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.
By AMY MADISON
Economic Development Director – City of San Marcos