San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

November 30th, 2009
Economic development plan in works for city

hollowayAmy Holloway of Avalanche Consulting tells the San Marcos City Council last week about an economic development plan in the works for the city. Photo by Sean Batura.

News Reporter

A group of local leaders in government, business and nonprofit sectors recently unveiled recommendations intended to increase wages, reverse growing unemployment, reduce poverty and provide affordable housing while protecting the environment.

The aforementioned recommendations — the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) — is the fourth of five phases in the Greater San Marcos Plan, a three- to four-year project entailing more funding for San Marcos’ economic development corporation, among other initiatives.

The fifth and final phase of the Greater San Marcos Plan — the implementation plan — will describe concrete steps and benchmarks necessary to achieving the goals outlined in CEDS. Amy Madison, the economic director of Economic Development San Marcos and project coordinator for the Greater San Marcos Plan, said the final draft of CEDS and the implementation plan will be released in the spring.

In the language of the draft version of CEDS, the Greater San Marcos Plan entails pursuing three main goals: 1.) Creating “a workforce development system that allows regional businesses to be globally competitive and enhances economic opportunity for workers;” 2.) Diversifying the “area economy through enhanced programmatic, marketing, and infrastructure capacity,” and; 3.) Engaging in “aggressive and ongoing efforts … to make the Greater San Marcos area’s one of Texas’ most compelling destinations to live, work, and visit.”

CEDS was developed via a months-long process facilitated by Atlanta consulting firm Market Street Services, Inc., and guided by a steering committee — called Partners for Progress — composed of officials from the city governments and economic development corporations of San Marcos, Luling and Lockhart, government officials from Hays and Caldwell Counties, and representatives of Wells Fargo Bank, Broadway Bank, Texas State University, Prime Outlets, San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District, Gary Job Corps, TCOR Insurance Management, Priority Personnel, Inc., Central Texas Medical Center, Heritage Association of San Marcos, Butler Manufacturing Co. and Ember Industries.

“We could have held this close to our chest and done it just for San Marcos,” Madison said. “But by inviting other partners to the table and asking them to help us pay for the plan, they bought in to the plan, they helped plan the strategy, now they want to partner with us into the future. It just makes us stronger. Economic development, a regional approach to economic development is critical. Because you are not a vacuum, you’re not a bubble, you’re not an island. What happens all around you impacts everything about your community, both from a good and bad perspective.”

Madison said CEDS will allow stakeholders in the greater San Marcos area to more effectively recruit new businesses to the region and retain existing businesses. CEDS recommends targeting three industries for recruitment: health care, corporate and professional operations and supply chain management.

“It’s always better to go with a bow and arrow than with a sawed-off shotgun  — you’re going to kill something, but is it what you want?” Madison said. “We’re trying to be more directed and use our dollars wisely, because we don’t have that many of them, and it’s critical to the future of the community that we do spend them wisely, and that we have a return on our investment — and that means bringing quality jobs to the area.”

CEDS was formulated using data compiled, in part, through a community assessment conducted by Market Street that involved 26 interviews with community leaders and 12 focus groups representing the greater San Marcos region. According to a presentation at last week’s San Marcos City Council meeting by Market Services team member and founder/CEO of Avalanche Consulting Amy Holloway, the focus groups included people from community and neighborhood organizations, tourism, young professionals, large employers, small business owners, high school students, K-12 teachers and administrators, among others.

Market Street also conducted online and print versions of a community survey, which Holloway said yielded 1,021 responses.

Texas State Provost and Partners for Progress Chairman Perry Moore told the San Marcos City Council last week that CED’s recommendations for a workforce development system entails enticing Austin Community College to locate in the greater San Marcos area. Moore said the Greater San Marcos Plan will entail the expenditure of “between $750,000 and $1 million per year over the next several years.”

The stakeholders involved in Partners for Progress — and a future incarnation of the group, which is currently reorganizing — would likely foot the bill.

Email Email | Print Print


0 thoughts on “Economic development plan in works for city

  1. This is great and I really like the regional involvement. Geographically, Silicon Valley is pretty close to the size of the Austin/San Antonio corridor and includes as many as 20 cities/towns, depending on how you define it.

    If we want to be a major center for the industries listed, then we almost certainly would be better off acting regionally.

  2. Seriously, that opening paragraph “A group of local leaders in government, business and nonprofit sectors recently unveiled recommendations intended to increase wages, reverse growing unemployment, reduce poverty and provide affordable housing while protecting the environment.” is some of the best news I have heard for San Marcos in recent memory.

