Last week, I attended the Texas Economic Development Council’s Annual Conference in Dallas. As usual, there were some great sessions, but one that stood out in particular was entitled “Are You Future Ready?” Rebecca Ryan, founder and owner of Next Generation Consulting, was the presenter, and she asked some compelling questions for the audience and the organizations we represent to ponder.
Looking forward instead of looking back was one of the themes, but—pardon the euphemism—I got to thinking: How do the projects we’ve been working on at the Marble Falls EDC connect to our future goals? Here are a few examples from our summary of projects and why we think they’re important.
Downtown Project – Thus far, we’ve assisted with the creation of a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone and purchased property to connect our Main Street to Lake Marble Falls. Now, we are working on identifying the right private partner to bring a hotel and conference center to town, but why? We realize that development will naturally extend south toward the hospital and beyond, and that is a good thing for our community. It’s important, however, to recognize the value of our Historic District and do what we can to preserve and enhance the area for generations to come. Part of that focus is on creating amenities that will give local residents new reasons to go Downtown and introduce new people to our unique attributes. Another basis for our efforts is to leverage some of our community’s greatest assets into new resources that will lessen the financial burden on our existing residents and businesses. Catalyzing Downtown development today will create destination appeal and opportunities for many years to come.
Hospital Support – The $2.5 million, 5-year performance agreement that the Marble Falls EDC executed with Scott & White (now Baylor Scott & White Health) was important because it helped trigger an expedited timeline for the project as well as a foundation for quality jobs in the community. With an anticipated economic impact of just under a billion dollars over the first 10 years of the project, the regional medical center is a game-changer for Marble Falls. Access to quality healthcare will keep existing residents here longer and give new residents another reason to choose to move to the Highland Lakes area. Likewise, employment opportunities unlike anything we’ve seen before will benefit our current and future workforce. Finally, the expansion of the healthcare industry in general will create additional direct, indirect, and induced fiscal and employment impacts for decades.
Financial Assistance Programs – Each of our programs—the Sign Replacement Program, the Business Improvement Grant (BIG) Program, and the Community Leverage Program—were designed to invest in those who were investing in themselves. In just over two years, we have provided matching funds in excess of $365,000 to businesses and entities for physical improvements (both functional and aesthetic), promotion of the arts, workforce development, and quality-of-place initiatives. Our goal is to increase our budget for these programs as revenue throughout the community grows; greater overall investment in the improvement of the community will yield greater support from the EDC. What a great snowball effect.
Infrastructure Support – In order for the EDC to financially participate in infrastructure improvements, those improvements must be tied to business creation. Examples of such improvements include a wastewater line replacement for the Market on H, the extension of a natural gas line to Granite Mesa, and, most notably, the new wastewater line to the hospital. When combined with the financial support provided for the wastewater plant constructed in the 1990s, the EDC has contributed more than $10 million directly to infrastructure improvements in the city over the last 20 years. Some citizens would like even more infrastructure participation by the EDC, but our statutory limitations dictate that our involvement in infrastructure grows only as our workforce grows. The good news is that this requirement should help us balance our community’s natural place as a haven for retirees with an industrial focus that will be a critically important component of our future.
As always, my door is open for any discussion about community development and the EDC’s role in trying to help Marble Falls become the best town it can be.