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Economic development assets vs. challenges
Individuals and corporations generally conduct business on a January 1 to December 31 calendar year. Federal, state, county and city governments operate on an October 1 to September 30 year end. At our October Childress Municipal Development District Board of Directors meeting, we reviewed our accomplishments for the last fiscal year and discussed initiatives for next year that will make Childress a better community for our businesses and citizens.
For some background, the Childress MDD is an active member of the “High Ground of Texas” a 75-member regional economic development marketing group for the 67 counties of the Texas panhandle and the northern part of west Texas. We are a member of the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission Economic Development Advisory Council. The CMDD is also part of the University of Texas IC2 Regional XLR8 Economic Development Program (59 mostly small rural cities in Texas).
I have learned through these affiliations, every rural community has certain assets helping to keep the city alive, but many challenges to be overcome. Compared to our peers, Childress is blessed with numerous opportunities. Why do I say that? Most of the smaller towns in the panhandle and west Texas have only one or two major assets. They have a meat packing plant, a refinery, some oil and gas wells, a college, a manufacturing plant, a mega auto dealership, a state park or other tourist attraction in addition to their agricultural economy.
What happens when the packing plant has a Covid-19 outbreak, the price of oil drops causing mass layoffs, the smell from the refinery drives residents to the neighboring towns, the college only offers remote classes leaving the community empty, the mega auto dealership files for bankruptcy because of financial improprieties, and then the water parks, summer concert series, restaurants and event venues are shut down or limited by a government order? To be blunt, most economic activity comes to an abrupt halt, causing sales tax, hotel tax, oil and gas severance tax and various other government revenue to dry up. This in turn causes government services to be cutback and the downward spiral to accelerate.
Effective economic development organizations try to balance the retention and expansion of current businesses in the city with the recruitment of new businesses.
Childress is blessed to have a diverse economy with many assets contributing to our success. This has been on full display during the Covid-19 pandemic from March 2020 through October 2020. Our local sales tax has been flat to up all during this period with our October 2020 tax receipts up 24% over October 2019. Our hotel tax evaporated during the period Texas was locked down but has steadily been recovering. Layoffs have been minimal and gyms and salons most affected by the governor’s orders have reopened. Many rural communities in Texas and across the country have not fared as well.
What are considered our city assets, how can we enhance or expand them, what resources will be needed, and who can help us close the gap from where we are to where we want to be?
We are the regional economic hub for Childress and the surrounding agricultural counties. From the 1950’s to current times US-287 and US-83 have provided the life blood of tourist dollars to Childress. Our regional hospital and clinic provide numerous medical services usually seen only in big city hospitals. Very few communities our size have fiber optic internet, a medical helicopter service or a solar farm. We are proud to have a prison in our community providing employment since 1991. We have a municipal airport with a 6,000 ft lighted runway, a TXDOT regional office, an outstanding event center and rodeo arena, a highly rated school system offering dual credit classes with Clarendon College, one of the best municipal golf courses in the panhandle, an ATV/Motocross park, a historic football stadium that hosts the annual Greenbelt Bowl, Fair Park and a historic downtown district. We are the county seat of Childress County and have several state level offices located here.
At the Childress MDD we are currently analyzing each of these assets, exploring enhancement opportunities, determining available federal, state and local grant opportunities, talking with potential private investors, reaching out to building and business owners as well as state, county and city leaders. Our goal is to make everyone proud to call Childress home. Your thoughts, ideas and wisdom are always appreciated.
I can be reached at 940-585-9519 or firstname.lastname@example.org