MARBLE FALLS — Economic development leaders Aug. 1 approved hiring a firm designed to coax industry to the area while also stressing the need to preserve the city’s hometown feel.
As part of a second phase of a plan designed to gather data to draw retailers and manufacturers to the city, the Economic Development Corp. board approved spending $22,500 to hire Austin-based Theory into Practice Strategies.
But at least one EDC board member said decisions about recruiting new industry should take the size of the community into perspective.
“I don’t want Toyota (car-making company),” said Director Steve Reitz. “I just want to make their door handles, and I’d be happy.”
TIPS, established in 1995, joins The Retail Coach, a firm focusing on retail recruitment, in a second round of information-gathering efforts that involve compiling lists of business prospects. The EDC calls this approach a Target Sector Analysis.
The Retail Coach was hired earlier this year for $35,000.
However, one director questioned why the EDC needs more data before recruiting industry to the area, especially with the new multimillion-dollar Scott & White Healthcare medical complex already coming to U.S. 281 and Texas 71.
“I know (EDC Executive Director) Christian (Fletcher) can go out there and start contacting radiology companies now,” Director Judy Miller said. “We don’t have to wait for this list.”
But Director Mark Mayfield said gathering information is necessary before any discussions take place with new businesses.
“This is critical information,” Mayfield said. “You can talk about asking (a company to locate in Marble Falls), but you can’t do anything without data.”
Meanwhile during the meeting, TIPS Senior Consultant Alan Cox discussed how the hospital project will usher in a thriving new industry with more jobs, but also suggested that business growth in Austin could have a ripple effect for Marble Falls.
“(The Marble Falls area) is doing well in industry where population growth is not a factor,” said Cox, referring to agriculture- and construction-related jobs. “Employment growth is largely tied to population growth.”
Marble Falls population is about 6,000, according to 2010 figures by the U.S. Census Bureau, growing less than 1,000 people since 2000.
Reitz said the hospital will bring more health-related jobs to the area.
“We’re becoming a medical area. That’s going to explode. That’s already in the pipeline,” he said.
Cox said the EDC should consider capitalizing on industry growth in Austin, referring to the potential international appeal of the Formula 1 race track Circuit of the Americas, now under construction; a proposed University of Texas medical training facility; and expansion of a Samsung factory complex.
But Reitz cautioned that the existing culture of Marble Falls should also be preserved.
“I don’t want to see anyone driving around with a bumper sticker that says ‘Keep Marble Falls Weird,'” Reitz said, referring to Austin’s unofficial motto ‘Keep Austin Weird. “But the ripple effect point should be noted. We could latch onto that.”
During phase 2, Cox expects to compile more information on how to attract manufacturing and industrial-based companies.
In June board members approved $7,500 for the initial research phase by TIPS .
According to the TIPS website, the company in the past has collaborated with The Retail Coach and Door Number 3, a marketing firm already used by Marble Falls officials.