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On Thursday at the quarterly Lamar County Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon at the Love Civic Center, Carlton Schwab was the keynote speaker.
Carlton Schwab, president and chief executive officer of the Texas Economic Development Corporation, gave a primer Thursday concerning economic development corporations in general and the Paris Economic Development Corporation in particular.
Speaking at the quarterly luncheon of the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce, Schwab said Texas differs from some other states in economic development in that communities are not dependent on a centralized state economic development commission that determines which city or town is selected as a location for a business.
Instead, Texas has approximately 850 economic development corporations – each funded from a portion of local sales tax as elected by local voters that are able to go after bringing in new businesses.
This system has proven successful, Schwab said.
It has contributed to Texas economic growth and stability, he said, noting that Texas was last to enter the recent recession and the first to recover.
He also noted that as of December 2011, Texas had regained all of the jobs lost as a result of the monumental economic downturn. Further, Texas has remained significantly below national unemployment levels for years, he said.
Regarding Paris, Schwab said that to be all that the city can be as a community, it must maintain a strong economic development corporation.
He praised PEDC’s strategic plan as “cutting edge, aggressive and ahead of its time.”
He also commented on Type-A economic development corporations, as opposed to Type-B, which recently became a topic of interest in Paris.
He commented on Big Spring, Texas, a city with notably similar circumstances.
In Big Spring, the city council became increasingly concerned because of an aging infrastructure that was deteriorating rapidly. The council realized that its economic development corporation had amassed several million dollars and pushed for an election to convert 60 per cent of the EDC’s funds from 4A to 4B so they could then fix water and sewer infrastructure.
“They are out of the game,” Schwab said. “They simply can’t compete in economic development.”
Schwab went through about a dozen other examples of cities that either considered or implemented 4B elections.
“In this whole state, 800 miles east to west, only three communities have been really successful” in Type B economic development,” he said.
When asked the importance of workforce development to the success of economic development, Schwab replied, “It’s everything.”
Schwab said location obviously is very important, but today with a more dynamic work environment, training is so critical.
He mentioned communities whose manufacturers are desperate to grow, but simply cannot find the skilled workers they need. In one case, there were not enough applicants who could pass a drug test, he said.