In the Business for Growth

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Calling all businesses looking to expand, relocate, and grow. The Harlingen Economic Development Corporation recently announced a new commercial recruitment program designed to attract both local companies and businesses outside of Harlingen to establish themselves within city limits.

“The reason why we came up with this retail incentive program is basically to try to entice new investment and new job creation in Harlingen,” said Raudel Garza, CEO of the Harlingen EDC. “For a long, long time, our focus has been on the larger retail projects.”

Some of those larger beneficiaries of Harlingen EDC’s past incentive programs include businesses like Bass Pro Shops, Sam’s Club, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Candlewood Suites. Now, though, Garza and the EDC are taking aim at giving smaller companies a leg up in the community.

“A lot of the local mom and pop shops that have been growing in the community haven’t really taken advantage of this program,” he said. “This program is really perfect for them.”

The process for applying to the program is straightforward. The first step is submitting a letter of interest to Harlingen EDC. Then, the company would also share how many jobs would be created with their project, the salaries for those jobs, and an estimate of how much will be generated in sales. Harlingen EDC officials create a presentation based on that information.

“We prepare the package, we submit it to our board,” Garza said. “If the board approves it, then it goes to city commission. And if city commission approves it, then you’ve got a rebate coming back at the end of your first year of operations and maybe even up to five years.”

That rebate represents a percentage of the sales tax that the business generates. The amount of that percentage is reinvested into the business to help offset development costs, Garza explained.

“Any restaurant or retail store or even a developer who is trying to attract restaurants and retail stores would be eligible to do an agreement with us subject to some eligibility rules and subject to some restrictions,” he said. “If they generate jobs, if they generate sales, if they make an investment in our community, if they get involved in the community, then we have a point system that we’re going to score these projects on. The higher the score, the bigger the rebate.”

Companies interested in participating in the retail incentive program would know within a month whether they qualify for the rebate, as well as what level they qualify for, according to their score. And while the program is designed to help businesses locally, Harlingen itself stands to benefit.

“It is also intended to bring about a renewed interest in Harlingen,” Garza said of the program. “There is an increase in sales tax, our population continues to grow, there is a demand for more retail services that would improve our quality of life, and so this is a way of making sure that our community is getting a better quality of life.”

Those kinds of improvements mean a wider variety of choices for shopping and dining out for Harlingen residents — with an additional value for the Rio Grande Valley as a whole.

“Residents from throughout the region can come to Harlingen and shop,” Garza said.

For more information on the retail incentive program, visit the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation’s website at harlingenedc.com, call (956) 216-5081 or stop by the office at 2424 Boxwood Street, Suite 125 in Harlingen.