  3. And in a related story… unnamed people that I will designate as “leaders” determined that the government would make everyone’s life better. Everyone would earn more than they would normally get in a free market and the town would produce better widgets and more widgets than any other group. So many employment opportunities would be brought to the citizens that everyone would have four jobs to choose between and they’d all provide dental. Houses would be free and bigger houses would be freer. The industry in town would no longer spew toxins and instead each smokestack would emit roses. All of this and more…
    All the citizens need to do to insure they live in a paradise protected from plague and recession is overfund a quasi-public development company and send tax money to a college district with a penchant for lying. If the guarantees don’t pan out down the line, the citizens will of course still fund the quasi-public company to do nothing and the citizens’ grandchildren will still pay taxes to ACC. Just dream a little dream and be happy, there is nothing to see behind the curtain…

  4. Easy enough to say, when you’ve got the education and the career and the opportunities.

    Your scarcastically painted scenario is VERY far from the reality of a well thought-out economic development plan (which hopefully, this is).

    I don’t view this all that much differently than the efforts we have going on where I work, looking for investments we can make to grow our business.

  5. Also, the recent declines in sales tax revenue point out a particularly vulnerable aspect of our local economy. It would behoove the city to diversify, so that less of our budget is funded by outsiders shopping in San Marcos.

  6. Everybody wants those in the community to have better jobs, schools and opportunities. Unfortunately, the politicians are playing on these hopes to accomplish their agenda — ACC and the quasi-public development corporation, while the consultants are playing on these hopes to profit. Consultants and the government cannot deliver better jobs, schools and opportunities. The community has to do those things for itself. The best growth is organic and springs from the ingenuity and efforts of those already here, not people lured here by handouts.

    Government’s job is to get out of the way of the next generation of McCoys, Burdicks and Warrens. Government promises are insidious in and of themselves, because citizens are lured into waiting on something to be done for them, when in fact the citizens must take the risks to forge the future. Susan can’t get everyone better jobs, and Amy Holloway doesn’t have a secret potion to prosperity — its up to us.

  7. I guess it depends on how you define “us.” The government represents us and works for us and represents us.

    Going back to the situation at work, we have seen a reasonable amount of organic growth and we are looking to take some of the money we have made and use that to diversify and create even more growth.

    The city has seen an increase in revenue over the years from tourists spending money at the Outlet Mall. Taking some of that revenue and putting it into new initiatives to diversify the economy seems no different.

    You say that people are sitting around, waiting for the government to do something. Instead, you want the government to sit around and wait for the people to do something. I say, all parties have a role and a responsibility.

    Now, the objections you raise about ACC and the consultants are interesting.

  8. On the contrary Ted, leaders are elected to represent and government has a role in performing the jobs of local government. Infrastructure maintenance, insuring specific development does not harm the broader populace, easing regulatory burdens, easing traffic burdens, limiting crime, delivering utilities, etc. Local government should spend all its time and energy on its core functions, because by accomplishing these forsaken tasks, they provide the lubricant to private industry and ingenuity. There is plenty there for government and such is in their core strengths. We didn’t elect a counsel of our most accomplished business leaders; instead, they are citizens elected to solve citizen problems that fall within the province of government.
    By focusing on the economic development goals, Council is stepping off in the deep-end beyond their understanding where they can be led astray by the snake oil salesmen or persuaded by their own donors. Finally, city investments crowd out private investment and political will muddies the free market.

  9. I was referring to elected leaders, as they are the ones who will ultimately have to support this (or let it die).

    Beyond that, we just aren’t going to agree. In my opinion, a stable and prosperous local economy is crucial to the well being of the city and is what makes all of the infrastructure and crime prevention and everything else possible. Take a look at how well they have maintained all of that during decades of economic stagnation in the Detroit area.

    If our elected representatives aren’t able to make sound decisions related to economic development (which I am not saying), then they are the wrong representatives.

  10. Once upon a time, oh about 35 years ago, there was a lovely little city with a large University, a beautiful state capital. and air force base and some other assorted federal government offices, and economicaly that’s about it. Many of the students of the large university longed to stay in the lovely little city and they lamented at the lack of good high paying jobs, which they had to go to a couple of big sprawling cities about a 3 hour drive away to find.

