SAN BENITO — For the first time in nearly three years, the city has a new economic development director.
Since early 2016, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa had taken on the job’s duties while a so-called coordinator worked to oversee the department.
However, the EDC’s board of directors apparently wanted more control over the agency charged with drawing new business to town.
After several months of searching, the city has hired Rebeca Castillo at a salary of $70,000 to serve as executive director of its Economic Development Corporation.
Castillo, who previously served as executive director of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, said she has “extensive experience” in economic development.
“I’m very excited,” Castillo, a San Benito resident, said yesterday. “I want to do more for my community. There’s a lot to do. I want to hit the ground running.”
Castillo becomes the city’s first EDC director since Salomon Torres, who was fired in March 2016 after serving about four years on the job.
After De La Rosa fired Torres, he took over the EDC director’s duties.
Soon after, De La Rosa apparently eliminated the job, replacing it with the coordinator’s position, in part to cut costs.
Late last year, EDC coordinator Rachel Siller, who was making about $32,000, resigned.
Earlier this month, city commissioners appointed Castillo after the EDC’s board recommended her for the job.
“It’s important that we work together and I believe Mrs. Castillo will accomplish the goals we have for the EDC by collaboratively working with the city,” EDC board President Julian Rios stated in a press release.
As EDC director, Castillo, who will oversee a $1.2 million budget, said she will work to draw new business to town as well as fund so-called quality of life projects for the community.
“It’s a challenge,” she said. “We have amenities — things that attract visitors to decide San Benito is the place to go.”
Some of her plans
Castillo said she will work to attract new business, help existing businesses expand and push to keep them here.
“It’s very important that aside from bringing in new business it’s important to establish good relationships with business to retain what we have,” she said.
Castillo said she will draft a three- to five-year strategic plan to help guide the agency to meet its goals.
“It’s important to start marketing San Benito,” she said. “We have a competitive market.”
In a press release, Castillo stated she is “committed to make San Benito a thriving city that will maximize economic development opportunities, develop and foment a culture of strategic planning, identify priorities and be business-oriented.”
“I want to make sure that there is continuous collaboration with the city of San Benito’s leadership and other interested partners,” she stated. “I am a believer that great things happen when we work together and collaboratively work in the best interest of our community.”
Castillo’s experience is key to driving the city’s push for economic development.
Before serving four years as executive director of Brownsville’s Community Improvement Corporation, an economic development arm, Castillo had previously served as director of the Harlingen and San Benito Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Castillo’s experience also includes work as Brownsville’s Metro transportation system’s Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator and as the Cameron County Health Department’s human resources specialist.
She holds a bachelor of arts degree in government from the University of Texas at Brownsville and is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.