HARLINGEN, RGV – Harlingen Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Raudel Garza says he cannot remember when there was so much interest from private investors wanting to come into Harlingen.
“Quite frankly, I haven’t seen the kind of activity that we have been seeing lately in a long, long time – in terms of investment. Unfortunately, I can’t give you any names because that might tip off some of the prospects we are working on. But, I have never seen numbers as high as this in terms of investment,” Garza told Mario Muñoz, of RGV Public Radio 88 FM.
“We are talking about millions, tens of millions of dollars of investments, hundreds of jobs, for several different companies.”
Garza gave his interview to Muñoz while attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Palms Behavioral Health hospital on Victoria Lane in Harlingen. The 59,000 square foot facility has 94 beds. The hospital investment is $15 million plus, with 200 jobs being created.
Garza said Palm Behavioral is an example of a project that takes two or three years to mature.
“These are the projects that take a long time. Some of the projects we have been working on lately, where we are getting closer to fruition, are probably still a year away. But, we have been working on them for the past couple of years.”
Garza said things are going so well on the retail side that his group does not have to pay too much attention to it.
“There’s a lot of good things that are happening. On the retail side, Bass Pro Shop has had a really good effect. The news of a convention center coming in has had a very good effect on retail development. That is kind of on auto-pilot. We don’t really do a whole lot there,” Garza said.
“On industrial, on healthcare, we are working real hard to try to bring in the jobs that are necessary to have a better quality of life for our people here.”
Los Indios Free Trade Bridge
In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Garza focused on developing the Los Indios Free Trade Bridge.
Next year, he said, there will be a $500,000 cold storage facility built at the international bridge. Cameron County, the City of Harlingen and the City of San Benito are partnering up to establish the facility. It will allow shippers to temporarily store fresh produce before their final stop at a market.
“We understand that the produce industry has blossomed in the Rio Grande Valley. There’s a lot of opportunities for continued growth in that industry,” Garza said.
“[There’s] a lot of stress being put on one crossing in particular, further west and an underutilized bridge over here on the east side. So, with bringing in that cold storage facility, that will give shippers a comfort level that they need to bring their product in through the Los Indios Bridge and then further north into the markets that they’re seeking to get to.”
Garza said the 3,000-square-foot facility will ensure that the produce is secure and has the shelf life shippers are looking for.
“We’re happy that we can build something that will be used,” Garza said. “We have traffic going through there already from a lot of the Matamoros maquilas. Some of our Harlingen manufacturers are using that bridge [and] some of the manufacturers located in Los Indios itself are using that bridge. We hope to continue and grow that pattern.”
Celeste Sanchez, the mayor of San Benito, said the city counts on the revenues from the bridge to add to its general funds.
“We were looking forward to an increase in traffic flow–Mexico into the United States–with the trailers bringing produce,” Sanchez said. “It’s going to benefit [Cameron] County, Harlingen and San Benito. It’s a win-win for all of us. It’ll benefit the truckers because it’s a shorter difference for them to drive to get across. It’s less congestion and less traffic.”
Editor’s Note: RGV Public Radio 88 FM reporter Mario Muñoz and Rio Grande Guardian reporter Steve Taylor contributed to this story.
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