By Glynis Crawford Smith
Reports have been steady that things have been promising on the economic front in Marble Falls this year and the long-awaited downtown hotel/conference center seems to back on track.
“By just about every economic measurement, Marble Falls had a banner year in 2017,” said Christian Fletcher, executive director of the Marble Falls Economic Development Corporation in an end-of-year report posted online this last week.
In addition he said Thursday, Dec. 28, that the city’s hotel/conference team has executed a term sheet with the operator.
“Once financing on the private side is complete (in a February-March timeframe), we will get busy with public announcements and detailed design,” he said. “That should take 90-120 days. “This puts us on track for a late-summer groundbreaking on vertical construction.”
Fletcher’s 2017 report mirrored the basics from his most recent presentation to the Marble Falls City Council: “Sales tax growth was unprecedented. Hotel receipts continued on their very strong trajectory. Building permits issued by the City of Marble Falls kept pace with the growth trend established several years ago.”
He said the market value of all properties in the city surpassed a billion dollars for the first time ever. “In short, Marble Falls is one of the most economically vibrant small towns in the country.”
Breaking it down into numbers, Fletcher’s analysis shows the economy in Marble Falls grew by 9.17 percent in 2017.
“This is the highest rate of growth that we’ve seen since 2013, when our overall economy was almost 25 percent smaller than it is today,” he said. “In fact, there were only 14 cities in the state of Texas that had larger economies and a faster rate of growth than Marble Falls in 2017.”
Among Central Texas communities, Marble Falls trailed only Cedar Park (11.03 percent), Kyle (10.72 percent), and Leander (10.56 percent).
“Among some of our peer communities, the $36.1 million in new taxable sales that Marble Falls added was more than the combined additions of Fredericksburg ($12.3 million), Bastrop ($9.6 million), Bee Cave ($6.0 million), and Lakeway ($4.9 million).”
Growth figures in various sectors show: Retail, +6.90 percent; general services, +11.53 percent; food +8.32 percent; professional services, +9.62 percent; wholesale, +18.88 percent; manufacturing, +26.29 percent, and miscellaneous, +45.38 percent.
Fletcher says the combination of new establishments and expansion of existing businesses resulted in just under 300 new jobs in Marble Falls in 2017.
“While obvious additions came in the food sector (130 new jobs), about 50 jobs were added in the healthcare sector, another 40 in education, 35 in services, 19 in retail, and 22 across other sectors.”
In the hotel market, the growth rate over the last 12 months (November 2016–October 2017) was up 10.6 percent over the previous 12 months to just over $9.3 million in receipts.
“While every hotel and motel in Marble Falls saw gains from last year to this year, the addition of some short-term rentals at Worldmark by Wyndham was icing on the cake,” said Fletcher.
Indications of good health come from the city side as well where slightly more than 800 permits were issued in the 12 months from December 2016–November 2017. The total valuation is estimated at $61.5 million.
Nine commercial projects included the new H-E-B store, the new Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PED) Northwest Operations Center, and two apartment complexes currently under construction–a total value of $54 million.
“In addition, we expect to have three downtown projects, with an estimated combined value of $70 million, break ground in 2018,” Fletcher said. “Those would be the hotel/conference center, the Lofts at 99 Main and redevelopment of the police station property on Main Street. Before groundbreaking on the hotel/conference center, we will be making some utility improvements on the site and getting ready for the first phase of Lakeside Park improvements.”
Fletcher did not discount the possibility of a fourth development project on the south side of Lake Marble Falls.
Emerging residential developments and continued construction activity has Marble Falls poised for another record-breaking year in 2018, he concludes.