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May 29th, 2008
Economic Development San Marcos – A love story

I LOVE San Marcos! The FIRST thing that people said to me when I told them I accepted this position was, I LOVE San Marcos – and it was with that same passion. What’s not to love about this place? We have new schools, true destination detail that is recognized internationally, and flanked by a new hotel and conference center that will provide new opportunities for 11+ million annual visitors and opportunities to host state, national and international events. We have a community hospital that recently announced a $30 million expansion. Texas State University is home to 28,000 students and gives rise to nearly $750 million in economic activity and 11,530 full-time equivalent jobs. Our downtown district has been maintained and cared for – and remains vibrant with business and activity. We have historic districts that protect and promote our history and provide future opportunities for tourism. And last but not least, we have an experienced and seasoned Chamber of Commerce which has been focused on business for over 100 years – and continues to strengthen business recruitment and expansion efforts.

We are blessed with a pristine natural environment, strong leadership in our community, and we remain the center of the fastest growing corridor in the country. With 29 square miles of city, and over 130 square miles of extraterritorial jurisdiction, we are the envy of many land-locked cities in the corridor. And, don’t forget our strong presence of major manufacturing companies, and many wonderful home-grown businesses.

Our airport – with over 1350 acres owned and operated by the City has 800+ acres available for business and industry development. It’s a great regional airport, providing full service to both recreational pilots and corporate executives. And it is located right next door to Gary Job Corp, one of the largest employers in our region. The possibilities of these two groups working together on future expansion and workforce initiatives are endless!

So what is my role here? An economic development practitioner wears many hats: analyst, catalyst, gap filler, advocate, educator and visionary. Our main goal is to create sustainable wealth and improve the quality of place for our community.

Economic development practitioners are the catalysts that work to put their city on the map. Our city has begun work on branding our community – and once it is finished, we all need to beef up our marketing and public relations efforts to tell our “love” story.

Business Retention and Expansion is probably the biggest chunk of any economic development professional’s job – and that simply entails taking care of your own backyard. There are literally thousands of communities- including San Marcos – that are involved in industry attraction, yet fewer than 200 major plant relocations occur annually (Kotval, et al., 1996). Basing an economic development strategy solely on landing a “big fish” has only a small chance of success. The truth is, 80% of jobs and capital investment come from existing businesses. Retention is the most cost-effective and time-efficient economic development strategy. Good retention leads to good business recruitment because CEOs talk to one another. If your CEOs are happy, they can be part of your recruitment strategy.

How many of you are Texas State Alumni? We need to reach out and touch the Alumni and bring them home to San Marcos – along with their families, their businesses, their skills and their talents.

Economic development professionals look for ways to forge strong Public-Private Partnerships. While governments at all levels, universities and other non-profit institutions are important players, we must not forget that the private sector is the most important element of any successful economic development strategy. Unless the private sector is ready, willing and able to invest in a community, economic growth simply will not occur, regardless of how much government spends. The private sector should not just have a seat at the table, but should actively be engaged as a full partner in strategies for economic growth.

Why are all these things important? Because competition is intense – not just from the firm down the road, but any person in any corner of the world with a good education, a good idea, and a good Internet connection.

They are important because the pace of everything is accelerating. It took 55 years for the automobile to spread to one-quarter of the U.S. population. It took 35 years for the telephone. The personal computer accomplished it in 16 years, the cell phone in 13, and the Internet in only 7.

They are important because the very nature of innovation is changing as different technologies converge. The result is new fields that didn’t exist just a few decades ago. To compete will require all institutions – public, private, educational and non-profit – to continually adapt and change. Those that don’t are at risk. But those that do have the opportunity for reward.

To borrow a quote from Friends, “Change is inevitable, progress is optional.”

We choose progress, because San Marcos is important to us. We LOVE San Marcos – and in this love story, there is a happy ending.

