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Bandera - to develop or not, Part 3

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Photo by Judith Pannebaker
LCRA's Jeremy Zaborowski

(Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles on attempts to develop a plan to attract new businesses to the city and county of Bandera.)

To jumpstart the local economy, a quartet of businessmen banded together six years ago to establish what has become known as the Bandera County Economic Development Partnership. Prime movers of this partnership include Chairman Sully Woodland and directors, Roy Thompson, Johnny Boyle, Gary Johnston, Don Giles and Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes.
In September, the group sponsored a four-hour planning workshop on economic development held in the Bandera Electric Cooperative Community Room.
Grimes, who recently secured a first step for offering tax abatements to industries opening for business in Bandera County, designed the workshop. Jeremy Zaborowski, with the Lower Colorado River Authority, acted as facilitator. The workshop itself was provided gratis by the LCRA.
According to Zaborowski, successful economic development must balance both economy and ecology. Economy, he said, included the ability to move goods from one place to another. Bandera County, Zaborowski noted, is not close to interstates or railroads. Additionally, its hilly terrain makes it difficult to construct plants. Ecology brings in the human factor.
Additionally, all components of the county must work in harmony to promote economic development, Zaborowski said. Everyone has a part. Examples might be:
• Elected officials set priorities and promote a vision.
• Administrators supply technical knowledge.
• Economic development professionals market and act as liaisons for the community.
• Planning departments develop a strategy for future business growth and issue permits as needed.
• Code enforcement enforces codes to maintain an attractive community. "Codes have to be reasonable and code enforcement must be flexible," Zaborowski cautioned.
• Chambers of Commerce help businesses grow.
• Convention and Visitors Bureaus attract the visitors who spend money in the community.
• Educational systems produce a talented workforce for current and future industries.
• Business associations support business goals in the region.
"The most important part of the system is the businesses which drive the economy," Zaborowski said. He added, "Everyone in the community must be informed and engaged. Where we're at today is not where we'll be tomorrow."
As an example of poor prior planning, Zaborowski cited the City of Austin and its lack of an efficient highway system. "Unlike the Field of Dreams, Austin leaders took the stance, 'If we don't build it, they won't come.' Well, that didn't work out. 'They' came and now Austin has huge traffic congestion problems all of the time - even at 11 am Sunday morning."
Zaborowski also brought up the subject of primary jobs vs. secondary jobs. As he explained, "Primary jobs bring new money into the community while secondary jobs recycle money that's already here." As examples, he cited auto parts manufacturer, primary; beef ranch, primary unless it has an ag exempt tax status, in which it becomes secondary; convenience store, secondary; restaurant, both; prison, primary; and hospital, primary.
Regarding Bandera's focus on tourism, Zaborowski said, "This is a cash business, and the tourists go home. However, the jobs are not the most desirable."
CVB Executive Director Patricia Moore said that in Bandera County, 1,300 people are employed in the tourist industry. She also felt that - in Bandera, at least - convenience stores are a source of primary jobs, saying, "It's the people coming to Bandera who support four convenience stores."
Zaborowski next turned to what he termed "the Texas miracle," the Eagle Ford shale play, which fortunately or un-, depending on a person's political bent, stops just beneath the Bandera County line.
He noted that from 2008-2014, the play pumped $87 billion into the Texas economy. During that time, Texas went from producing 581 barrels of oil and natural gas per day to 1.5 million barrels per day.
"Eagle Ford made a huge impact on the Texas economy and now all the talk is about Texas," Zaborowski said. He cautioned, however, that economies - like most aspects of life - "ebb and flow." He said, "In the 1800s, upstate New York was the place to be. Air conditioning and photography were invented there and the Erie Canal moved goods. Now no one remembers the Erie Canal."
Zaborowski continued, "I'm not trying to push you in any direction, but change is coming and you must know how to manage it. You can let it wash over you or you can learn to manage it."