The Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. board directed $40,000 of funding to Workforce Network Inc. that will unlock $4.6 million in job training for the Highland Lakes area. The EDC money will be used to rent a warehouse and finish out classroom space inside to provide hands-on training for various skilled trades.

“It’s a game changer,” said Gail Davalos, Workforce Network’s director of Stakeholder Relations. “When you have a grant of that magnitude ($4.6 million), everybody gets excited. Yet, when we go to implement it, everyone is faced with the cold reality that we don’t have all the infrastructure we need to carry it off. That was the predicament we were in, and (the EDC) rescued us from it.”

The jobs program received the $4.6 million from a pool of $12 million awarded to Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area for the Good Jobs Challenge in September 2022. The money, which covers three years, cannot be used for facility costs.

“The money that has been awarded to us is for training programs,” Davalos said. “It is not to build out facilities or acquire facilities. We are grant-rich and facility-poor.”

Davalos hopes to have the Good Jobs grant amended in the future to include funding for facilities.

“The Good Jobs Challenge grant can contribute toward rent, but it wasn’t put in the original proposal, so it would need a budget amendment,” she said. “We hope in years two and three that we need this warehouse, we can get (rent) covered under the grant.”

Half of the $40,000 from the EDC will go toward paying one year’s rent for a 3,000-square-foot building at 2413 Commerce St. in Marble Falls. The rest will go toward finishing out job-training classrooms inside the space.

The EDC approved the funding during its board meeting on Wednesday, March 1. Davalos spoke to the board, emphasizing the need for additional funding for facilities to help serve the workforce development program’s purpose.

“We are not in the facility business,” Davalos said. “Honestly, since it’s a workforce system that has to be sustainable, the community has to buy into it. Not only the employers but the community at large, including (the EDC) and other city and county leaders.”

With the money in place, the nonprofit plans to begin improvements by creating two separate classrooms inside the rented space to offer training for skilled trades such as plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. Once completed, the jobs program will be able to hold two classes at once, four nights a week.

While the EDC’s contribution does not cover all of the renovation costs, Workforce Network partners Matt Winsborough of Winsborough Construction, Charles Malone of All-Systems Electrical Solutions, and James Forest of Complete Care Plumbing have offered their services for free or dramatically discounted rates to complete the rest.

The nonprofit hopes to begin classes at the renovated facility later in 2023.

“We hope to be in the implementation phase by this summer so that we can start recruiting students and start a phased approach on classes,” Davalos said. “We’ll ramp up the latter part of 2023.”

Marble Falls EDC Executive Director Christian Fletcher said approving the budget amendment was a no-brainer for the board.

“(Workforce Network’s) efforts focus on some critical needs in our area, and the EDC is more than happy to support them,” he said. “Their success in getting workforce-related grants is commendable, but their efforts would be severely curtailed if they can’t secure proper classrooms and training spaces for all the classes they will be running over the next three years.”

EDC Board President Steven Reitz, owner of SRCI Design Build, shared Fletcher’s sentiment.

“I think (the board) knows where I land on the plumbing, HVAC, and electrical side of this thing,” he said. “We struggle so much with folks getting into the trade. Having them have some sort of experience and training is so valuable to the guys that are bringing them up through the ranks.”

Learn more about Workforce Network on its website.


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The Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors awarded $10,000 of community leverage grant funding for Music on Main, a free concert series at Old Oak Square in downtown Marble Falls.

Grant money will pay for musicians, marketing, and seating for concerts scheduled from March through October. The series kicked off on Wednesday, March 1, with a performance by John Arthur Martinez.

Other acts planned for the 36-week series include The Ruben V Band, Pauline Reese, Wake Eastman, and Dave Orr. Shows are 6-9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 1-4 p.m. Saturdays.

Organizers aim to attract residents and tourists to the downtown district to boost local businesses.

“The music brings people to town,” EDC board President Steve Reitz said. “Everyone is in agreement on that. We sure want to support it and be a part of it.”

Mitch McManus, owner of Old Oak Square and the grant’s applicant, initially asked the EDC for $31,500. Because the EDC only allots $100,000 total each fiscal year for community leverage grants, directors who serve on that subcommittee argued to limit the contribution to $10,000.

“We don’t mind supporting it and participating in it and giving it a shot in the arm,” Reitz said. “We just don’t want to underwrite the whole thing.”

Community Leverage Subcommittee members are Reitz, Director Judy Miller, and Mayor Richard Westerman.

Each year, the Marble Falls EDC allocates money through community leverage grants to provide matching funds for projects that enhance the quality of life for residents or improve the well-being of the city. Since 2013, the EDC has awarded more than $800,000 in community leverage grants.

