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

August 26th, 2010
County gives $150K for regional economic plan

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In the foreground, Economic Development San Marcos Executive Director Amy Madison, left, and Kyle Economic Development Director Diana Blank, right. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

Hays County commissioners voted, 4-1, Tuesday to give $150,000 to the Greater San Marcos Economic Development Corporation (GSMEDC), which is trying to raise $800,000 for its first year of operations.

GSMEDC, a recently-formed, nonprofit entity tasked with implementing a five-year Greater San Marcos Plan in Hays and Caldwell Counties. The plan is intended to increase wages, reduce unemployment and poverty, provide affordable housing, and protect the environment.

The county will fund the $150,000 for GSMEDC. Of that, $50,000 already was set aside in this year’s budget for that purpose, and another $100,000 is being transferred from the county tax office’s budget. Tax Assessor-Collector Luanne Carraway (R-Kyle) recently discovered she no longer needs the $170,000 she budgeted this year for new software.

Economic Development San Marcos (EDSM) Executive Director Amy Madison was among the dozen people at Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting who offered public comment regarding county funding for GSMEDC. Madison said that in return for funding, GSMEDC would provide advertising, economic development incentives oversight and review, negotiation oversight, marketing services, and economic analysis services to the county, including cities in the county that cannot contribute financially to GSMEDC. Madison said GSMEDC would maintain a website with property listings in Hays County, and hyperlinks to all county cities.

One person who offered public comment asked commissioners to postpone acting on the matter so the public would have more time to learn about the proposal. All the others who offered comment to the court spoke in favor of giving GSMEDC $150,000. Hays County Judge Liz Sumter (D-Wimberley) agreed with that comment and cast the only dissenting vote after asking Madison for more time.

Said Sumter to Madison, “I hope we do wait one week to give me some time to go through the … material, take a look at (GSMEDC’s) budget, talk to a few folks — mostly talk to you (Madison) about how you intend to outreach to the west of the county and bring them in, because those surveys (leading up to the Greater San Marcos Plan) were only done in the greater San Marcos area. They weren’t done in the rest of the county to figure out what those directions need to be.”

Commissioners voted unanimously in February for a resolution in support of the Greater San Marcos Plan. The San Marcos City Council adopted the plan with a unanimous resolution on the same day. Madison said the plan commissioners voted on in February contained a budget similar to GSMEDC’s current budget. Madison offered to get Sumter a copy of the GSMEDC’s current budget after the Tuesday commissioners court meeting.

Madison read a letter from State Representative Patrick Rose (D-San Marcos) in support of county funding for GSMEDC.

“This funding will enable the EDC (economic development corporation) to begin implementing its comprehensive strategic plan for our region, a critical project for which Hays County has already contributed $25,000,” Rose’s letter said. “Also contributing to this effort financially are Caldwell County and the cities of Lockhart, Luling, Kyle, and San Marcos. This support from Hays County will enable the GSMEDC to assist communities throughout our two-county region in implementing the strategic plan. The importance of the plan done by the GSMEDC cannot be overstated, particularly as we work to protect and grow jobs in our region.”

Rose said many public and private entities working together on an economic development plan would help leverage grants.

Lockhart Mayor Ray Sanders, speaking to commissioners in support of county funding for GSMEDC, echoed Rose’s statement and said the chances of receiving federal assistance increases with involvement in an organization like GSMEDC.

Hays County Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford (D-Dripping Springs) said Partners for Progress has yet to adequately involve the western part of the county and Dripping Springs in its efforts, though Ford said she supports the idea behind the Greater San Marcos Plan. Ford said she hoped to speak to Madison months ago about finding ways to make sure the plan benefits the portion of the county she represents.

GSMEDC plans to fund the Greater San Marcos Plan with $4 million in contributions from public and private entities and individuals. Madison said the City of San Marcos will hold a budget hearing Sept. 7 to consider giving GSMEDC $360,000 for its first year of funding. Madison said GSMEDC has raised more than $500,000 of the $800,000 it needs for first year implementation of the Greater San Marcos Plan. Madison said GSMEDC’s fundraising campaign began Aug. 12 and will last until Feb. 1.

