How Economic Development Happens

Last week, the Boerne / Kendall County Economic Development Corporation (BKCEDC) announced a major hotel project to be constructed on South Main Street across from Wal-Mart.

The probable Hilton/Doubletree property will cost $25 million to build and will feature 130 rooms, 7,500 square feet of conference space and resort-style amenities. In exchange for its investment, the developer will receive significant hotel tax rebates from local taxing authorities.

BKCEDC also announced that the Boerne City Council approved a medical office building project in the same South Boerne (“SoBo”) area. The $13 million project will likely include physician offices, an imaging center and an ambulatory surgical center.

Together with the Buc-ee’s travel store announcement late last year, BKCEDC has scored a string of economic investment to our area, along with no shortage of opinions.

While many definitions of positive economic development exist, most parties agree on the need for balanced growth. Kendall County is the 5th fastest-growing county in Texas and the 12th fastest-growing county in the nation, according to BKCEDC.

While there are many goals of economic development – jobs, utility customers, tax base expansion – no one wants it without a continuation of quality of life.

Most local government and business leaders don’t want to cut off Boerne’s nose to spite its face. They realize the features that drew people here must be preserved if the area is to maintain vibrancy. But it’s a fine line to walk.

On one hand, some want to freeze frame Kendall County. “Boerne, Texas, Gone Forever,” they might say.

On the other hand, desirability involves progress and growth. People want a quaint place to live, but not at the expense of modern goods and services. Hence, the need for economic development.

Economic development is a highly competitive process. Boerne no longer only competes regionally or even domestically for projects and opportunities. It competes internationally.

Economic development takes time. The average project takes two years to materialize. Site selectors examine mounds of financial and demographic data before making decisions. Even then, economic events can skew long-laid plans.

Population density is key. Investors want a certain critical mass of consumers and workers. While Kendall County is growing by leaps and bounds percentage-wise, raw household numbers don’t yet support what some businesses require.

But with more than five thousand new residential lots in some stage of development in the City of Boerne, the landscape is changing quickly. BKCEDC, founded in 2006 by local chamber of commerce leaders and funded by a consortium of city, county and private dollars, is shaping the process.

“As the chief marketing office of Boerne and Kendall County, we position our area as an ideal site for corporate investment,” President Misty Mayo explains. Mayo was second in command at the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation before joining BKCEDC in 2015.

Mayo has three priorities for the non-profit corporation: 1) Retain and expand existing businesses; 2) Relocate San Antonio-area companies to Kendall County; and 3) Recruit and attract regional and national entities to the area.

“In economic development, it’s not the big who beat the small,” Mayo insists. “It’s the fast who beat the slow.”

 

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

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