Written by Amanda Coers – The Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2018 Economic Summit, presented by TexasBank, on Tuesday, February 20th, from 8 to 11 a.m. at the Howard Payne University Mabee Center.
Event speakers included U.S. Congressman Mike Conaway, Brownwood Municipal District Director Guy Andrews, Ann Jones with the Heartland Association of Realtors, and Texas State Demographer Dr. Lloyd Potter. Sponsors for the event included Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Coldwell Banker – Mark Campbell and Associates, and the Brownwood Municipal Development District.
First to speak was Congressman Conaway, to give an overview of the national economy and recent activity in Washington under President Trump’s administration. Congressman Conaway is pictured at top.
“President Trump is a trader, a negotiator,” Conaway said, speaking of international trade agreements currently in the works. “He’s been negotiating deals for 50 years, he’s good at it.”
After Congressman Conaway’s remarks, BMDD Director Guy Andrews presented information about local sales tax trends and industrial activity.
“Things are really good in Brownwood, and a lot of things are about to happen in manufacturing and retail,” Andrews began.
He explained the conversion from Economic Development Corporation to a Municipal Development District.
“The city of Brownwood recognized the need for more than manufacturing,” Andrews said. “What the MDD does it provide us with more flexibility.”
Andrews highlighted projects undertaken by the MDD, which included Wright Asphalt Plant, projects with 3M, the Pecan Bayou Retail Center, and Willie’s T’s.
Andrews also informed attendees about the “enormously successful” first year of Roland Soto’s position with the MDD as the Sports Coordinator. Soto has been instrumental in bringing large sporting events and tournaments to the Brownwood area, which saw $400,000 infused into the local economy.
Marshal McIntosh’s role as the city’s Marketing Coordinator was also praised, for his work revising the BMDD’s website, improvements in the communications with the city and the chamber of commerce, and his commitment to revitalizing the downtown area. Andrews called McIntosh “an amazing young man.”
The Building Improvement Incentive Program was explained with over $150,000 awarded to local business owners to help small businesses improve their locations through remodeling and improvements.
Larger projects with the BMDD included the Hendrick Medical Plaza, which will bring at least 18 new jobs to the area. Nelson Wholesale’s expansion is also being assisted by the MDD, which will assist with truck traffic in that area.
The BMDD commissioned a housing study to better assess the need for a variety of housing options. A hotel study was also commissioned by the MDD.
“One of the jobs of the MDD is to be the cheerleader for the community, to create a positive atmosphere for Brownwood so people want to do business here,” Andrews said.
In the spirit of positivity, Andrews concluded his remarks with praise for local business developments including Harbor Freight, Shipley Donuts, That Crane Store, Donut Palace’s additional location, Lemongrass Asian Cuisine, and Tr3s Leches Bakery.
Ann Jones, owner of Ann Jones Real Estate, representing the Heartland Association of Realtors, offered information regarding real estate trends and statistics.
Closed real estate sales in 2016 increased 15 to 16 percent. Median price has gone up three percent. Jones offered four reasons why the local real estate market is seeing growth.
A stable job market, the investment market for the area including rental property, Lake Brownwood, and land availability were touted by Jones as reasons for the increase in the local real estate economy.
The annual building valuations is at an 11-year high with an increase of nine percent from the previous year’s total. Residential sales volume is nearing the spike seen in 2008.
After Jones, Texas State Demographer Dr. Lloyd Potter presented State Demographic Trends and Analysis.
Between 2010 and 2017 the State of Texas has grown in population by over 3 million.
“We’re growing more than any other state in the union,” Dr. Potter said. He also highlighted the population growth along I-35 has reached over 80 percent.
Counties surrounding Brown have seen a population decline as younger residents grow up and move to other areas for secondary education or employment opportunities. Brown County has seen small but steady growth in population, between .1 to 2.5 percent.
Brown County’s ethnic composition is 72 percent white, 22 percent Hispanic, three percent black, and a little over two percent listed as ‘other,’ according to 2015 statistics.
The median age for Brown County showed to be on the younger side, with Dr. Potter explaining new residents were moving to the area for work and education.
Healthcare and social assistance accounts for 20 percent of the workforce for the Brownwood area. Manufacture followed at 17.5 percent, and retail trade and education jobs followed as third for the core of the workforce for the area.
“There is a strong and good economic base here,” Dr. Potter said.