HARLINGEN, RGV – City of Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell will present his State of the City Address on Friday, Jan. 29, at the Casa de Amistad in Harlingen.

The annual address is hosted by the Rotary Club of Harlingen. The event will be held from noon to 1 p.m. at the Rotary Club’s regular, weekly meeting.

Boswell is expected to report on the city’s accomplishments and progress over the last five years and also share his vision for 2016.

“It is a great privilege to annually report on the City’s great progress to our citizens,” Boswell said. “I’m really looking forward to reporting on what so many people have done to contribute to our growth.”

Asked what Boswell might say in his State of the City Address, Raudel Garza, executive director of Harlingen Economic Development Corporation, told the Rio Grande Guardian: “He is going to be looking back at the last five years and how we have increased jobs by about 3,500, new jobs and jobs retained. He is going to talk about some of the successes of last year, specifically the retention projects that we did, the most significant being United Launch Alliance. He will also be looking at some of the things that will be coming to Harlingen in the future, projects that are going to be really exciting for everybody, on the retail side and the industrial side.”

Boswell appeared on News Talk 710 KURV recently. He said 2015 was a good year for his city. “Signing United Launch Alliance to another five year lease out at Valley International Airport, retaining those 175 jobs, to get them to agree to an expansion of jobs, and to keep building aerospace components, that was big news for us,” Boswell said.

Boswell also gave a shout out to Qualfon, a leading global business process outsourcing and call center service provider from Monterrey, Mexico. “This is worldwide company with 12,000 employees, 350 in Harlingen. They continue to expand. We will probably see another 300 jobs later on this year. They are really one of the most successful customer support service companies in the industry. They have the highest retention rate of any customer support company in the business. They really take care of their employees. It is kind of a unique model and we are proud to have them,” Boswell told KURV.

Boswell also discussed the upcoming arrival of Memphis, Tennessee-based Strategic Behavioral Health, LLC, which is building Palms Behavioral Health, an acute behavioral health hospital that is under construction on the corner of Hale Avenue and Victoria Lane in Harlingen. “Initially, they were going to build a 73-bed hospital. They have expanded that to a 95-bed hospital and they should be opening sometime in October. That is going to be a high-wage employee project with about 225 jobs. It is in the heart of our medical district, between Valley Baptist Hospital and Harlingen Medical Center on Victoria Lane.”

Boswell was asked if there are plans for more projects at Harlingen Heights, which houses Bass Pro Shops and Sam’s Club. He said one new restaurant, Hooters, has requested a permit and a couple of others are in the pipeline. “We certainly expect more retail to develop this year.”

Boswell noted that the City of Harlingen has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with BC Lynd for a new hotel and convention center, which is slated to be built on land northwest of Sam’s. “BC Lynd is a great company that just acquired the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio with plans for a $30 million renovation. Our hotel and convention center will have 150 rooms and a 43,000 square foot convention center,” Boswell said.

Asked what sort of events the conference center would host, Boswell said: “We have done several feasibility studies and what we found is there is a real demand for meeting space and for conference facilities and facilities for weddings and quinceañeras and those kinds of things that we just don’t have in the city of Harlingen. Our hospitals do not have meeting space large enough to do training in the city and this would give them that space. You would be surprised how many companies need something like this.”

Asked if Valley Vista Mall might be refurbished, Boswell said that $5 million was invested in the mall about six years ago to renovate the flooring, provide more skylights and replace furniture in the food court. “Valley Vista Mall is a great asset. It is a wonderful property. It does better than a lot of people think. It will continue to do well,” Boswell said.

Boswell concluded his interview by teasing a few projects that are in the works: “We are working on some things that would be complementary to Bass Pro Shops, some unique entertainment things that do not exist in South Texas.”

Boswell’s State of the City Address is open to the public. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. Lunch tickets will be sold at the door on a first-come, first-served basis for $12 each. Lunch will be served to the first 75 people to purchase tickets.

Seating will be available for those who attend and choose not to dine. There is no admission fee, and there are no pre-sale tickets.
The Casa de Amistad is located at 1204 Fair Park Blvd. adjacent to the Harlingen Municipal Auditorium. For more information, call (956) 238-0089.