    Then some amazing things happened. Because of this new fangled thing called a silicon chip, and because of the large university, high tech companies began to move to the lovely little city. The word got out that the city had a great music scene. And then one day about 1984 this college student began selling personal computers out of his dorm room, and before you knew it the lovely little city turned in to a lovely BIG CITY, with all that entails.

    I miss the Austin of the mid 70s when I was at the University of Texas. That Austin no longer exists. Which is why 16 years ago when I moved back to this part of the state I moved to San Marcos, not Austin.

    My point, when it comes to economic development be careful what you ask for, you may get it.

  11. Larry, there is a whole lot of ground between San Marcos and Austin and the notion that San Marcos will become another Austin, because of people pleading for better jobs and a more diverse economy is a bit far-fetched. In fact, many of the problems that Austin faces are because people tried to fight the growth and thought that if they refused to get involved, maybe the growth would pass them by. So, one could just as easily lament the loss of the Austin that you loved and say that if we are not more proactive, we will end up following the very same path.

  12. I am not at all anti growth. I agree Austin made a huge mistake in the 70s and 80s of thinking if you just don’t build the infrustructure people won’t move there. WRONG! And in the past 20-30 years when this area was exploded economically, no one had to leave San Marcos for a good job, what they possibly had to do was commute. Even today as we endure what they are calling the “Great Recession” there is hardly a better place to do it than here. Yes we are hurting, but nothing like what many other places are enduring.

    The pre-high tech boom Austin was a lot more like San Marcos of today than you realize. The difference was the state government provided a much larger employment base, but they were still government jobs. No one moved to Austin to get rich.

    My problem with the mayor is not that she is pro-growth, it is that in her mind any growth appears to be good growth. My position is that we can afford to be picky, and we should.

  13. If consultants were worth a darn they wouldn’t be in consulting. (Except Susan’s, they were right on the money)

    How about we just pave over the rest of the SW off the new WW extension, lure in some silicon valley firms and call it “the Round Rock of the South?”

    Or, in seriousness, how about we give the million to the arts commission and see what kind of attention we get? I bet we attract the right sort of folks then.

  14. “In the language of the draft version of CEDS, the Greater San Marcos Plan entails pursuing three main goals: 1.) Creating “a workforce development system that allows regional businesses to be globally competitive and enhances economic opportunity for workers;” 2.) Diversifying the “area economy through enhanced programmatic, marketing, and infrastructure capacity,” and; 3.) Engaging in “aggressive and ongoing efforts … to make the Greater San Marcos area’s one of Texas’ most compelling destinations to live, work, and visit.”

    I think the kind of language used here in the draft report will give you a pretty good idea of what we are going to get out of this project. Remember the phrase everyone yells when dancing the Cotton Eyed Joe? Yea, that’s the one. Now let’s all yell in unison – Bull …..!

    Ted, you are always an optimist and look for the good in every proposal. That’s usually a good thing but don’t be surprised when the final report is just the same as the other Economic Development reports that San Marcos produces about every five years. Does anybody know how much the consultants got?
    Charles Sims

  15. Lord, help me. I hardly know whether to stand and salute the “Plan,” which is, believe me, universally shared wherever there are extremes of desperation or glimmers of hope; or Messrs. McGlothlin and Sims and Marchutt, each of whom has contributed some perspective and some truth.

    Having played earlier in the game, I believe we will grow from what we ARE and have actually BEEN. If we are to achieve these rather nebulous but universal GOALS, it will be because some people–like the Garland Warrens and the Emmett McCoys–see where we are and create ways to maximize it. Brains and guts and ongoing commitment.

    Using our own additional ACC tax money to help bail out the growth-frenzy that persists on “the Hill” and divert the needs of local students is not any sort of solution, particularly. (There may also be a reason why ACC is so persistent in seeking to add the Hays County tax base without the expense of direct campus resource enlargement –see “Rising Star” above.) Seems the Devil is always in the details, after the consultants have left and the City Council and Chamber have changed shifts.

    Working with regional partners is a good idea, if not at all a new one. But if Lockhart or Comal County gets a bite, will we really commit to help them instead of ourselves? I hope our 1998 water-sharing agreement with Kyle is not an example. We should ALL try to remember the old saw that “piggies get fat, but hawgs get eaten.”

