Envision Somervell County sets priorities for growth

By Kathryn Jones

Editor

Business leaders again gathered at last week’s second work session for “Envision Somervell County” and began narrowing priorities for future economic growth.

Wes Jurey speaks to chamber members last Thursday. Photo by Kathryn Jones

Wes Jurey of the Center for Innovation gave chamber members “homework” for next month’s meeting.  Photo by Kathryn Jones

More than 50 people attended the two-hour meeting at Still Water Lodge. The economic development initiative was spearheaded by the Glen Rose/Somervell County Chamber of Commerce and 20 investors who have been meeting this year to discuss ways to develop the local economy.

Wes Jurey, president and chief executive officer of The Center for Innovation, a nonprofit technology-driven economic development corporation based in Arlington, has been hired to help guide the process from ideas to a plan of action.

Those attending the meeting again divided into groups and whittled their topics – economic competitiveness, maintaining a competitive workforce, community redevelopment, infrastructure and quality of life – to the most significant issues.

During the lunch session, each group reported their findings.

The group focused on economic competitiveness identified tourism, clean manufacturing and energy as the top areas for growth.

Nichole Belford, director of the Glen Rose Convention & Visitors Bureau, reported for the group and said that clean manufacturing would include areas such as assembly in the aerospace sector and government procurement.

The group tackling the competitive workforce issue noted that identifying a niche for Somervell County was a top priority as well as addressing perceptions.

“We need to work on negative perceptions we have about how high taxes are and momentum against growth,” said Darrell Best, who reported that group’s findings.

The group exploring community redevelopment identified its highest priorities as affordable housing in the $150,000 range, increasing rental property, looking at pre-fabricated housing for areas such as Wolf City, strengthening relationships with state and federal officials and possibly offering tax abatements to downtown businesses.

The infrastructure and mobility group again identified updated infrastructure as important to development.

The group discussing quality of life set its top priorities as affordable health care, public safety, arts, fitness and public spaces.

“It’s important to have an indoor/outdoor recreation center” with an Olympic-size pool, said Ashley Woodley, director of public relations and community education. That would also benefit the schools, she added.

After hearing the reports, Jurey said that if the community “can’t generate wealth, you can’t sustain yourself.”

Identifying resources and helping those expand and prosper is another way to generate growth, Jurey said.

“Fossil Rim is a huge resource in your town’s identity,” he said. “Downtown could become one.”

As for attracting more manufacturing to the area, Best said high-tech manufacturing, such as an unmanned vehicles or health care, would be one thing. “But if it’s other types of manufacturing, I don’t know,” he said.

“Advanced manufacturing is different from smokestack manufacturing,” he said.

Jurey said he believed the aerospace industry was going to grow and move more into unmanned systems. Many large aerospace companies are located in the Dallas-Forth Worth area and have subcontractors and suppliers in nearby towns.

Jurey also mentioned that he has obtained a database of companies that supply Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. Tinker is the headquarters of the U.S. Air Force’s Materiel Command’s Oklahoma City Logistics Center, which manages the maintenance, overhaul and repair of major aircraft, engines, avionics and other systems.

Millions of dollars of business could come from suppliers looking for specific components, he noted.

At the next Chamber of Commerce meeting on Sept. 18, members of the five groups will be asked to narrow their lists to the top three and then prioritize them, Jurey said. The next step will to be describe an “actionable recommendation” for each one and then to identify the leadership, stakeholders and champions needed to achieve the goals.

An economic growth plan then will be presented to the community sometime this fall for public input.

The bottom line is that the participants need to identify what Somervell County wants to become, Jurey said. Does it want to attract aerospace assembly or other high-tech manufacturing ? Does it want to create a wildflower tour and be known for that? Does it want to be known as the gateway to the Hill Country?

“You’ve got to start with the end in mind,” Jurey said.

 

 

 

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