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. (https://workforcesolutionsrca.com/news/wsrca-awarded-12m-good-jobs-challenge-grant-for-its-reinvest-initiative-to-bolster-construction-healthcare-and-technology-workforce-in-rural-communities)
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. (https://www.bizjournals.com/austin/news/2022/08/17/marble-falls-legacy-crossing-mixed-use-project.html)
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