Harlingen EDC looks to shuffle alliances

HARLINGEN — The director of Harlingen’s Economic Development Corp. is recommending changes in membership commitments to concentrate more on controlling his agency’s marketing.

Raudel Garza, chief executive officer, told the economic development agency’s board at a budget workshop earlier this week he recommends changes in membership which would eliminate the Rio South Texas Economic Council and its $17,500 annual dues.

“Membership comes and goes, and people drop out for whatever reason, sometimes budgetary or sometimes they don’t agree with the direction,” Garza said yesterday. “For us, I think we just need to maximize our advertising dollars as much as we can.

“I think we can get a bigger bang for our buck,” he added.

The HEDC has membership in more than a dozen economic development-related organizations, some of which require annual dues and some of which do not.

Garza told the board, which will have the final decision on memberships when it approves a budget this month, he and his staff would like to replace RSTEC with the Free Trade Alliance and Team Texas.

“The Free Trade Alliance just puts us in a different type of environment in terms of investors,” Garza said, “including a lot of Mexican investors who are already residing in San Antonio.

“They invest in the automotive sector, which is a good target and has been a good target for us, it’s just a different avenue,” Garza said.

Team Texas is a state economic development agency which organizes mission trips both nationally and internationally. Garza said the trips usually are limited to about 20 people, which is an advantage when pitching a city like Harlingen to potential investors.

Weslaco-based RSTEC is a regional player when it comes to economic development, with a focus on attracting major industrial or corporate projects to sites in the Rio Grande Valley.

RSTEC’s executive director, Matt Ruszczak, said the proposal to drop his organization by the Harlingen EDC comes as a surprise since other cities are joining his organization as members.

“Membership is voluntary and it’s up to individual members to continue with their memberships,” Ruszczak said yesterday. “At this point, all we’ve gotten is a note from the Harlingen EDC to our chairman of the board saying that they do not want to continue.”

Ruszczak said Weslaco, San Juan, Palm View, Pharr, South Texas College and the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council have all signed on with RSTEC as members over the past year.

“We’ll continue to engage with Harlingen EDC,” Ruszczak added. “We are open to all organizations in the region, member or non-member.”

For his part, Garza said the addition of Kayla Thomas as commercial development and marketing manager, and Terry Trevino as a consultant helping with industrial recruitment, has given Harlingen EDC the ability and expertise to do more of its own marketing.

Garza said the Rio South Texas Economic Council has been useful to Harlingen EDC in the past, but he feels his agency needs a new and more modern marketing effort with more local control.

“If we start duplicating what they are doing, or they start duplicating what we’re doing, in terms of marketing we need to do our own thing,” Garza said.

“We’re more effective marketing ourselves,” he said.

Current HEDC memberships

* Rio South Texas Economic Council

* International Council of Shopping Centers

* International Economic Development Council

* Texas Economic Development Council

* CoreNET

* Industrial Asset Management Council

* International Business

* Innovation Association

* Harlingen Chamber of Commerce

* RGV Partnership

* LRGV Hispanic Chamber

* Harlingen Board of Realtors

* Council for Community and Economic Research


* Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute