(Editor’s note: This is part 3 in a series of articles on greater Kingsville economic development opportunities and efforts. Today we visit with EDC and Chamber Executive Director Manny Salazar to look at what his office is doing to promote economic development and what issues his office faces).
In October 2019, two separate entities were combined to form one unilateral office to promote economic development both at the local level and out of the area.
The Kingsville Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation merged into one entity and is now the single apparatus striving to improve business development and enhancement in the greater Kingsville area.
“There are really two sides to economic development,” Manny Salazar, Executive Director of the new organization said. “The first is making sure our current local businesses are successful and have the opportunity to grow. The focus is more on business retention. Traditionally, this would be more of a focus of the Chamber of Commerce.
“The second prong of the model is to bring in new jobs, increase our tax base by bringing in more retail, commercial and industrial businesses along with promoting our resources and assets outside the area to bring these to fruition,” he said.
For Salazar, the mission is clear and the dichotomy between the two arms of development is distinct.
“In local business retention and development, the goal is to reach out to the local business community and the public to see what they need and what we can do to help enhance what they are doing,” Salazar said. “However, that takes staff power and I am a staff of one—answering phones, taking care of customers and visitors, responding to chamber businesses—and do not have enough time or resources to do everything adequately. We need more staff to help with this.”
When it comes to the outside economic development aspect of his job, Salazar said a lot of research and foundation building has to take place, along with finding an adequate funding model.
“This element is data driven and requires a tremendous amount of outreach,” Salazar said. “While locally we are focused on membership and supporting local businesses, the second element requires inventorying community assets, doing physical studies of land and soil, acquiring property, enhancing zoning regulations---there is a lot of work to do.
“We are in a global market for good jobs and businesses and we have to come to the table with our assets identified and prepared, zoning and other regulations in place and a strategy of attack to go after the jobs that everyone else is after,” he said.
“We are in a good place to get the ball rolling and create an ideal system of growth and development, but that takes dollars we currently don’t have. We need a solid cash base yet to do all the things we need to do.”
Salazar says adequate funding, data-driven research, planning and community-driven buy-in and support are key elements in the business procurement arm of economic development.
“I’m not sure if our community understands what economic development is or how to get there,” Salazar said. “I want us to be the place everyone is talking about and wants to come to, but it will take time, resource identification and development and adequate funding.
“We have to start now, because these things don’t happen overnight. But if we can get the ball rolling and put ourselves in a position to compete, I think we can win because of all the built-in advantages we have—TAMUK, the state highway, proximity to ports, the King Ranch, the Naval Air Station—and so much more. With a focused effort, we can increase our tax base, use the new tax dollars to fix our streets and bring in great minds and resources to make Kingsville the ideal place to do business in the great state of Texas.”