February 4, 2013
Message from the Chief Executive Officer
Good Monday morning!
This newsletter is typically sent out on Friday, but at times, a bit later. Well, this one is later than most. I don’t think that’s a big deal, but if your Friday was ruined because I didn’t send out the newsletter, please let me know and we can make sure you get your ED (economic development) fix on a timely basis. I guess I really don’t have an excuse, but it was a busy week, and then the weekend comes and kids keep one busy…. well, you probably know how that goes.
I was raised in a family of seven kids. I have four brothers and two sisters. Like Jim and John Harbaugh, the spread between the first four of us ranges from 13 to 15 months, and the first four of us were boys. So, my oldest brother is two years older, the next one is 13 months older than I am, and the one after me is 13 months younger than I am. My parents took a little break between the first four and the second three, but not much.
Those of us who grew up in larger families understand that competition is inherent in all that we do. It’s just the way it is, at least in my eyes. I’ve known many friends and others who come from smaller families and the dynamics of their interactions are totally different that what I’m used to seeing.
I saw what I’m used to seeing in terms of relationships yesterday at the end of the Super Bowl. Two brothers, a bit over a year apart in age, with highly-competitive spirits, coming together at the middle of the field, and shaking hands. No hugs, no real show of emotion. John was probably jumping for joy inside, but didn’t want to make his brother feel bad, so he kept it cool. Jim, didn’t want to show his frustration, or disappointment, so he kept his cool.
The Rio Grande Valley is home to 37 different municipalities. Now that’s a large family! And I call us a family, because we are one region and should promote ourselves as one region. We should “collaborate to compete” as some of my fellow Rio South Texas Economic Council members say. However, there are times when I think we should not compete.
This is just my opinion, but I really feel we should not try to recruit businesses away from other Valley cities. It is a zero sum game to do so.
We can assist in many ways without providing incentives. If a company feels that Harlingen would be the best place for them due to land prices, availability of a particular building, or access to fiber optic lines and they are located in another Valley community, then they are free to move. We can help them by pointing out our advantages, but I really don’t think we should provide financial incentives. The state doesn’t provide funds for companies relocating within the state. Hmmm, ever wonder why?
However, I do feel that we should do whatever we can to help existing industry expand and stay here.
In discussing job creation, Dean Barber, an economic development consultant, recently described our practice as being similar to that of setting the table for a meal. He’s right. Economic development organizations and professionals don’t create jobs, we just set the table. We try to put together the things that make a company want to locate in our community.
I’ve been here in this position for five months, and one of the things I heard was that we had a lot of empty buildings in Harlingen. We needed to fill them up. Frankly, I don’t think we have many empty buildings. There are only two empty buildings in the industrial park area, and they are Class B type buildings at best. We have some space near the airport, but it is a total of about 50,000 square feet. There are a few other buildings along the expressway that could be used for industrial purposes, but not many. We have land. However, we don’t have a very good marketing program for the land. I hope to change that soon.
Prospects typically have short timeframes for taking action, and they typically look at existing buildings. The McAllen area has over 2 million square feet of empty industrial space. Brownsville has some large Class A buildings available as well. So, how are we setting our table? It’s missing some utensils, and our brothers are going to be eating more than we are, unless we do something about it. We also need to stop using paper plates. They have their fine china laid out. There is no reason why we can’t develop Class A, investment-grade business parks. It takes a little bit of money, and a lot of will.
Jim’s team was well-coached. John’s was too. It was just a matter of execution. We have all the ingredients that other Valley cities have and in some cases more; we just need to make sure we execute.
Have a great week! I look forward to discussing some of the new projects soon.
News from around the Harlingen area and beyond
Manufacturing Building Available for Lease or Sale
710 N. Commerce Street
+/- 31,000 SF space with offices, air-conditioned warehouse/mftg space, near rail and highways. Call the Harlingen EDC office for more information at 216-5081.