Harlingen EDC launching 10-year master plan

A sign announcing the city limit of Harlingen is pictured Sept. 5, 2021, on the South 77 Sunshine Strip. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

HARLINGEN — The city’s Economic Development Corporation is launching a 10-year strategic plan aimed at creating more medical and industrial jobs while helping draw new businesses to town.

The master plan is focusing on building up the city’s medical complex, retail and industrial base while training its workforce and helping to bolster economic drivers such as Valley International Airport and the Port of Harlingen.

Last week, city commissioners approved the plan.

The plan’s mission statement calls on the EDC “to improve the quality of life of the citizens of Harlingen through the creation of wealth, jobs and investment.”

“In this plan, our focus is on how we can help influence the creation of wealth specifically in the industrial and commercial sectors in Harlingen,” the plan states, adding, “our programs need

to accessible to as many businesses as possible within the confines of our statutes and our resources.”

Last month, Raudel Garza, the EDC’s executive director, resigned after 1o years to take a job with Edinburg’s EDC.

Now, the agency’s board of directors is hiring a firm to launch a nationwide search for the EDC’s next director, chairman Eric Ziehe said Thursday.

Building workforce

The EDC’s master plan outlines six goals, including development of a trained workforce.

While focusing on “high-demand” jobs, the plan’s first goal calls on the EDC and the Harlingen Community Improvement Board to earmark at least $100,000 a year to help build up the workforce.

Meanwhile, it proposes working with the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, Texas State Technical College and the airport to build a site aimed at aeronautics training while working with TSTC to expand its programs.

Expanding industrial base

As part of the second goal, the EDC plans to work to draw more businesses while expanding its industrial base along with trade with Mexico.

The plans calls for the development of a public improvement district at the city’s industrial park, upgrading the Port of Harlingen’s rail system and planning a “manufacturing incubator” while considering boosting incentive programs.

Upgrading transportation routes

The plan’s third goal focuses on working to develop the area’s transportation system, including upgrading FM 509 from the Free Trade Bridge at Los Indios, tying into Interstate 69 East.

The goal also aims at boosting capacity at the airport and the Port of Harlingen, working to develop a “more efficient rail service in Harlingen” and promoting the Free Trade Bridge.

Boosting business district

To meet its fourth goal, the EDC plans to work to boost the city’s retail base, focusing on expansion of the Cameron Crossing business district.

As part of the plan, the agency is proposing offering small business training while considering incentive programs and development of a revolving loan program.

Meanwhile, the plan is calling on the EDC to work to help businesses near Bass Pro Shops while preparing that area for more development.

Developing medical complex

The plan’s fifth goal calls for expansion of the city’s medical complex, including the medical school.

As part of the plan, the EDC is proposing the development of 30 acres along Hale and Victoria streets.

Offering training

Under the plan’s sixth goal, the EDC is calling for training programs aimed at helping small businesses.

To meet the goal, the agency is proposing offering grants while developing an incubator program and a fab lab, or a digital fabrication laboratory.