September 9, 2013
Message from the Chief Executive Officer
Much of what is going on at the Harlingen EDC over the last few weeks has been in the newspapers. It’s that time of the year when budgets are prepared, reviewed and acted upon for cities and their related agencies. In our budget process, we have to look not only towards the upcoming year, but also into the next few years to see what we can and cannot do in terms of projects.
For Harlingen EDC, we have undertaken numerous projects during this fiscal year and look towards the future years to participate in many others. As I’ve stated in previous newsletters, we can’t do all the projects that come before us for various reasons. Some just don’t qualify under the statutes which govern the use of our funds. Others don’t qualify in terms of payback for the money invested. And then there are those projects that we sometimes feel will happen with or without our assistance. Our mission statement talks in general terms of our desire to create an environment where private investment is encouraged and jobs are created. I think that is what most economic development organizations strive to do.
Harlingen EDC is no different. We try to “leverage” what we have for the betterment of our community. Leverage is a multi-faceted word. Look it up in dictionary.com and one will find eight different definitions for the word leverage. The one definition that seems to fit most of what we do is this: “to use (a quality or advantage) to obtain a desired effect or result”.
As some of you may have read or heard by now, the City of Harlingen, along with the Harlingen Community Improvement Board and Harlingen EDC, have come together to leverage our resources to bring about a desired result in downtown Harlingen. I’m referring to the property sale and exchange of a warehouse facility we own, and a downtown multi-level building known as the McKelvey Building. The building has been in disrepair for years and is considered a blighted structure. However, it has value and should not be ignored. Downtowns across America are a reflection of an entire community. Harlingen’s downtown area is no different.
We have a fairly robust downtown with numerous merchants contributing to our local economy. But like many other cities, we also have blight. In the past, Harlingen has come together to envision what it will be like in the future. One of the items that needed to be addressed in previous plans was downtown revitalization. So, we are doing something about it. Many may argue about what the best way to accomplish revitalization may be. But few will argue in favor of doing nothing.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken different prospective companies or investors on tours of our city in the past year. But I can say that they all want to visit downtown. Why? Because it says something about us. It tells of our history, and our future. It shows our priorities or lack thereof. Downtown revitalization is an important part of any economic development program. Some are more challenging than others, but that’s ok, as long as you are doing something about downtown revitalization. Harlingen is.
Downtown revitalization takes more than just one group. The downtown merchants and the downtown improvement district can’t do it alone, nor should they be expected to. The Harlingen EDC can’t do it alone, either. Nor should we be expected to. The City or the HCIB can’t do it alone, nor should they be expected to. Together we can bring about change for the better.
HEDC can be a catalyst for change, but we can’t be expected to be the only ones. We are doing our part, and we, along with others, need to come together and address this issue and others in a thoughtful, cohesive, methodical manner that brings us closer as a community.
In other news making the rounds this week, there has been some discussion about our budget and how we are tightening the reins. Some people are telling us that we shouldn’t cut spending on programs that help students earn degrees or certificates that will help them succeed and earn more later in life. They tell us that investment in human capital is most important in economic development. No one is arguing that we need a skilled workforce to help bring in new companies. Our budgets in the past reflect that HEDC has invested heavily in workforce development initiatives. We helped build the University Center at TSTC which offers degrees beyond a two-year associate’s degree. TSTC has agreements with several different universities throughout Texas that offer bachelor’s, master’s and even doctoral programs for Harlingen residents without the need to leave Harlingen. HEDC has contributed millions to VIDA, Tech Prep (RGV LEAD), and other groups to help educate our workforce. HEDC has participated in garnering funds from the state’s Skills Development Fund (SDF) for numerous companies here in Harlingen.
HEDC will continue to promote programs such as the SDF this upcoming year. HEDC will continue to look for ways to improve our workforce. But because of budgetary constraints, we can’t do it all, all the time. To say that any of the board members or staff at HEDC are uncaring about the students going through some of these programs is false and unfair. The burden of education doesn’t fall on the public sector entities like HEDC. We were designed to market communities and to entice the private sector to expand, relocate, or create new entities which will create new investment and new jobs. That is what we are doing and will continue to do. Harlingen and HEDC both have been major contributors to higher education and workforce development initiatives in Harlingen. Compare us to other communities and we are one of the most prolific contributors to these types of initiatives.
However, the time for hard choices has come. I’ve been talking about it for over a year. We’ve made those choices and like everyone else we must leverage what we have for the betterment of our community. In the years to come, we will again be in a position to evaluate some of those programs and decide if they are really the programs that best suit the needs of the organization and the community at large.
HEDC can claim numerous success stories in leveraging public funds for the betterment of the community. The attraction of companies such as United Healthcare, Dish Network, Cardone Industries, Aloe Laboratories, and others shows that funds can be leveraged to bring about new jobs and investment. Looking back at these success stories, one can see a common thread in most of them. We had available buildings for those companies to move into. We are at a point where that is difficult to say now. Our inventory of available buildings is small. That shows growth. So, we must look at ways to either entice the private sector to step up and build new buildings, or do it ourselves. Otherwise, we won’t be able to compete against other communities that do have available facilities. That takes money. That takes leverage. And that is why we made those tough decisions.
Have a great weekend, and continue to work together.
News from around the Harlingen area and beyond
Manufacturing Building Available for Lease
1805 North Loop 499, Suite 110
Harlingen, TX 78550
72,000 Total SF available
24′ minimum clear height
and much more. Call the Harlingen EDC office for more information at 216-5081.