVEC connection. “We’re looking forward to many more years here.’’
- Ricardo D. Cavazos