San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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January 16th, 2008
EDITORIAL: When it comes to economic development, in with the old, in with the new

To embrace growth, San Marcos needs to pursue economic development strategies that work while leaving uniqueness and character intact.

San Marcos must focus our limited economic development dollars and efforts on strategies that retain our existing workforce while doing those things necessary to attract new talent to move or stay here in an effort to supply the much needed human component for employers to locate within our community.

To fully understand what this strategy requires is an examination of the shift in the employer/employee dynamic over the last 20 years. In the past, companies located and workers followed. Today, the tide has turned where companies, seeking talented and engaged workers, locate where pools of talent exist.

We can all agree that San Marcos has a lot to offer. Our city and area boasts a great environment, a top notch University, convenient access to both San Antonio and Austin without the cost or traffic that both of those cities are experiencing, significant parkland and natural hike and bike trails, a culturally diverse population and many brand new elementary, junior and high school facilities that house a school system that, in many areas, academically outperforms those school systems around us. San Marcos is also unique that is has an ample workforce; graduates from Texas State University. Many of these newly minted job seekers would love to continue to live in our community and raise their families upon graduation.

We must market the advantages of San Marcos by targeting companies that need this type of entry-level college graduates who are willing to pay substantially above the living wage with health and retirement benefits

To achieve this objective we must work on some of our shortfalls. Presently, we lack a healthy supply of housing both for rent and for sale to both ends of the economic spectrum. Specifically, there is an inadequate supply of existing executive housing in our community for sale or lease making it difficult for upper management to live in San Marcos. There also exists a shortage of affordable homes, homes for young families to move into, such as graduating students who have decided to stay in our community. We have a misguided perception that we have a poor school system, a fact that just isn’t borne out by the numbers, as compared to school systems around us. This perception has been perpetuated by those who don’t know the facts but are on the front lines meeting those interested in living here, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of stagnant population growth within our city.

Understand these shortfalls and misperceptions can’t be fixed overnight. Therefore we need an economic development strategy that will serve us until these correctible deficiencies are eliminated. What should be our objectives? Higher paying jobs with benefits, attracting companies that hire graduates of Texas State while we build more executive and affordable housing to accommodate these markets, creating jobs that give way to disposable income spent within our community to provide upward pressure on all jobs specifically benefiting those who are economically disadvantaged, by increasing their earning potential. These strategies must be done in conjunction with a community that becomes aware of the benefits we have to offer both in our environment as well as our P-16 educational system.

The companies, people and ventures that we should be targeting are relatively small but have tremendous potential for growth. The requirement is to create an environment that will be appealing to those who create for a living, such as scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, writers, poets, engineers, musicians and inventors. These idea-generators foster a stimulating quality of life attracting growing businesses and their employees. Many of these individuals already populate our community.

We must embrace the creation of family-friendly areas within easy walking distance of the city’s core, safe streets, good schools where immigrants are welcome and neighborhoods allow for a mix of people by income, work, ethnicity and lifestyle. We already have a great cultural life along with great restaurants within our city or within easy reach by car. We boast a wonderful natural river and spring system as well as other natural wonders within our city or within a short drive allowing us to escape our urban core.

Continued investment of time and money to attract retail, low-tech distribution and by the hour manufacturing will only institutionalize current wage levels within our community doing nothing to increase the quality of life for all. San Marcos has been the longest continually occupied location in North America for a reason. Even then mankind realized they were in the best place to both live and work. Things haven’t changed; San Marcos still has these qualities. We should all realize where we live and why and why we should work to keep a great quality of life here for generations to come.

Growth that is responsible is possible and must be incorporated into our plans for what San Marcos will be in the future. Growth by itself, however, is inevitable.

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0 thoughts on “EDITORIAL: When it comes to economic development, in with the old, in with the new

  1. Scott, I agree with your comment regarding the future of San Marcos. There are plenty of examples of college towns and non-college towns in the U.S. who have embraced the the creative class model with great success. Boulder, Gainsville, Madison,Raliegh-Durham, San Franscisco, etc. These towns have focused on the university/town relationship and have realized that people are driving force of the economy. We do not need to lure companies here with incentive packages we need to lure companies here because the the people they want are here. San Marcos needs to concentrate on the 3t’s to responsibly grow the economy here. They are technology, talent, and most important for S.M. is tolerance. This will lead
    S.M. into the future. PK

  2. Scott, I got the 3t’s example from Richard Florida’s book “The Rise Of The Creative Class” Which is now available in the San Marcos public library. I highly recommend this book.

  3. Scott, I enjoyed reading this article. Thanks for your continued efforts in our community. MP

  4. You know I am sold! Your vision of San Marcos’ future, combined with the amazing features/people already in the area, are the reason I am searching for land right now.

  5. Scott, while your article is future oriented, you aren’t afraid to address the issues (perception of our schools, lack of adequate housing) we face. Thank you for articulating a vision that both addresses a multitude of needs while painting an exciting possibility for San Marcos.–Diann McCabe

  6. Scott,
    I agree with your vision of our community. I would like to add to your assessment of our local schools. San Marcos school system is great. It has many students taking Algebra I in 7th and 8th grade and great teachers to support this effort. I would also point out that San Marcos has a cohesiveness that the fast growing communities of Kyle and Buda have lost. The downtown plan that has emerged recently is very exciting, especially the possible University Performing Center being a bridge to Downtown. And we have lots of Green Space and a magnificent river.

  7. Our test scores are way behind Wimberley and other top school districts in the state. I’m not sure how you would draw a different conclusion. White students without learning disabilities do reasonably well, but to serve our community, our schools need to lift everyone up.

    There is also a tolerance problem on *both* sides of the student/non-student issue, which needs to be addressed by *both* the city and the university. I’ve each group make indescribably offensive and inaccurate statements about the other. This is no foundation for a thriving community.

    There are many other issues that must also be addressed, to really draw people here. Litter. Traffic. High impact fees for new development.

    As one of the few who actually stayed after college (compared to the hundreds of thousands who have left), I have always seen the great potential here, but watching some of these issues come up year after year with little improvement (and sometimes degradation) it becomes harder and harder to stay and wait for the improvements we all know are needed.

  8. Because he is now publisher of an objective, or at least fair, news publication, I have heard Scott say several times that he is not seeking public office in the foreseeable future. I think we can all agree he looks like a senator though. 🙂

  9. Let’s face it, for better or worst, San Marcos has missed this “boom”. Manufactoring has taken hold of our economic development branding us as an “industrial” town.

  10. Most of the people I know in Austin have a generally positive impression of San Marcos but they think it is “anti-growth” and that it wants to remain just a small college town. And, for some reason, many people I know in Austin think San Marcos is farther away than it really is.

    I believe we (as a community) have an opportunity to create a fresh updated image for San Marcos, one that retains/nurtures the traditional good points, and sets the stage for new different additional growth.

    We need to be proactive, rather than just watch other Central Texas communities explode in growth and “hope San Marcos can stay small.”

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