Story originally published in RGVision Magazine
When it comes to the question of why Harlingen, some of the best sources for the answer are the people and businesses who have relocated there.
Just ask Michelle Lopez.
“We chose Harlingen to stay permanently once our work days are over because the cost of living here is very desirable,” she said. “People here have been fantastic — very friendly, very approachable, and easy to form relationships with. The overall culture in the community has really hit home for us.”
Lopez, the area director of sales for Courtyard by Marriott Harlingen, said that her hotel has directly benefited by its location in the city.
“The increasing demand of business professionals and visitors keeps our business growing,” she said. “We have a fantastic pool of talent to choose from. We see a variety of skills that come through with each candidate — and dedication and willingness to provide to our community.”
For Raudel Garza, manager and CEO of Harlingen EDC, Harlingen has numerous advantages for businesses that set up shop in city limits.
“Harlingen is located in the center of the Rio Grande Valley,” he said, explaining that businesses can easily access the rest of the region, state, country, and world via Interstates 2 and 69, rail, the Port of Harlingen, Valley International Airport, and the Free Trade International Bridge at Los Indios.
Elizabeth Gonzalez of Texas Plating and Polishing Solutions said that her business is in the process of opening a chrome polish and nickel shop in Harlingen — and that the city’s location was key in the decision to move there.
“We’re 15 minutes from the border and that gives us fast, easy access to go into Mexico, where 90 percent of our job will come from,” she said. Gonzalez also lives in Harlingen. “Harlingen is a nice, tranquil place with honest, hardworking people. We just wanted to contribute to the community by creating employment opportunities.”
In the process of creating those jobs, Gonzalez’s business has also benefited.
“We have 10 employees,” she said. “They’ve been with us for many, many years. They’re hardworking people, honest, coming in every morning willing to work, willing to learn whatever we have new that we want to share with them or any new process that we want to implement.”
The cost of doing business in Harlingen is one of the most attractive things to companies, Harlingen EDC’s Garza said.
“The thing about South Texas and Harlingen specifically is that we have a lower cost of living than most of the country,” he said. “We are at about 20 percent lower than the average in the United States, and if you really look at the cost of buying groceries, the cost of renting or buying a home, the cost of just turning on the electricity, and the cost of operating a business, you find that Harlingen and South Texas are very competitive.”
Business owners have the chance to cash in on savings when it comes to their operating costs.
“We have a great labor force that is still very affordable at this time for employers because of the affordability of everything else,” Garza said.
Harlingen also has many educational and training resources to help develop that workforce.
“Harlingen has access to one of the best technical colleges in the state. Texas State Technical College has a campus here in Harlingen,” Garza said, adding that Wayland Baptist University and Texas A&M University – Kingsville have campuses there. “We’re also home to the school of medicine for the UT Rio Grande Valley and obviously that opens up a lot of opportunities for healthcare education and a better healthcare environment for the community.”
TSTC also has access to the Texas Workforce Commission’s Skills Development Fund, a special job-training program.
“They have access to those funds and will allow companies and help companies go through the process of applying for those funds — and then actually going through the training and implementing training programs for those companies,” Garza said.
Location, training opportunities, and quality of life — all are answers to the question of why Harlingen.
“There’s always something to do in Harlingen,” Garza said. “It’s something that really makes it well worthwhile for people to spend the weekends out there and be outdoors and enjoy Harlingen.”