Harlingen ‘getting down to business’ to remove permitting hurdles

dfwnewsa | February 14, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

Harlingen ‘getting down to business’ to remove permitting hurdles

HARLINGEN — At City Hall, officials are trying to shake off a reputation that’s dogged Harlingen for years.

For decades, some developers and business owners called Harlingen a hard town in which to do business, complaining of more permitting hurdles and tougher regulations than those at other cities.

“It shouldn’t be difficult,” Mayor Norma Sepulveda said Wednesday. “We don’t want anyone going to a neighboring community — they should be able to open (a business) in our town.”

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Now, the city’s Economic Development Corporation is launching a program it’s calling Let’s Get Down to Business, aimed at helping residents start their own businesses while offering small business owners help in expanding their operations.

“We want to make Harlingen a friendly place to do business,” Orlando Campos, the EDC’s chief executive officer, said.

Leading up to next month’s event, businessman Christian Zanca is planning to open his popular Moon Rock Food Truck Park to city officials and small business owners, aiming to spark a networking stream.

On March 23, the EDC’s Let’s Get Down to Business program will feature city officials from departments including planning and zoning, building and health inspections and WaterWorks, offering residents help in starting their own businesses while helping business owners planning to expand.

As part of the event running from 9 a.m. to noon at the Moon Rock, PeopleFund will be offering information regarding its loan program.

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“We’re bringing in department heads in permitting and engineering, basically anyone who touches development, so anyone attending can develop relationships if they want to open or expand their business,” Campos said.

Since taking office in 2022, Sepulevda’s been working to make it easier to do business in town, launching the city’s new Small Business Advisory Committee “composed of local small businesses owners who serve as our conduit to the grassroots business community, ensuring we stay attuned to their needs and challenges.”

“Throughout my campaign, the voices of small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs resonated with me, highlighting the hurdles faced in navigating City Hall processes and the obstacles in securing necessary capital,” she said in a statement. “These conversations laid the foundation for my administration’s focus on small businesses, recognizing their pivotal role in our community’s economic vitality and social fabric.”

Harlingen Mayor Norma Sepulveda speaks during a RGV Economic Summit at Bert Ogden Arena on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

Last year, the EDC launched its Revitalize Harlingen program, offering business owners grants to help them spruce up their storefronts.

“Building on the success of last year’s Revitalize Harlingen initiative, we are expanding our support this year to include additional areas, reaffirming our commitment to small businesses,” Sepulveda said. “Last year, we took a monumental step by establishing a $2 million revolving fund with PeopleFund, designed explicitly to empower Harlingen residents with dreams of launching their own businesses. This fund is a cornerstone of our strategy to fuel economic growth and innovation within our community.”

Sepulveda described the Let’s Get Down to Business program as “a testament to our unwavering commitment to fostering a thriving small business ecosystem.”

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“Our small businesses are really what you can depend on to be the heartbeat of the community,” she said. “When you shop small businesses, you keep the money in the community.”

“The ‘Get Down to Business’ event, hosted in collaboration with the Economic Development Corporation at the Moon Rock Food Truck Park, is a significant stride towards simplifying the bureaucratic process for our small business owners,” Sepulveda said. “This gathering will provide an unprecedented opportunity for direct engagement with key city departments — planning, fire and water, among others — facilitating a smoother journey through permit and regulatory requirements.”

“This initiative is a tangible expression of our promise to cultivate an environment where small businesses can flourish, unencumbered by red tape and equipped with the tools they need to succeed,” she said. “We are committed to being partners in progress for our local entrepreneurs, recognizing that their success is intrinsically linked to the prosperity of Harlingen.”

During the event, PeopleFund representatives will offer information on the program’s loans.

“Understanding the critical importance of financial support to the success of small businesses, we are pleased to announce that PeopleFund representatives will be an integral part of our ‘Get Down to Business’ event,” Sepulveda said. “They will be available to provide invaluable information, answer questions and guide potential business owners through the process of securing loans that can transform their entrepreneurial dreams into reality.”

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When Sepulveda launched the Small Business Advisory Committee, Zanca wanted to team up.

In 2021, Zanca opened the Moon Rock, turning the food truck park billed as the biggest in Texas into a center of activity.

On Feb. 24, he’s holding a program he’s calling “Small Business Spotlight,” opening up the popular food truck park to city leaders and small business owners.

“Our goal is to connect,” Zanca said of the event set for 5 p.m. “We just want as many businesses as we can get from the Harlingen and San Benito area to join in for a night of networking.”

Networking is a key to operating a successful business, he said, adding he’s invited about 80 small business owners to the event.

“Every business opportunity that I’ve had has come from networking,” he said. “It’s the oldest adage in the book — it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

The post Harlingen ‘getting down to business’ to remove permitting hurdles appeared first on MyRGV.com.

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