EDC looks to marketers to attract employers to Liberty Hill

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By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM

Liberty Hill needs a marketing professional, directors agreed at the Economic Development Corp.workshop last Thursday.

The board, a panel of seven directors, and city officials with a mission to foster Liberty Hill’s economic competitiveness, discussed the proposal as part of a brainstorming session.

The looming question was how to attract more employers to the area— or, as Director Rick Hall described it, how to move from a “residential community” of subdivisions toward an “economic community.”

“If a 50-plus employer walks in the door tomorrow and says, ‘I have an offer here from Pflugerville for $1.5 million to bring my business, what can you do for me,’ what can we say?” asked City Administrator Greg Boatright. “Right now we don’t have anything to show them.”

Boatright said that despite the number of “shovel-ready sites” Liberty Hill has for employers, the City has no documentation or packages that would provide that kind of information — or better yet, sell it.

“It’s like we have a professional driver, but a [Chevrolet] Vega in the parking lot,” Boatright said.

“We’ve got the steak, but it’s gotta sizzle,” added Jack Harkrider.

A marketing firm, they decided, could compile, update and present information to city officials on what properties are available, where they are, what utilities are available there, what that property is zoned for, and more.

At least three candidates have been identified, and EDC President Lance Dean volunteered for the task to narrow the list and secure a firm before a joint planning session with the City Council scheduled tentatively for Feb. 23.

The marketing firm could also double as a “one-stop shop” that would form a long-term economic plan the EDC plans to write for city council. Out of the compiled survey, the EDC hopes to be able to identify deficits in transportation, capital infrastructure, wastewater management, and other areas deserving attention in a development-oriented economic agenda.

“Our money is better spent paying a professional to do a lot of the work for our long-range plan. Our task right now is to bring revenue into the city. Our time is better spent attending to what’s happening, because we’re just trying to knock down what comes through the door,” Boatright said.

The plan, the board agreed, would help establish a steady course for Liberty Hill that could endure the expected tug-and-tussle of short-range politics, or an unexpected administrative reshuffling.

“We want our community to be stable. And our citizens to know the direction we’re going. If you don’t have a plan, then you’re subjected to the whims of the council,” Boatright said.

Currently, almost all land is zoned as residential, with some commercial and almost no industrial. That’s a problem, Boatright said, because it could spell future trouble for the City’s coffers.

A more continual revenue source is needed to be more sustainable, he said. Currently, a large portion of revenue comes from one-time fees, such as building permits. That income is precarious, and could be vulnerable to future upsets in the greater economy. If the growth stops, the money stops.

A more sustainable approach comes in the form of tax revenue. The total amount of taxes paid on capital assets hovers around $2.90 for every $100. Put another way, a residence or business with a valuation of $100,000 might contribute only $290 to the city, Boatright said.

That stands as a problem for the city’s duties, such as improving roads or the recent wastewater expansion— or even more basic community programs, such as revitalizing downtown or the purchase of the Fowler building.

The next EDC meeting will be held on Feb. 16, a week before the joint planning session with City Council.

Waylon@LHIndependent.com

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