Rebeca Castillo is building from the ground up in giving San Benito its first viable economic development corporation.
The San Benito Economic Development Corporation is in its third month of being a standalone entity from city government. The EDC is in its own building on Bowie Street. It is adjacent to the Heavin Memorial Park which wraps around the city’s main resaca. Furniture and refurbishment of a facility that was once a funeral home still seems new in the building.
“Economic opportunity is more available (in San Benito) and we needed more space in terms of image and presentation,” said Castillo, the EDC’s executive director.
The EDC formerly occupied a 450-square-foot space at San Benito City Hall. It now occupies 3000-square-feet of space with meeting rooms, conference rooms and a spacious boardroom. There are new ambitions to go with the additional space. Castillo is laying down the EDC basics other similar entities provide for their cities.
Aiding small businesses
Castillo is helping small businesses craft business plans. Her office is giving entrepreneurs connections to resources and additional regional expertise such as the type found at the Small Business Administration and area universities. Castillo plans to hold workshops in bringing in speakers, thus giving local businesspeople additional insights.
Rent subsidies for six months are being provided by the EDC for eligible local businesses. This will help them absorb the initial costs of starting up their enterprises.
“We’re looking to maximize opportunities be it for small businesses or working with the city to bring in larger companies,” said Castillo, who was formerly the executive director of the Harlingen/San Benito MPO and worked as a human resources and safety manager for the county’s health department.
Castillo knows she’s at the beginning stages of a new San Benito EDC with its own identity, budget and most operations apart from city government save for board members that are appointed by the city commission.
“We’re rebranding as an organization that is no longer a department of the city,” she said. “We’re setting up a new foundation.”