I have visited your city for the past 21 years straight. My wife is from San Benito. Her mother and siblings still live there. I was just there over the 4th of July holiday. I visited San Benito, Harlingen, Brownsville and South Padre Island.
But here’s my concern of your city based on my observations. I have continuously noticed that in the 21 years that I have visited, there never seems to be any change to the infrastructure of your city. The streets remain the same. No new asphalt has even been laid to fix the pot holes or the street curbs and sidewalks. Many houses are below living standards. Yards have overgrown vegetation everywhere. Dogs run loose and at times causing threats to those who walk the streets or exercise by jogging or running. Some housing simply needs to be torn down or condemned.
The city buildings which once used to have commerce; are now boarded up. There are more pawn shops than there are legitimate businesses.
Your city stands along a popular route that ends at the U.S. / Mexico border. You cannot get there without passing through the twin cities of Harlingen/San Benito. You cannot also get to the Texas resort of South Padre Island without going through this same route.
Commerce is inevitable for San Benito. There has to be a way to restore it to what it once had.
I was raised in the City of Bastrop, Texas in central Texas but I now live in NW Austin / Round Rock, Texas. If you visit Bastrop, Texas, the biggest change is that it has grown from a population of 3, 000 to over 13, 000 in roughly 20 years. Bastrop sits along state highway 71. Its main highway is a popular route between Houston and Austin. But, Bastrop has focused on developing and maintaining commerce. While it has grown through the outskirts along state highway 71 with shopping centers, hotels, convention centers, restaurants, and locally owned businesses; it has also maintained its business district downtown by allowing for new businesses to prosper downtown, restoring old business buildings and maintaining the “Old Town” feel that established this town.
San Benito has to do the same. At least use Bastrop, Texas or some other city to model for its growth and invite commerce. I’m not sure how your city government is set up; but if you have an Economic Development Director; get rid of him and hire someone who can offer your city a vision of successful economic development. A city that will thrive. If you do not have an Economic Development Director; hire one. Someone who has a proven track record of bringing positive growth to your city. One with a vision to succeed by expanding growth, commerce and recognizing San Benito, Texas as a place to shop, visit and possibly be able to call San Benito, Texas home. If not now; in the near future.
Your city has a lot of potential. I have seen it with each of my visits there each year. But in my opinion; it lacks leadership. Be it with the council, the department heads…….it lacks leadership. Because if it had leadership; your city would not look the same as it has to me for 21 years.
Take the time to drive through your city streets, visit the few existing businesses that thrive to succeed and ask them what they need to make them more successful. Ask them what type of other businesses they would like to see brought into their city. Talk to the locals. Not the pawn shop owners, gas stations owners that are already there, but the locals who live there. Talk to those folks that call San Benito, Texas home. Give your citizens hope.
Find a way to offer current businesses incentives to spruce up their businesses. Find ways to offer incentives to bring in new business that will contribute to the community.