Long discusses growth with business community

nomic Development Corp. Meet and Greet Feb. 20 at Dahlia Cafe. (Shelly Wilkison Photo)

nomic Development Corp. Meet and Greet Feb. 20 at Dahlia Cafe. (Shelly Wilkison Photo)

By SHELLY WILKISON

While growth seems to be the new buzz word in Liberty Hill, Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long put that in perspective for about 30 members of the business community Feb. 20.

“Precinct 2 in 2000 was the fastest growing precinct in Williamson County, and it was again in 2010,” she said. “We’re (Precinct 2) in the fastest growing area of the fastest growing county in the fastest growing state in the nation.”

Commissioner Long was the keynote speaker at a Meet and Greet luncheon for the business comunity sponsored by the City of Liberty Hill’s Economic Development Corp. The luncheon was hosted by EDC member John Johnston at his business, Dahlia Cafe.

Commissioner Long spoke about growth in the county and specifically, what the County has done to improve infrastrucutre in the area preparing for the growth.

She noted several road improvements in recent years and informed businesses of future improvements that could be expected as a result of transportation and park bonds adopted by voters in 2013.

Mrs. Long, a Republican from Cedar Park, said while road improvements are necessary, “we’ll never be able to build enough roads to let people drive to Austin to work. If we can continue to grow our businesses here and attract companies here, we won’d need to keep building roads to Austin.”

Mrs. Long, who represents Liberty Hill on the Commissioners Court, showed business owners a map of the precinct indicating subdivision plats approved to date.

“This represents just shy of 2,000 lots approved within the last 18 months,” she said.

She said with new growth comes the bigger challenge of meeting water and power needs of new families and businesses.

“Williamson County recently joined the Lone Star Water Authority, an entity created two legislative sessions ago, which allows local governments a financing tool for water and wastewater projects,” she said. “We wanted to make sure resources are available for our smaller communities.”

She added that PEC is in the process of construcing new transmission lines in Leander and Cedar Park preparing for the growth and the increased demand for electricity.

With the growth to the region, Mrs. Long said she is seeing cities work together at an unprecedented level.

“They are working well together on bigger planning issues,” she said, adding that a goal is to make Williamson County the envy of the nation.

“We’re not always going to agree on everything, but there are multiple paths to get to the ultimate goal,” she said.

Mrs. Long said Liberty Hill is blessed at this time of growth and development not to be a habitat for some endangered species that are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.

“We’ve come to love to hate it,” she said of the Act. “It was a great idea when passed, but now we’re protecting beetles and salamanders at the expense of development.

The County has been in a two-year battle with US Fish and Wildlife over Williamson County Salamander and the Jollyville Salamander.

“It has had an impact on how we can grow and develop,” she said. “The Georgetown Salamander is not in Liberty Hill and that’s good news for Liberty Hill. But now they’ve found a mussel in the San Gabriel River and we are closely monitoring that. This has gotten a little nutty.”

Mrs. Long noted that while the County has limited tools to incentivize businesses looking to relocate here, it has made the tax burden somewhat easier in recent years.

She said with the exemption to the Freeport Tax, 14 new businesses have moved to Williamson County bringing jobs. Freeport property includes various types of property detained in Texas for a short period of time (175 days or less) to be transported out of state. The goods must be in Texas for certain purposes.

“We have limited tools at the county level for incentivizing businesses, but reducing taxes is one thing we can do,” she said.