April 22, 2013

Message from the Chief Executive Officer

Boys are interesting to watch at play, especially when they are in the three to five year old stage. When there is only one boy playing, he can go about his business like no other. My three-year old son, Christian, could play with his Thomas and friends trains for hours at a time if we let him. My four-year old son, Joseph, could play on an iPad or Kindle Fire all day long as well. That is, if they are by themselves. Put them in the same room and you may have some cooperation for a while, but eventually one of them wants what the other has.

In a larger group, as we have in Joseph’s T-ball team, all the boys usually seem to be interested in practicing and listening to their coaches through about the first twenty to thirty minutes of practice (oh yes, we have hour-long practices for these future major league players!). After the thirty minute mark, many of the boys start playing other games while on the field. Some of them begin conversing with the player next to them, while others take more interest in the ant trail or tuft of Johnson grass out in right field. Either way, it becomes a task for the coaches to keep them focused.

As they grow older, boys tend to develop longer attention spans and thus can go through practices with relative ease. Age matters. Size matters in terms of the bigger they get, the faster they can run, harder they can throw, etc.

In economic development, the size of a community matters in terms of how much attention that community gets from site selectors or corporate real estate executives. I may be generalizing, but the larger the community, the more attention that community garners from those seeking to expand, relocate or start a business.

One may think that we know this intuitively, but it has been measured. Atlas Advertising is an economic development consulting company that has been in the business of helping communities in their efforts to gain visibility from site selectors and corporate real estate executives. They have had years of experience in the field and have gathered much information from economic development organizations. In their booklet entitled High Performance Economic Development released last year authored by their CEO, Ben Wright, Atlas says, “Predictably, the data shows that organizations that represent smaller communities generate fewer conversations, announce fewer jobs, and announce less capital investment compared to larger communities”.

Broken down by population brackets, Harlingen would fall in the 25,001 to 100,000 population category. In that category, Atlas says that the average yearly web visits are 9,075. Conversations in the past 12 months are 68 (or about 5.67 per month). Jobs created in the past 12 months are 469. Finally, capital investment in the last 12 months is at just above $59.6 million.

So, how does Harlingen compare to these stats? The answer is quite well. Since I don’t have all the data in front of me as I write this, I’ll share my views and qualify them by saying that the numbers are rounded off and estimated based on my memory and experience.

With well over 2000 visits per month, our website is visited more often than the average website for communities in our population size.

“Conversations” as I understand them to be are significant inquiries into the potential for a company to locate in our community. I can tell you with no hesitation that we have had more than one or two “conversations” with site selectors, corporate real estate executives and others about relocations, expansions, or start-ups per week since I started in September 2012.

Regarding job creation, we have had announcements in the last few months that have topped the 469 average. Burlington Coat Factory will employ over 100 people. Sam’s Club will have near 300 employees. United Healthcare Services will be hiring an additional 170 people this year. La Paloma Power Plant will create 30 permanent positions and hundreds of temporary construction jobs. ACT and Dish continue to hire and seek to fill hundreds of positions this year. Pentair, Cardone Industries, ITD, TRP, and other manufacturers here in Harlingen continue to hire locally. Grocers’ Supply Company will be hiring new employees for their new facility. A few other logistics companies are looking to hire locally this year. In all, I can say that the HEDC has played a role in attracting these companies and having them continue to add to our employee count in excess of the average of 469.

Looking at the capital investment announced recently, we don’t have to go far to know that the average of $59.6 million will be exceeded by these companies. The power plant alone represents a capital investment of over $500 million.

I’ll work with our staff on getting exact job counts and capital investment to our Board soon. But as I mentioned earlier, I think Harlingen has done well compared to national averages mentioned by Ben Wright.

I think we can play harder, throw further, and run faster; given the opportunity.

We have had a flurry of activity in the last few weeks. We are working with several good-sized manufacturing companies; trying our best to get them to select us as the place for their new facilities. We are working on plans for new buildings, new business parks, and more.

Investors in many different sectors have visited or conversed with us about their plans.

Many tough decisions and exciting proposals are coming our way. I’m glad we have a Board of Directors that is ready, willing, and able to look at these projects and look forward to making some of them reality for our community.

Have a great week and keep pushing each other to be better than the rest.

News from around the Harlingen area and beyond


Manufacturing Building Available for Lease 

ProLogis bldg

Valley Industrial Park Building 1

1805 North Loop 499, Suite 110

Harlingen, TX 78550

72,000 Total SF available

24′ minimum clear height

and much more.  Call the Harlingen EDC office for more information at 216-5081.