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.