Economic Development Director – City of San Marcos

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0 thoughts on “Economic Development San Marcos – A love story

  1. It has come to my attention (rumor has it) that at the current Target shopping center (soon to move?) that Tx State may purchase the land and build student housing. If you love San Marcos like you say you do, then this needs to be stopped. Is entering a division one conference worth the injustice to the hard working,tax paying residents of Rio Vista and San Marcos? I hope there is another solution to this rumor.

  2. I agree completely with the idea that retention and expansion are critical to growth.

    You may or may not know that we already have two HUGE fish, in addition to Texas State University. Both Philips Electronics and Dai Nippon have business interests here. It would be great to see them expand.

    Similarly, if Grande Communications is purchased, ensuring that they stay here and possibly expand their operations will also be very important.

    You mention $750 million from Texas State and I have seen reports that are closer to $1 billion, but much of that (more than half) leaves San Marcos, according to those reports. So, there is room for some expansion by greater retention there as well.

  3. Target and Penny’s and Beall’s are all leaving for the new shopping center being built at I-35 and McCarty. Best Buy has already left. In a year that shopping center will be all but empty. What other proposal do you have for the site? and how in the world would student housing there affect Rio Vista?

  4. Maybe we could build new student housing at 630 E. Hopkins. That space isn’t being used for anything else. And maybe even build more on the northwest corner of CM Allen and Hopkins. I hear they’ve got a tremendous spot right on the river and on one of the most valuable commercial properties in San Marcos. Why is it that apparently only governmental organizations own property along the river? That’s BS!

  5. Student housing would be owned by the university. I’m not sure why having the university own property along the river (which they already do) would be any different than the city owning property along the river.

    As for student housing where Target is now (Springtown), I don’t see the problem there either. Between Aquarena Springs and Hopkins (where I believe the city will improve the intersection soon), the residents would have two major routes into town and two major routes out to the highway. They’d also be in walking distance of HEB.

    The only real impact I could see for the Rio Vista folks would be the loss of easy access to those retailers that are moving.

    I can’t imagine any way the city could stop them from leaving. It would be preferable to attract more retailers, though. I suspect that there are a lot of little businesses, like the Laser Wash, who really benefit from the traffic that Target brings. Besides, because of the easy access from multiple directions, this seems like a desirable location for more retail stores.

  6. One concern about student housing is whether or not it will pay property tax. Some projects around town have used a confusing structure to operate apartments through a non-profit entity thereby removing them from the tax rolls. I seriously doubt if Springtown is being considered for student housing. The buildings are just too new to tear down. The highest and best use for that land is retail and there’s just too much inexpensive apartment land for sale still, not that far away.

  7. The problem is Springtown really isn’t a good location for retail because it is located away from the major intersection of Hopkins and I-35. When I moved here in 1993 the place had been all but deserted. Then W.C. Carson convinced the City to give Target an incentive to build there. That happened about ten years ago. Now it is being deserted again. There are much better undeveloped retail tracts in town, Hunter and Wonder World for one.

  8. We’ll see.

    I’m not aware of anyone preventing development at Hunter and Wonder World. I’d question whether it is better than Springtown.

    I was here when it was empty too and San Marcos was a very different place. The daily traffic on Hopkins and Aquarena is heavier than it used to be at the end of the spring semester, when all the students moved out of the dorms at once.

    I’ll be interested to see what goes in, but to compare any area of San Marcos today, to the same area 15 years ago would be of limited value.

  9. For me, Springtown is very convenient. I can hit both Target and HEB and if I happen to miss trains, traffic isn’t bad. McCarty lane isn’t convenient at all. It also forces most of town to drive farther. It seems like a bad move. We aren’t even that big and we’re getting central urban blight? Hopefully something useful will go in there.

  10. Springtown is actually pretty convenient for me, too. It’s MUCH more convenient than Wonder World and Hunter or McCarty and Hunter, which, I might add, were little more than cow pastures on a two-lane road to nowhere 15 years ago.