    Nor will paying outsiders to come in and read OUR watches to tell us what time it is (the classic definition of “consultant”–I first heard it in the ’80’s, when the first wave of aspirants went into the biz in lieu of taking their own advice,). We know each has reams in filing cabinets in the home office just waiting to be cut and pasted as the locals are facilitated toward a fairly predictable set of needs matched to goals. I swear on my holy honor that I am a devout veteran of planning, and a believer that, unless one has goals, it is hard to progress. The question is always, “Who signs the FINAL check?”. Everything else is conversation, nothing more.

    I think anybody can see where the city, county, state and nation have troublesome itches. Right now, everybody has the same ones. Duh! Anybody can tell WHERE we need to scratch, and all real “Capital-letter ‘Politicians'” sense that their own ambitions, self-images and plausible deniability ride on scratching them in public by using the public itself to do the scratching. The problem comes at the next stage, where WE actually find a way for San Marcos to “compete globally,” for example.

    Are we really going to put some Chinese out of business, or the Germans, or even the lowly and despised French, with our 30+% dropout rate, our 40% high-school graduate and 40% literacy rate, with virtually no bilingual resources except Spanish? Or will we just outbid and take those jobs from more hapless Texas cities via our increasingly terrific “incentives”? Round Rock did that to us (and Austin, if I can read a map) in the early ’80’s, while we just used our natural charm and resources.
    Now who is ready to grow and mercifully–so far–solvent?

    Is the bonanza of “mall money” to be our engine? It is in the early stages of a decline, and we already use just nearly all of it to fund well over 35% of our budget. We could, of course, tax ourselves to make up for the mall money we just now quietly spent, including the $500K we just gave TO the malls to help THEM survive the retail competition in the current “free-market Bush” “downturn” (a palatable and innocuous way of saying ongoing “hair-raising economic disaster.”)? Prices and sales are falling, folks. Alas. I still spend all I have, and….

    Lord,this time I am BEGGING! And please, help the local small business man or woman, too–we can’t ALL just be tattoo artists and hairstylists, cooks, waiters and bartenders, either. Nor can they. The retail ones are being Wal-Marted and Targeted and malled right out of existence, very often with taxpayer help. And most of their liquidity heads out of town before it changes hands even once, for parts unknown (big investment banks and subsidiary operations, just maybe?). Selling more drugs? Naahh. Market’s taken. Also, no sales taxes.

    For Pete’s sake, I just figured out we ARE the gummint that is going to bail us out, or at least that is what I was told in school. We must be to blame ourSELVES! Responsible! Sinners who create our own wounds and pass our own diseases! Oops! Sorry… maybe we could help with our own brains, energy, and commitment to EACH OTHER.
    Lord, I know they don’t do it that way in Austin or D.C.
    They trust it to the Fortune 500 Disciples. But we are surely not THEM. We are San Marcos. We are furiously doing that education thing. Teaching to the test and all, just like you had our Enlightened Leader tell us. We’re not leaving anybody behind, nor any stone unturned. We have more than one staff training facility. (Could we please now plan for a nuclear fusion plant, would you help us get just one? Or an innovative battery maker for cars and stuff?) Also, please help the Food Bank, the Women’s Center, Southside, and the County….

    Ah, what the heck, I’ll just salute all of the above, if it will help. Then I’ve done my part. Even prayed.

  16. Charles, you may be right, but if our biggest issues are jobs, schools and roads (at least that’s my top three list), we need elected officials who know how to address those issues. If we get a plan that doesn’t produce, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have a new plan. It means we need to figure out where the old plan fell short, when making the new one.

    As for the stated goals, they are about what I would expect. They are no different than a company’s mission statement.

    Aflac – “To combine aggressive strategic marketing with quality products and services at competitive prices to provide the best insurance value for consumers.”

    Bristol-Myers Squibb – “To help all people live healthy lives.”

    Microsoft – “At Microsoft, we work to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential. This is our mission. Everything we do reflects this mission and the values that make it possible.”

    Nike – “To Bring Inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”

    The mission statement is just general discussion of the direction you want to go, with a dash of inspirational pep-talk. The part that matters is in the strategic plan and the tactical details identified for moving us in the direction of those lofty goals.

    I am cautiously optimistic to see those details. At a minimum, the goals outlined above (if adopted) give us something to point to, the next time incentives for Target come up. It is hard to imagine a handful of $millions$ to a big box store will help us to compete globally, diversify the economy or make San Marcos a “compelling destinations to live, work, and visit.”

  17. the last quarter of 2009 seems promising as we have seen lots of signs of econic recovery against the massive economic recession. i hope that in 2010 all our economies would be back on track. recession really sucks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *