Amy Madison, San Marcos’ new Economic Development Council (EDC) Director, has just received some good news. She was selected to be a featured speaker at the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Building Cutting-Edge Public-Private Partnership Conference to be held June 8-10 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Greater San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce President Phyllis Snodgrass said “we are pleased that Amy will be representing our community. Madison’s invitation reflects her years in economic development.”
Madison, hired as EDC director last month, comments, “I am very blessed.” She and her husband David, General Transportation Manager for the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, here in San Marcos, have been married for 31 years and have three children, Ron, Jamie, and Andy. Jamie will be transferring to Texas State this coming fall semester.
Ms. Madison was born in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and grew up in three different states, due to her father’s career in agribusiness. Receiving her B.A. in journalism from Phillips University, Madison earned her M.A. in Mass Communication with emphasis on Public Relations and Marketing.
After first working as a reporter, she started work as a public affairs officer for the Gordon Cooper Votech School in Oklahoma. (In Oklahoma, vocational schools are a cornerstone of economic development). She then was promoted to Business Development Director and worked there for four (4) years.
In some ways, Madison’s work for the City of Schertz followed the pattern of her work for Gordon Cooper. Working for Schertz for six (6) years, Madison started there as its public information officer. She then was promoted to the position of Economic Development Director and promoted again to Community Development Director. In the latter job, Madison
oversaw both economic development and planning with a budget of ~$1.5 million. (Schertz established what is called a 4-B Corporation, funded on a 1/2 cent sales tax, which was the basis of Madison’s budget).
Madison described her time in Schertz as a “baptism by fire.” In the six years she worked for Schertz, she took the city from 10,000 to 32,000 in population. Her work there not only gave her strong experience in economic development, but also gave Madison “a strong understanding of the infrastructure and permit process from the idea phase to the finished product.”
Madison traces her interest in economic development as far back as high school. She was elected a national vice president of what was then called Future Homemakers of America. In that position, she was asked to give a number of speeches and had the opportunity to work with a range of people from the world of business. From these experiences, she “saw how an economic development professional could play a role to help a community not only to provide jobs, but to help the quality of a place.”
Madison left Schertz and ran her own consulting firm for a year, but soon missed the public arena. When the San Marcos EDC position became available, she jumped at the chance to work here. When asked what makes San Marcos attractive to new businesses, she said that she couldn’t limit it to just one item but that “we have all the elements. The city is so blessed.” Madison identified a number of resources and characteristics that make our river city so attractive.
Madison pointed out that we are a stand-alone city and not a suburb. We have no limits on future annexation. Further, with a city of 29 square miles, San Marcos has an Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) of 130 square miles. This gives us “a wealth of land opportunities.” Schertz, by comparison, comprises 28 square miles with only 10 square miles in its ETJ and
it was not considered a “landlocked” city.
Another batch of assets, according to Madison, is our central location in the fastest growing corridor in the country, our historic districts, our Downtown, and our natural environment. For Madison, the Downtown Master Plan “needs to be followed” since towns are judged by how they care for their downtown. Further, we “need to preserve and protect our assets” because we are “custodians of (this) God-created, natural environment.”
Madison also pointed to the assets of Texas State University – “a great university”, the Gary Job Corps, and our strong public school system. Close to her heart is our regional airport, which has sufficient runways for commercial aircraft and which has substantial frontage on Highway 21.
Madison also spoke about the 11 million tourists who visit our city annually asking, “how do we turn that into economic viability for our city?”; the city planning department, which “has impressive depth”; the Chamber of Commerce with over 100 years of economic development experience; and the cooperative efforts of the city government.
As can be imagined, Madison is very excited about the opportunities for economic development here. “Our growth… allows us to make the right choices. We can determine what we want to be as we grow.” she added.
Comparing us to other smaller cities on the corridor, Madison expressed the belief that “I don’t think we are at any kind of disadvantage.”
She pointed out that developers, investors, and realtors “will do what they know.” She is confident that we have the time to plan and to do it right the first time.
The new EDC director hesitated to propose specific businesses to recruit saying, “‘I’m still analyzing the city” and “I really didn’t walk in with a road plan.” At the same time, Madison did point to existing strengths of our community which we may want to build on. She identified San Marcos as the number one employer of aviation manufacturing in the entire region, and one of the highest in the state, reasoning that “we ought to take that advantage and run with it.”
Secondly, we have a high concentration of bio-medical businesses. Madison thinks that there may be opportunities in the nanotechnology sector and is talking to people at Texas State about that.
Finally, Madison thinks automotive manufacturing might be a good fit for San Marcos.
Madison was excited about our new conference center saying we will now be able to host state wide, national and even international conferences.
The one action Madison wishes Texas would take to help economic development that it hasn’t yet taken is to incentives green building. “We’re in the best place in the world ” and we need to continue working to protect it.
An action to aid economic development that Madison would like to see San Marcos take is to develop “a comprehensive economic development strategic plan. We need to have all the stakeholders at the table. We need to engage all the different pockets that make us so diverse,” so that we can agree on what our assets are and how to define our quality of life. “The single most important thing that a E.D. professional can do is to put people on the same page,” Madison observed.
When asked what U.S. city she would most want to be the EDC director for, Madison instantly replied, “San Marcos. I don’t think we are doing anything wrong. We are doing everything right. Our town has such potential.”
By ED MIHALKANIN, Ph.D
Audio Interview of Amy Madison by Ed Mihalkanin