    So, if we’re evaluating locations based on how things were “back in the day”…

  11. I am by no means anti-growth but to talk about massive development without addressing infrastructure needs in the same article is irresponsible. You say “We are blessed with a pristine natural environment…”. This is far from true. The city has many existing environmental problems and one gigantic one looming in the the future…WATER. Everyone interested in growth should go to the library reference section and leaf throug a copy of Water For Texas 2002. In it you will find fact-based analysis of population growth and future water demands. It does not paint a pretty picture. How will you meet the demands of domestic, industrial, and agricultural users not to mention mandated environmental stream flows?

    The San Marcos River is the jewel of this town and the reason people first settled here. We have a legal and moral obligation to protect and maintain spring flow.

    As far as building on the river, it is irressponsible. The majority of the property that is owned by the city and university is held as park land and should stay that way.

    So think water first because someday these springs may cease to flow and we will have a muddy ditch running through town.

    J. Murry Owen
    M.S. Aquatic Biology

  12. Building on the river is irresponsible. If you look a the downtown master plan, you’ll see that this leaves a buffer zone along both sides of the river going through town. This is to mitigate the urban runoff problem, and is why instead of building the new hotel and conference center above spring lake preserve, they are situated by the outlet malls, not right above our pristine river.

  13. Since the outlet malls are not the #1 tourist destination for tourism in this area…if not the state…it’s better to move it all out there. I’m pretty far from being a “tree hugger” but the more we leave the springs and river alone the better off we all are. It’s, in my opinion, the defining feature of San Marcos and one of my favorite parts about living here.

  14. All of the major businesses in Springtown are moving. I don’t see why putting in high density student housing there would be worse than building more apartments on the edge of town…the questionable residental banishment of students to the edge of the city is one of the primary reasons for San Marcos’ significant auto traffic problem, and a host of other Sagewood type “problems”, that has been created though discriminatory zoning and ordinances which congrigate most off campus students in three small far-flung parts of town.

    Other than the way the city has historically treated students (who I agree were not always model citizens although I think that is improving) San Marcos is a great place. Student housing at Springtown would be mass transit friendly and could present a shift toward healthy new urbanism in what really is a central city neighborhood. Of course the nature of Rio Vista should be protected…nothing should happen south of Hopkins. From a commercial standpoint I am sad to see retail abandoning Central San Marcos for places that everyone will have to drive to.

  15. Refusing to permit almost any developent on the banks of the San Marcos river is the single greatest decision this city has ever made. It is what seperates this town from the idiot parade that has created so many problems with flood prone neighborhoods, sprawl and developmental blight in New Braunfels.

  16. If I could attach a picture of the Los Angeles River to Murray’s post to back up his point I would. Well said Murray.

  17. Well said Jordan. We don’t have that many problems on the upper river because there is no profit motive in it. Of course the Lions Club does well on tube rentals but they run a responsible organization and the profits do benifit others. We have our share of bums and trouble makers but nothing like New Bruanfels. I swim at city park almost every evening and never have any trouble. It’s mostly families with kids enjoying the day.

    Now if it is true that Spring Town is going to become a ghost town then I think it a good place to build apartments whether they be owned privately or by the university. I just want to see the central part of the city in tact. The big development can go south of town where the car dealerships are. But still, and I will never end a response without this, where are you going to get the water? Answer that question Ms Madison. Those of that have lived here for a while really don’t want to become Arlington Texas caught between two giantsand competing for there money. WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO GET THE WATER?

    J. Murry Owen
    M.S. Aquatic Biology

  18. My understanding is San Marcos gets most of it’s water from the GBRA, not Edwards. We’ve planned for our water needs well into the future. As for Springtown, the market and the owners will determine the future of this private property. I strongly oppose any off the tax rolls University-owned apartments. I’d love to see Academy come to town, Kohl’s, Kroger, Big Lots, Mervyn’s. Someone out there right now is thinking Whole Foods and to you I say… WAKE UP!

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