GEDC: Planning ahead


GONZALES — The Gonzales Economic Development Corporation (GEDC) is heading into the summer with a list of accomplishments and a bright outlook on the future of business creation here in town says GEDC President Genora Young.

It hasn't been a year since she was hired by the city, but she is excited about where the board is headed and is intent on figuring out what direction city businesses want to take economic development here. Young is sticking to her belief that listening to what people want in a vibrant downtown economy is much better than an outsider moving in and trying to tell folks what to do.

Taking over a role is never easy, but Young said that the GEDC board had a solid vision in place when she arrived. Topping their list of accomplishments is the newest, tallest sight that has gone up: the flagpole on Texas Heroes Square.

Young said that she hears stories daily of people parked on the square, necks craned up, looking at the fluttering flag. Sometimes it is the American flag, sometimes the Texas and often the Come and Take It banner, but so far its mission of bringing in motorists off of Hwy. 183 to stop downtown for a spell appears to be working. The pole project was approved by GEDC and the city earlier this year as a tourism driver for the town.

“The flag is definitely getting people to stop,” said Young. “It is doing what the economic development board wanted, which is to bring people downtown.”

One new economic development process that Young has implemented is pre-development meetings for people who are thinking of opening a new business. It is less of an inspection and evaluation of a building but rather a coming together of minds to help an infant business grow in its early days.

Young described a recent meeting where this happened. In addition to her and city staff, members of the police and fire departments are on hand to help troubleshoot ideas at a location before anything is built, such as issues of ingress and egress and all possible options or impediments that the group can see. Young said that she is greeted with support from business owners that appreciate staff input and different thoughts and concepts that might not have been realized prior.

Another new tool coming down the pipeline is the improved website being designed by the city that will allow GEDC to provide a portal to businesses looking to relocate here. Young thinks that the new, easy-to-use site should help connect those interested in the local school system, existing retail and city functionality to help form a solid platform for a relocation plan. That website — along with the City of Gonzales site — looks to be completed by August.

Along for the ride this summer is a new intern from Texas A&M University. Gonzales High School grad Jill Schauer has returned to get some on-hand training in city affairs en route to her college degree requirements. Young said that she has already been an asset to potential business suitors, using her knowledge of the city and buildings to help navigate around a potential deal. Plus, she already has some ideas for event surveys that they are looking into.

If this internship goes well, which according to Young it is, they will look next year into additional funding from outside resources that can help land another — if not more — city interns. Hopes are that Texas A&M will see value in this current partnership and will offer a program for the city in the coming years.

Young praised the GEDC board for its planning and new ideas. Their job is to invest city money wisely and she believes that is being one exactly as planned.

Coming later this year will be news if Gonzales is the recipient of $5 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grant looks to fund capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure that will have significant impacts on an area.

As Young described, the grant would go toward 10 miles of new sidewalks in the community. It would effectively tie the city together, becoming a bridge from downtown to additional retail, schools, historical points-of-interest and churches. GEDC has already offered up $250,000 toward the project if it is approved.

Young is still excited to be a part of Gonzales and looks forward to being the change that people need — when they want it.