Nathan Bush

Wow—what a year.  In spite of crazy price fluctuations in the local real estate market (the median sales price of a home in Marble Falls reached $678,800 in July), rising inflation across the board, extended drought in the region, political chicanery at the national level, and global unrest, Marble Falls had a pretty fabulous year from an economic development standpoint.  Here is a recap of projects, activities, and some organizational highlights.

January: The Marble Falls EDC sold a 6-acre parcel in the Business & Technology Park to an office/warehouse developer.  This project is one of six in the Park currently in the predevelopment process.

February: The MFEDC was recognized by the Texas Economic Development Council (TEDC) for Economic Excellence in 2021 for “a commitment to professional economic development by appointed officials and exemplary professional standards demonstrated by the economic development staff” for the tenth consecutive year.  The MFEDC was one of 57 organizations statewide to receive this recognition in 2021, but one of only five in the state to receive the award ten years in a row.  Putters & Gutters II, a long-awaited and much-needed family entertainment center, also opened its doors in February.

March: Stantec completed design development on Phase 1b of the Parks Master Plan.  Amenities will include a boardwalk, water features, and a reinspired power house.

April: The revised Planned Development District (PDD) for the Downtown hotel and conference center project was approved, and the EDC board authorized a design and engineering contract for a pedestrian bridge over Backbone Creek to connect Johnson Park to Lakeside Park.  Texas Tech University – Highland Lakes celebrated its 20th anniversary in Marble Falls.

May: The Marble Falls Hotel Group and the MFEDC announced the name of our landmark Downtown project: the Ophelia Hotel & Conference Center.

June: The MFEDC was awarded the 2022 Workforce Excellence Award for Communities Under 15,000 in Population at the TEDC Mid-Year Conference in Corpus Christi. The property located at 99 Main Street, a key Downtown development parcel, changed ownership.  Hill Country Memorial’s new facility in Gateway Park opened.


July: Another prominent Downtown property, 705 First Street, sold to new owners.

August: The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration announced that our workforce development partners, Workforce Network, Inc. and Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area, were awarded a $4.6 million Good Jobs Challenge grant.  (

They were 1 of 32 winners out of 509 applicants nationwide.  Funds in the Highland Lakes area will be used to support HVAC training, IT certification programs, finance/banking training, and more.  Also in August, Legacy Crossing, a 546-acre project at the southeast corner of US Highway 281 and State Highway 71, announced its development plans.  (

September: The EDC board approved a $78,000 community leverage grant for Downtown projects, including railing upgrades, support for Christmas events, and engineering for electrical upgrades in the park and Downtown area.  Site development on the Panther Hollow commercial tracts also began.

October: I had the honor of being elected to the Texas Economic Development Council’s board of directors at the TEDC Annual Conference in San Antonio.

November/December: Site clearing for both the Ophelia Hotel & Conference Center project and Phase 1b of the Parks Master Plan were completed in the last two months of 2022.  Formal groundbreaking for both projects should occur in the first quarter of 2023.

2022 marked the first time in at least 20 years that every single monthly sales tax allocation report set a new record for that month.  Growth was steady, strong, and balanced throughout the year, and total receipts were up 15.69% over 2021.  Every one of our top 6 industries (representing 99% of all taxpayers) was up for the year—ranging from 7.7% to 39.6%.  Retail, our largest sector, was up 12.7%; building materials, the largest subsector, was up 18.4%.  Nonstore retailers and online shopping accounted for less than 3% of total sales, so brick-and-mortar is still alive and well in Marble Falls.  This is a good indication of a strong regional economy.

Looking forward to 2023, I expect that widespread residential and retail development in town and in the greater Highland Lakes region, along with the continued impacts of remote work, will help Marble Falls overcome the economic headwinds that will dampen activity in many other parts of the country.  I don’t think that we will see the 25-35% gains that we saw in 2021, but I believe that mid-to-high-single-digit growth would be a good, conservative expectation.

On behalf of the board and staff of the Marble Falls EDC, I want to thank the community for a great 2022.  Let’s make 2023 even better.


Christian Fletcher, CEcD

Executive Director

The Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors approved $14,000 in community leverage grant funding for Highland Lakes Creative Arts during its regular meeting Wednesday, Nov. 2.

Grant money will be used for popular events and productions, including the year-round Sculpture on Main exhibitPaint the Town, Sculpture on Main Street Fest, Sculpture on the Square, and an art walk.

“I think (Sculpture on Main) is probably the best event we have,” said EDC Director John Packer. “The event itself is good, and it lasts all year long. It’s gotten better every year.”

Over two-thirds of the money received by the nonprofit will go toward stipends for the 20 sculptors participating in the cyclical Sculpture on Main exhibit. Sculptures that have been on display for the past two years will be phased out with new ones in March 2023.

