Brownwood News – The Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce’s January luncheon featured the annual “State of the City” address, presented by Mayor Stephen Haynes. The luncheon was held Friday, January 24, at the Coggin Avenue Baptist Church Connection Center, and was catered by Underwood’s Cafeteria. Music was provided by the Howard Payne University Jazz Ensemble.
The presentation repeated last year’s popular evening TV talk show format, in this case called “The Mid-Day Show”. Haynes began the show with some stand-up comedy, complete with rim shots from the Ensemble drummer on the punch lines.
Once the comedy was complete, Haynes sat behind a desk on the stage, with four chairs to the side for the guests (similar to TV talk shows) who discussed various topics in Brownwood in 2019.
The first “guests” were Ray Tipton and Marshall McIntosh (shown in the photo) from the Brownwood Municipal Development District. They reported on various economic improvements in 2019, including increased housing, a $25 million expansion at 3M, new restaurants (Wing Stop and Popeye’s), and sidewalk improvements on Baker and Milton streets downtown, which helped facilitate two more news businesses downtown: Teddy’s Brewhaus and Pioneer Tap House. Tipton noted that the MDD spent $150,000 on building improvements in 2019, and also contributed to improvements in Riverside Park, including a new playscape. Finally Tipton reminded the audience of the Economic Summit coming up on February 12 (more information below).
Mayor Haynes then talked about some ideas for a new event center downtown. Initially the City considered replacing the Coliseum with a new, modern facility, but cost estimates in excess of $20 million killed that idea. Now they are exploring ideas for a smaller event center that would complement the Coliseum. The City has engaged the architecture firm of Brown Reynolds Watford to do some preliminary plans for remodeling the city-owned Timmins building on East Baker. Jennifer Bettiol and Emily Cloat from the firm showed some conceptual drawings on how that building could be re-purposed as a mid-size meeting space, with a large banquet facility, breakout meeting rooms, and outdoor event space. Timeline on the project, if approved by the City Council, would include 4-6 months for design, and 18-24 months construction. Bettiol and Cloat pointed out that we currently have a nice, versatile facility in the Coliseum and a few blocks away we have the Depot, which can be used for many smaller events. A mid-size event center in the Timmins building would bridge the space nicely between the Coliseum and the Depot. Adding this to a downtown that is currently enjoying a revitalization with new businesses and the Lyric Theatre promises an exciting future for business, tourism, and visitors in downtown Brownwood, they said.
A pre-recorded interview was shown with Howard Payne University President Dr. Corey Hines and Athletic Directory Hunter Sims. Hines reported that HPU student enrollment is at 900 and growing, with a goal of 1200-1500 students in five to ten years. HPU will soon be building a new $2.5 million Welcome Center on Austin Avenue in Old Main Park. They also have plans for a $2 million remodel of the Academy of Freedom, with the fundraising campaign for that project still ongoing. Hines and Sims pointed out that HPU is a major economic presence in Brownwood, with 500 employees, a $9.9 million payroll, almost $6 million in University purchases, and a total economic impact of $38 million.
The “Mid-Day Show” then welcomed to the stage two owners of downtown businesses, old and new. Stephanie Goodwin-Cline talked about how her grandmother started The Glamour Shop in downtown Brownwood 68 years ago. At that time, downtown was definitely the place to be. Then strip centers and shopping malls came to town, but The Glamour Shop stayed downtown, and now they are glad they did, as they believe downtown is once again the place to be. Micah Jaynes of the Pioneer Tap House told his story that began in Cisco with the Red Gap Brewery. When he saw what that did for downtown Cisco, he believed the same could be done in Brownwood. Open for six months now, they are very pleased with the response from the people of Brownwood.
Other economic information provided at the luncheon:
*** City of Brownwood sales tax collections in 2019 were $5, 769,851, plus $1,831,100 collected by the Municipal Development District, for a total of $7,600,951. That represents a 6.7% increase from 2018.
*** Median residential sales price increased to $210,000 in 2019, up from $200,000 in 2018.
*** Closed real estate transactions decreased slightly in 2019 to 316, down from 332 in 2018.
*** Annual construction valuation was $11,798,065 in 2019, up from $10,097, 289, but down considerably from $23.7 million in 2017 and $21.6 million in 2016.
*** Brownwood is home to 1,564 business, nicely balanced between Manufacturing (28%), Health Care and Social Services (28%), Retail (22%), and Education (22%).
The Economic Summit, presented by the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce and the Brownwood Municipal Development District will be held on Wednesday, February 12, 8:00-11:00 am, in the HPU Jackson Room. Featured speakers are:
*** Dr. David Anderson, Professor and Texas A & M Agri-life Extension Economist
*** Ray Tipton, Brownwood Economic Development District
*** Ann Jones, Heartland Association of Realtors.
Register in advance by calling the Chamber at 325-646-9535. Breakfast will be served. Cost is $15 for Chamber members and $25 for non-members.
(story by Mike Blagg)