HEDC board approves $6.01 million budget

HARLINGEN — The Harlingen Economic Development Corp. board yesterday approved a $6.01 million budget for next year that includes a $761,561 shortfall which will be made up with cash from the agency’s fund balance.

The total budget for fiscal year 2017-18 is up about $600,000 from the year before.

“It’s a tight budget,” board member Lupita Gutierrez Garza said.

“This is a tight budget again,” responded Raudel Garza, manager and chief executive officer of the HEDC. “We’re trying to save money so that we can make sure that we have funds in the fund balance for the rainy day and we have a call date in the future for the bonds, and refinanced bonds and ease cash flows like we’ve always discussed.”

Revenue projections for next year will zero out the anticipated $536,487 in revenue from the cold storage facility at the Free Trade International Bridge at Los Indios. That anticipated revenue was included in this year’s budget but never materialized.

The delayed facility is expected to finally open in November, although no revenue from the cold storage site is listed in the FY 17-18 budget.

Next year’s budget increases marketing expenses for the HEDC by $90,000 to $441,400.

“At the same time we’re actually budgeting a lot more money in the marketing department,” Raudel Garza said. “That’s reflective of us wanting to make sure we get out there.”

After the meeting, he said some of those funds will go to billboards, and some to digital marketing such as doing podcasts about opportunities in the Harlingen area for manufacturers and other employers.

Also in that funding pool will be travel and attendance at conferences and meetings of site selectors who play important roles in where companies eventually locate.

“Most people outside the Rio Grande Valley do not understand the benefits of being in the Rio Grand Valley, Garza said of the HEDC’s marketing push for next year.

“They don’t understand that we have a strong, young labor force, they don’t understand that we have accessibility to markets not just here in Texas but throughout Latin American and even up to Canada,” he said.