The organization is currently accepting applications for new sculptures. Registration ends Tuesday, Nov. 15. To apply, visit the nonprofit’s website.

An additional $2,100 was awarded to fund a live ice sculpting artist during the group’s Sculpture on the Square event Dec. 9-10 at Old Oak Square. Money will go toward paying the sculptor and for performances by the Marble Falls middle and high school choirs during the event.

“It’s going to be really fun,” said Janey Rives, a Highland Lakes Creative Arts board member. “We’ll have kids from all the different areas participating. We’ll have interesting sculptors that will be there. I just think it will be great.”

Another $600 will go toward purchasing 10 tents for the event for artists to host sculpture making workshops. Highland Lakes Creative Arts opted to buy the tents outright rather than renting them in the pursuit of making Sculpture on the Square an annual event.

The grant will also fund $1,500 worth of maps to be distributed to the Marble Falls Visitor Center and other visitor centers across the Hill Country.

“All the arts events bring some interesting people to town,” said EDC President Steve Reitz. “It’s really fun to see some major talent show up here and do things that are just amazing.”

Each year, the Marble Falls EDC allocates $100,000 to different community leverage grant applicants for projects that enhance quality of life for residents and improve the well-being of the city. In September, the board approved an application allotting $78,000 worth of funding for various projects throughout the city’s downtown district.

To apply for a leverage grant for a community event, visit the EDC website.

The Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors approved $78,000 in community leverage grant funding for the Marble Falls Downtown District during its regular meeting Wednesday, Sept. 7.

The recently approved application will help fund several projects in the city, including railing for downtown, the purchase of decorations for the city’s annual Christmas celebration, a lease on a robotic field marker for the city’s Parks and Recreations Department, and engineering services for “three-phase power” for a planned pedestrian bridge over Backbone Creek and string lighting downtown.

Each year, the Marble Falls EDC allocates $100,000 to different community leverage grant applicants for projects that enhance quality of life for residents and improve the well-being of the city.

Past projects include funding to support the hike-and-bike trail system, the soccer field expansion, an art project, and the College to Careers workforce development initiative.

Each item included within the application was discussed in detail during the meeting, starting with the addition of 400 feet of railing at nine downtown locations. Downtown District Manager Erin Burks spoke to the EDC board about the driving force behind the railing’s inclusion.

“It’s nine different projects,” she said. “They’re all addressing safety issues within the district.”

The EDC will contribute $28,000 to the project.

An additional $10,000 will be allocated for a lease on a field-marking robot for the Parks and Recreation Department. Currently, parks employees hand paint lines for recreational leagues such as youth soccer, softball, and flag football.

“Really, where we’re saving is man-hours,” said Recreational Director Lacey Dingman. “We can set this up, mow a field, set it up to stripe it, and be moving over to the next field while it’s striping right behind.”

Along with financing for the new railing, the grant also included an additional $20,000 for engineering services for string lighting across the Downtown District to increase evening visibility. The idea of string lighting has been kicked around internally by the city for some time, Burks said.

Another $15,500 of the grant was allocated for three-phase power engineering services for the Phase 1b pedestrian bridge over Backbone Creek. Three-phase brings more voltage capacity to the parks and will help with chillers at the annual holiday ice rink and other projects.

“When we did (phase) 1a, PEC wanted us to do three-phase over the lake into Johnson Park,” said Assistant City Manager Caleb Kraenzel. “We told them we didn’t want a wire over the water and that we’d like to do it through another means. They agreed verbally that we could defer it to a future phase like the pedestrian bridge.”

The final $4,500 of the grant will be assigned to purchase seasonal decorations such as garland and snow machines for the city’s annual Christmas celebration in downtown.


The EDC approved using Central Texas College’s Frank Fickett Center, 806 Steve Hawkins Parkway, as a new polling location for the mid-term elections Nov. 8. (See related story.)

MARBLE FALLS, Texas — A proposed Think, Texas column about a day trip to Burnet County swiftly grew into three separate columns, so fascinating were the historic towns of Marble Falls, Burnet and Bertram — and the people who live there. Today, we look at Marble Falls.

Located about an hour northwest of Austin, Burnet County, while still mostly rural, is growing swiftly.

The largest town, Marble Falls, rises sharply above Lake Marble Falls near the southern rim of the county. Tourists discovered it long before the Colorado River was impounded in 1951 by the Marble Falls Dam, later renamed Max Starcke Dam after the longtime director of the Lower Colorado River Authority.

It replaced the 40-year-old, incomplete Alexander Dam, located a short distance upstream, and a smaller dam that provided power for a textile plant in Marble Falls. (The book to read is “The Untold Story of the Lower Colorado River Authority” by John Williams.)

Read the full article here.