Prioritization at top of City’s economic agenda

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By Christine Bolaños

The Liberty Hill Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors held a workshop last week to discuss the group’s priorities moving forward.

“We went through the strategy for five elements of what I believe are important for the economic development office,” EDC Executive Director Kirk Clennan said.

Those include administration/organization including going over the bylaws and the budget “in a very, very surface sense. We didn’t get into any numbers,” he explained.

The Board also looked at retention and expansion.

“What are we going to do, how are we going to do it, where are we going to do it (expand),” Clennan said. “Relocation – who are we partnering with, what are our resources, how do we approach that, entrepreneurial development and destination tourism.”

After that, the discussion turned to plans for the EDC. Clennan said he presented a plan to the Board a few weeks ago that proved to be “too long term.”

“I’ve had the chance since submitting the initial plan to sit down and visit with Jim Bechtol as our planning director, Greg Boatright our city manager, Amber Lewis our finance director. I’ve even gone so far as to sit it on an engineering conversation,” Clennan said.

“What I came to find out is we have some fundamentals that need to be addressed.”

Those include infrastructure as it relates to water/wastewater and to some degree, roads.

“I felt like we needed to take care of some of those before we consider some other elements. We really spent a lot of time trying to figure out what are the priorities,” he explained. “What are the priorities for improving fire flow, water pressure throughout the city, because the city council just approved what I see as redundant water access.

“We have Georgetown on the east side and Leander on the west side. Alright, now we need to integrate those two systems together and that means tying it all up so we have high quality water throughout the entire community at pressures that ensure the safety and welfare of the citizens,” Clennan added. “That was the bulk of the workshop.”

The Liberty Hill EDC is a 4B Corporation which, according to Clennan, allows it more flexibility in its expenditures.

“The prioritization of where do we believe there will be industrial or commercial nodes; retail to a certain degree. How do we ensure those areas of where they can go land use wise? How do we make the most of those to where there’s no concern about the delivery of water and wastewater because it comes down to the fire flow,” Clennan explained. “That’s where we’ve seen as a bit of an Achilles heel for the community.

“When a fire truck hooks up to a fire hydrant somewhere and they draw, it decreases pressure throughout the system. We can’t afford to have that happen,” Clennan continued. “Fundamentally, a city or governmental entity is in place to ensure the welfare of its citizens. If we are having issues when some fireman is just trying to put out a fire and we’ve got water pressure decreasing throughout the community that’s not a good thing.”

The EDC 4B corporation status allows the Board and staff to target specific issues such as water and wastewater infrastructure.

“We’re looking at it more as a node. That if we can use those businesses as a catalyst then let’s improve infrastructure there and that will have ancillary benefits to the rest of the area around it,” Clennan said.

A 4A corporation, on the other hand, has very specific uses for its monies.

The workshop, Clennan said, served to guide him as to where the Board envisions the EDC going.

“Kirk, let’s get a clear idea on the priorities. Let’s get some bottom line numbers and let’s put a time frame to it,” is the message Clennan heard.

“You’re going to make these improvements so where are they? The location of them. Prioritize that location. Is it first, second, 87th. Identify the timeframe for completion. If we were to commit today when would it be done?” Clennan explained. “It would be interesting to evaluate what would be the job creation and capital investment when we do that. It’s one thing to have the fire safety, but now we need to be able to generate revenue. It’s property tax, sales tax and permits and fees.”

That could be the next topic of conversation, he said. Clennan thinks the Board may be interested in having a monthly workshop in addition to regular meetings.

The EDC is also considering becoming part of the new Williamson County Economic Development Alliance, which aims to aggressively market the county.

“Fundamentally, we’re a part of Williamson County so that would be the first reason. We are a thriving community on the northwest corner of Williamson County. We need to belong,” Clennan said. “Second would be it broadens our awareness, it broadens our circle of being part of something bigger than ourselves. We’re not an island onto ourselves we’re now part of a greater chain of islands so that’s important.

“Third, it includes us in a greater statistical effort. We’re part of more labor, more demographic, more land, more transportation access. It positions us as part of something bigger,” Clennan explained. “That’s what our development allies want to see anyway.”

In an email he previously sent to The Independent, Clennan mentioned a decision on membership would likely need to hold until the following fiscal year but that he would like to join as soon as possible. The Board would need to consider cost of membership as well as costs for participation in other groups such as the Austin Chamber’s Opportunity Austin.

The minimum investment a year is $1,500 and $5,000, respectively, Clennan said. Memberships in both groups would amount to about to $6,500 a year. It’s about balancing the return on investment, he said.

“If we were to invest that amount of money for five years, let’s just say, are we going to get a company out of that? Are we going to get increased awareness? How do we quantify that,” Clennan asked rhetorically.

He said the EDC looks forward to hosting primary employers on Thursday, June 18, for breakfast.

“Just to introduce ourselves and thank them for being part of the community,” Clennan said.

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