Harlingen’s economic corp. sets goals for fiscal year

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HARLINGEN — The city’s outlining a set of goals aimed at drawing U.S.-based and international business while developing a skilled workforce.

Orlando Campos, the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation’s new chief executive officer, is setting six goals for the fiscal year, including creating an industrial base while helping residents start businesses.

Meanwhile, city commissioners are requesting he set target deadlines aimed at reaching his goals.

“The focus of the corporation will be to recruit, retain and attract quality companies that create primary jobs,” the EDC’s program states.

“A secondary focus of the corporation will be the promotion of existing and proposed transportation infrastructure that benefits Harlingen,” it states.

As part of the agency’s new strategic plan, officials are targeting manufacturing, logistics and distribution, health and biotechnology along with aerospace, industries that “typically pay higher wages,” the report states.

In his first report setting the city’s economic development goals, Campos is proposing what he described as “an aggressive business attraction and retention strategy” aimed at drawing U.S.-based industry and Mexican investment.

Now, the EDC is conducting a study to help “target” industries identified as offering the right fit for the city and the area’s workforce, the report notes.

“Harlingen has targeted industries that make sense for the community to attract, grow and expand to drive sustainable growth,” the report states.

Under its program, the EDC is planning to work with Mexican government officials, foreign trade groups and chambers of commerce to “explore opportunities to increase Mexican investment,” it states.

Harlingen City Hall is seen in this undated photo. Earlier this week, city commissioners entered into an agreement with United Health Care after the national insurance giant boosted its rates 4.9 percent. (Valley Morning Star Photo)

Within the city, the agency is planning to work with developers to expand retail and commercial business, the report states.

“The corporation will provide support to small businesses and start-ups to help fill a void and to connect them to local resources to retain jobs, to create new jobs and to bring new investment to the community,” the report states.

To better develop the city’s business districts, the EDC is launching a program offering matching grants of as much as $10,000 to help merchants repair their storefronts, the report notes.

As part of the EDC’s second goal, officials are planning to work with Cameron County’s Workforce Solutions along with Texas State Technical College and universities to develop a training program to “enhance the local workforce to build a talent pipeline,” the report states.

The EDC’s third goal calls for the development of an “entrepreneurship-innovation hub” aimed at helping residents start their own businesses.

Under the EDC’s fourth goal, the agency’s proposing the development of an industrial base made up of the Port of Harlingen and Valley International Airport while working with Cameron County to promote the Free Trade Bridge at Los Indios to boost international cargo traffic, the report states.

Meanwhile, the EDC is planning to help promote the development of a second bridge into South Padre Island, it states.

The EDC’s fifth goal calls for the development of a marketing campaign aimed at “elevating Harlingen locally, nationally and internationally,” the report states.

As part of the program, the agency is planning to hire an advertising agency to market the city, it states.

Under its sixth goal, the EDC is working to turn the agency into “a model for economic development,” aiming to further train its staff, the report states.

The Harlingen city commission is seen July 19, 2023, during a regular meeting at City Hall. Many of the city’s employees are up for raises based on a new general fund budget while commissioners are pushing drainage upgrades and street repairs. (Courtesy: City of Harlingen)

In a City Hall meeting, commissioners requested Campos set target deadlines aimed at meeting his goals.

During a presentation in which Campos outlined his goals, Commissioner Daniel Lopez requested he set “a target to reach” his objectives.

“I want to be able to have matrix for us to be able to judge performance and I would like you guys to consider going back to put deadlines and numbers to each (goal),” Lopez told Campos during the Nov. 1 meeting.

“I think, in a lot of those, deadlines can be put on that to make sure we keep moving,” Lopez said.

Amid discussion, Mayor Norma Sepulveda suggested Campos set his targets across a timetable.

“We have a commission that’s very hungry and ready for change and growth in the city of Harlingen in terms of what’s happening in one year, two years, three years,” she told Campos.

“Clearly, before the plan is adopted, we definitely want to see” target deadlines, she said. “I know we’re headed in the right direction. You have a really good road map here.”