By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal
The Commerce Economic Development Type A/B meeting was very lively but civil, for the most part.
I think the meeting was very productive, with good points made on both sides.
But after carefully considering both options, I think moving to a Type B EDC would most benefit Commerce as a whole.
I enjoyed the presentation made by Carlton Schwab, president of the Texas Economic Development Council, and I applaud the Commerce EDC for hosting the seminar for the public.
I believe Schwab made a good push for Type A, but his argument fell short when he said that a Type B EDC would be inundated with restaurants wanting to make improvements to their buildings instead of manufacturing jobs.
He listed cities that are Type B without a strong job base, but he mentioned many cities that have used a Type B to completely revitalize their downtown area, something that Commerce desperately needs.
A good example is the city my parents live in.
When Winnsboro wanted to revitalize its downtown area, it couldn’t do it through its EDC because it was Type A, and Type A EDCs cannot fund downtown projects.
Winnsboro changed to Type B, and if you have driven through the downtown area recently, the area is beautiful and booming.
The only hesitation I have is I’m not going to jump on the Type B bandwagon without a strategic plan for the future.
If we move to Type B, then the focus should be on making downtown more presentable.
The EDC needs to take a page from Texas A&M University-Commerce’s playbook when it comes to planning.
A&M-Commerce is not the same university that it was when I came in 2009.
And that is in large part to the efforts of Dr. Dan Jones, president of A&M-Commerce, in bringing not only new programs to the university, but also increasing the quality-of-life that attracts students to this university.
I had the privilege of speaking with Jones last month for the Commerce Journal’s Progress edition.
Yes, the plan included new buildings and new departments such as the nursing program and new softball team, which could be considered as industrial development; but the centerpiece of the plan is a three acre “Grand Lawn” area for students to relax and have fun, a quality-of-life issue.
From residents, students and faculty, more than 20,000 people visit Commerce during any given week.
And for entertainment, they drive to Sulphur Springs, Greenville or Rockwall, and take their money with them.
Schwab’s argument defeated itself when he said the face of the industry is changing, which it is. Gone is the day of one huge manufacturing building which supplies 700-1,000 jobs.
Commerce can’t bank all of its money on replacing Covidien with another company.
The EDC needs to broaden its outlook on bringing in not only manufacturing jobs, but also to tap into the growing service industry market.
If Commerce is to grow, it must be done one job at a time.