Madison said GSMEDC will work to solve regional problems such as low wages, traffic congestion, poverty, high housing costs, negative perceptions of local educational institutions, lack of awareness of economic development initiatives, lack of access to venture capital and entrepreneurial resources, and a shortage of workforce development and education programs.

The Greater San Marcos Plan includes three main goals for the region: achieving workforce excellence, economic diversification and quality of place. The plan recommends targeting four industries for recruitment: health care, corporate and professional operations, material science and advanced manufacturing, and supply chain management.

The plan also identifies the “special opportunity areas” of tourism, downtown development, and green industries. The implementation plan portion of the Greater San Marcos Plan specifies benchmarks and metrics by which to judge the strategy’s progress and step-by-step instructions for each year of the plan. The plan calls for the building of an Austin Community College (ACC) campus in San Marcos, among other educational initiatives to achieve the workforce excellence goal.

Commissioners voted unanimously in December 2008 to give $25,000 to Partners for Progress, GSMEDC’s earlier incarnation before the group reorganized as a 501(c)(6) entity. The $25,000 was used to fund the development of the Greater San Marcos Plan, developed during a months-long process facilitated by Atlanta consulting firm Market Street Services, Inc., and guided by Partners for Progress.

The City of San Marcos paid $173,298.21 to Market Street Services for development of the plan using input from community surveys, focus groups, and interviews with community leaders. Madison said Partners for Progress contributed more than $100,000 to match the city’s contribution.

Founding members of Partners for Progress include EDSM, San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of San Marcos, San Marcos CISD, Texas State, Hays County, Central Texas Medical Center (CTMC), Gary Job Corps, Caldwell County, the Lockhart Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the Luling EDC, and Prime Outlets.

GSMEDC has a 16-seat regional board reserved for the City of San Marcos, Hays County, Caldwell County, Economic Development San Marcos, the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce, CTMC, Texas State, and four private investors, along with San Marcos CISD, Gary Job Corps, and the San Marcos Manufacturers Association. The City of San Marcos has three seats on the board. Madison said the number of seats may be increased.

The board’s executive committee is composed of Chairman Perry Moore (the Texas State provost), Vice Chair Will Conley (also Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner), Secretary Ray Sanders, Treasurer Don Nash (EDSM Chair), Director Laurie Moyer (interim San Marcos City Manager), Director Dan Roy (former San Marcos Chamber of Commerce Chair).

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4 thoughts on “County gives $150K for regional economic plan

  1. If the City of San Marcos is providing $350,000.00 for this regional project who will lead economic development efforts that place San Marcos first? Regional partnerships are good but at the end of the day who is going to say San Marcos is the place for your business and at what financial level is the City supporting that effort now and in the future?

  2. With them asking for $1.5 million dollars from San Marcos taxpayers ($300K/yr for five years), where can we see a copy of the proposed annual budget, and a copy of the “Plan” itself?

    Or, is this another secret plan where only privileged people can shine in the light and partake of the details?

    And, since this new expense wasn’t budgeted by the City, and we’re in over our heads in debt and long-term obligations, what’s going to get “cut” from current expenditures in order to pay for this $300K/yr?

    Our long-term debt and certificates of obligation more than doubled during the past 5 years. The current proposed budget for COSM has us drawing down the general funds even more. How can the City of San Marcos afford this when we continue to spend beyond our means?

    I hear candidates talk of fiscal responsibility and accountability in government. What specifically are they proposing to change in order to reign in the continued runaway spending?

  3. @ Steve: The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy and Implementation Plan that make up the Greater San Marcos Plan can be found in the backup to the February 16, 2010 San Marcos City Council agenda. The implementation plan will change slightly over its lifetime, but what’s there is essentially it. Also, the article says they are asking for 360k for just the first year and need $4 million over the next five years.

  4. What a Boondoggle. What a plan, hire a bunch of consultants to tell you need to spend a boatload of money. Ponzi would be proud. Hey, maybe we can get Bernie Maddoff to run the thing for us.

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