I haven’t written one of these “blogs” in a while, but if you recall some of my previous blog posts, you’ll remember that I usually start with a little anecdote about one of my kids and relate that back to economic development.
Some of you may have already heard that I am leaving my position with Harlingen Economic Development Corporation to take on a new role as executive director for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, so this will be my last “blog” with Harlingen as well.
My wife and I are blessed with amazing kids who have as they like to say “big brains”. One of those big brains, Christian, decided to take on a huge challenge as a 7th grader this year. He is taking an accelerated math course that combines 8th and 9th grade math in one year. This kid is a straight A student who has been blessed for sure, but he has met his challenge this year in that course. The string of A’s throughout his young student career is in jeopardy as the end of the semester draws near. We have talked with him about potentially scaling back and taking on “just” 8th grade math at a slower pace. His answer is no. He is determined, and will stay in the class and will strive to get that A. We are praying he does. You have to love that grit and determination, even though he doesn’t have to do it.
I don’t have to go anywhere. I too have been blessed to be a part of a growing community in Harlingen over the past ten years. I have worked on some really great projects, including the attraction of investment from the UT system in the School of Medicine at UTRGV, the Neuroscience Institute, and the Collegiate High School. I played a role in the attraction of Palm Behavioral Health creating high-paying jobs in the medical industry, and in the expansion of Valley Baptist Health System and Harlingen Medical Center. I’ve helped attract, retain or expand companies such as Qualfon, TaskUs, Prime Healthcare Group, United Healthcare, Spectrum, and ACCT.
On the industrial side, I’ve worked with Cardone Industries, Texas Plating and Polishing, ITD, Adtech, Penn Aluminum, Emerson, Polysachi Polymers, and many others. On the retail side, I was part of the efforts to finalize the construction of the Bass Pro Shop, attraction of Sam’s Club, Burlington Coat, TJ Maxx, James Avery, and numerous other retail and restaurants. Our Board, staff and I have been working with several landowners on a mixed-use development in our “medical district” that will include a hotel, medical office building(s), retail, and possibly multi-family developments as well.
HEDC continues to work with developers for large warehouse facilities in the Harlingen Industrial Park and in The Park at Roosevelt, with announcements just around the corner. HEDC is in better financial shape now than it has been in over 10 years with enough reserves to take on all the planned projects and still have extra for the “big deal” should it emerge in the next few years.
During the onset of the pandemic, I was asked by then Mayor Chris Boswell to do something bold to help our small businesses. And we created the Harlingen Emergency Loan Program (HELP) for Small Businesses. It was rolled out before any federal funds were even available to communities to get out there fast enough to help sustain businesses that were hurting. Forty-nine small businesses were assisted and that helped maintain over 400 existing jobs. New Mayor Norma Sepulveda has also asked that HEDC take on a bigger role in the development of small businesses, and we set aside funds for a new assistance program that should be rolled out around the end of this year.
So, I don’t have to go anywhere. This was and has been a labor of love for me. For those who don’t know, for me economic development isn’t about being in the limelight. It’s about being in the background working to bring and keep better opportunities for the citizens of our community. I know that HEDC staff, the Board of Directors and City Commission and City staff will continue to work these projects and initiatives to better serve the community. And like my son Christian, I can choose to stay in a comfortable spot, or take on another challenge.
I am choosing to take on a challenge that will not only allow me to put my experience and knowledge to use but will also allow me to spend more time with my family closer to home. I thank everyone who has helped me the past ten years by making this position something that will always be special for me. And I look forward to the opportunities in Edinburg. This was a difficult decision to say the least, but one that I feel providence has guided me towards and thus I say so long to all my friends in Harlingen, but not goodbye as we are all in one region working together to improve the lives of those around us.
Editor’s Note: The above column was penned by Raudel Garza, the incoming executive director of Edinburg Economic Development Corporation. He wrote it as his final “blog” for Harlingen Economic Development Corporation, where he served as president. The column first appeared on Garza’s Linked In page.
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