It seems that in most discussions regarding Harlingen’s future, many people focus on the immediate impact of big decisions. Should we spend money enticing retailers to setup shop in Harlingen at a huge risk, when other community development programs could use the money to get established? It’s clear that the problem is that there just isn’t enough money to go around. On one hand, our retail sales are in a dismal decline, and it may be beneficial to get a top-of-the-line retailer on board to help lure in other big names. But on the other hand, the profits could be nil, which would make it a waste of money. So, how could Harlingen improve its sales tax receipts, raise the quality of place and bring in more high-paying jobs? I feel like all of these problems could be solved by tackling Harlingen’s biggest drawback… The city’s lack of a four-year university.
People complain about low wage jobs, but how can you offer high paying jobs to uneducated people? The best course of action is to reduce the number of uneducated people in the city.
We’ve all experienced first-hand or known people who had bright futures ahead of them, but whose parents didn’t allow them to leave town for college. People who had to give up their goals to take care of numerous brothers and sisters, or their own children that they had at an early age. People who thought they couldn’t go to college because they couldn’t afford it (I paid for college through scholarships, grants and government loans, a debt which is much better than that on a Visa card).
Harlingen NEEDS to offer these people a decent, accredited university to at least earn bachelors and masters degrees. The school should offer a mix of disciplines — business, engineering, education, medical, liberal and fine art, athletics, etc.
In this respect, the TIP Strategies plan was right on target. They suggested establishing a private or public university, possibly partnering with a school in Mexico, which would ensure a viable student body.
A university in Harlingen would require many educated individuals as faculty and staff. These educated workers would likely desire a home within the city, as well as a diverse selection of dining, entertainment and retail options. They will get bored eating Subway, Chinese and Mexican food seven days a week, which will give rise to other options (chain or local). As time goes on, they’ll tire of driving across the Valley for shopping. Remember, national retailers look at median income and population when decided on a location. With higher incomes, come more retail options.
As for students… If you went away for college, I’m sure you built some sort of affinity for the city you lived in for four years. Austin is a great example of a city that retains much of its population from students graduating from their schools. Of course, Austin sees the economic potential of its graduating students. The students at UT, St. Edwards, Texas State, Southwestern, etc. help bring eager corporations, research and tech jobs to the Austin area. The city works to employ its graduates in order to retain that brain power — and all the benefits it brings to the region.
Right now in Harlingen, TSTC’s student base has helped to bring in a few meager companies that take advantage of that brain power. But imagine bigger, more robust industries that would see a university in Harlingen as a goldmine for innovative thought, research and development.
The proposed medical school is a huge leap forward in the effort to bring higher education and better educated people to Harlingen, but the city really needs to establish a university with a broader spectrum to end the brain drain and raise the standards in our city.