Liberty Hill EDC welcomes new executive director


Kirk D. Clennan, Photo, 2009-smallBy Christine Bolaños

There is a new leader in town who hopes to help set Liberty Hill on the path to growth and prosperity. Kirk Clennan officially took over as executive director of the Liberty Hill Economic Development Corporation on April 1.

He brings more than 20 years of experience in economic development to the table. He has previously served in a number of economic leadership positions including in neighboring cities of Cedar Park and Leander. His comprehensive philosophy includes retaining, expanding and relocating business; relocating prospective businesses; entrepreneurial development and destination tourism.

“I believe in prosperity for all and I sincerely believe that when a community creates an environment for job creation and capital investment that everyone can benefit. That’s always been my motivation — to have everyone benefit,” he said.

Clennan is ready to start meeting with business owners in the community and organize the EDC so that both internal and external communication improves.

“I’m going to approach Liberty Hill similar to how I’ve approached other cities. I want to visit with our primary employers. I want to identify some economic indicators so we can evaluate our economic history. Because the town is so small we are not going to have the breadth of information like in other cities. We are going to evaluate which ones we monitor every month and then yearly,” Clennan explained.

The third element is site facility inventory, which essentially means figuring out what gives Liberty Hill a unique and competitive edge over other communities.

“I want to evaluate these three quantifiable variables in our community. I want to build a database of professional and industry associations and then incorporate that data so that we understand what we’re trying to sell,” Clennan said. “It’s about looking at the community as a product. What are the competitive advantages that make us distinctly competitive?”

He also stresses the importance of having a consistent and solid flow of communication amongst what he calls “development allies,” which include but are not limited to, the city, school district and county leadership as well as engineers, real estate agents, architects and construction firms.

“A lot of real estate attorneys are involved in the front end on companies that want to consider expansion or relocation. It makes for a very good list of development allies and gives a sense of confidence that they can count on Liberty Hill, Texas, for their economic and business development needs,” Clennan shared.

His major short-term goal is to just go out into the community, meet folks and listen to them. He wants to document what he learns as he makes his way through town to help determine how Liberty Hill can make the most of its resources.

Resources don’t always come in the form of minerals, for example. They can come in the form of a body of water such as a lake, he explained. Having a firm grasp on the transportation situation in town as well as quantity and quality of labor is essential to knowing a town’s economic features and needs.

He also emphasizes the importance of getting the organization organized. This short-term goal (12-18 months) will help the EDC reach longer-term goals (within five years).

Mid-term (within three years) goals include working on inter-departmental collaboration where different departments communicate and work collaboratively to see projects through. Clennan expressed interest in focusing efforts on downtown in particular.

Long-term goals include hotel development, bringing mixed-use retail into town and improved entrances and overall attention to Liberty Hill’s aesthetics.

“I haven’t had much of a chance to evaluate Liberty Hill’s advantages (yet) and we may be looking at Liberty Hill in a more unconventional way. We may be sitting back and taking an everything’s-on-the-table kind of look at what we know about Liberty Hill right now and what can come out of that effort,” Clennan said.

By an unconventional look, Clennan means possibly focusing on industry segments that make Liberty Hill stand out. By focusing on industries that many other cities also focus on, Liberty Hill is essentially a small fish in a big pond.

A possible effect of that is making Liberty Hill more of a tourism destination.

For example, a town in Pennsylvania has a number of manufacturing plants. The plants began hosting tours to attract tourists. This brings in revenue into town that would otherwise not have been there. Likewise, Liberty Hill could possibly find its own niche.

“When destination tourism reinforces quality of life for residents and visitors it’s just a positive,” he said.

He plans to discuss with city leadership downtown revitalization plans. He also wants the EDC board to become involved in as many activities that relate to economic development as possible including events, conferences, meetings and more.

He said the EDC has set aside $1,000 to help fund a Lego camp offered to area children over the summer on city facilities. The exact details weren’t known at the time of the interview with Clennan on Tuesday.

“We want to really work with our partners and LHISD is absolutely one of those partners on increasing academic and cultural awareness,” Clennan said.

He said discussions with partners and the community will help lead the EDC in developing its priorities.

“Numerous meetings and conversations with the public and private leadership will enable the LHEDC to prioritize these development efforts,” he said.

Clennan plans to start a Facebook page and LinkedIn account for Liberty Hill EDC.

“I want to tie this all together to make sure the web experience is a positive one where they (residents) can communicate,” he said.