The Parker County Economic Development Council could have an office inside the county courthouse following discussion during Monday’s regular meeting of the Parker County commissioners court.
“The Parker County Economic Development Council is a privately run EDC, it does have some governmental purpose to it as well, but all of our voting board membership is made up of the private industry side. We’re formed very similar to a number of EDCs that have been highly successful around the Austin area, west and north side of the Houston area as well and what you see in the mid-cities in the Fort Worth area,” EDC Executive Director Patrick Lawler said. “We’re asking for an office space lease at the county facility. These agreements are done in numerous different counties and those services in working with the county would be working on government policies, working on tax abatement agreements and tax abatement policies with the county, facilitating economic development negotiations and discussions. All those decision still rest with the commissioners court, we would just be the arm of the county to assist in those recruitment of businesses to relocate or locate in Parker County specifically.”
Lawler said the EDC isn’t asking the court to take action on the office space yet, but to let the EDC know if the commissioners have a problem with them moving forward with negotiations on the space.
Parker County Judge Pat Deen said right now there are three office spaces up on the third floor of the courthouse that can be utilized.
“I know we’ve discussed in the past with regard to the historical commission to have a space here, but there is adequate space on that third floor on the east and west side of the building so that would not be a problem. There would be no additional cost to the county and no additional cost in security because we would all be leaving at the same time,” Deen said. “This is managing growth, we’re not going out and trying to bring in a bunch of retail, this is focused on high-wage job growth.”
To Deen’s point, Lawler emphasized the significance of people knowing that the EDC is focused on bringing in high-wage job growth to the county.
“I think it’s an extremely important point to know that the Parker County Economic Development Council is not here for retail and residential growth, that is not our goal. Our goal is employers — manufacturers, industrial employers — that’s what we work on. We leave the retail, commercial and residential to the cities and to the county commissioners court,” Lawler said. “By 2045, Parker County is going to grow by 55 percent and our employment base is only set to grow 27 percent, and the Parker County Economic Development Council is trying to fill that gap. If we don’t start fixing that today by bringing employers into Parker County instead of exporting our jobs to other places, then we’re going to have a livability issue for our residents. If it’s not 40-plus jobs, then we don’t get involved in it.”
Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Dugan asked Lawler to define high-wage job growth to which Lawler replied saying it really depends on what part of the county someone is in.
“In the eastern side of the county your median household income is going to be right around $90,000 to $100,000, if you’re more central Weatherford your median household income right now is going to be about $55,000. Our goal is to grow the median household income no matter where we land the business,” Lawler said. “We’re not going to bring in a business that’s going to pay $12 to $15 per hour, which is the pretty standard retail wage. Our role is to overall increase the average pay for that specific area. If we look at Springtown, it’s going to be somewhere in the $65,000 range, so it just depends on where you land in the county. I think we have to assess that on a case-by-case basis, but overall, our goal is to bring in an average wage that is higher than the current average wage that’s on the ground.”
Lawler said they would provide their own equipment and internet connection, if needed, and that the EDC would not stay in the building past 5 p.m., avoiding additional security costs.
But Dugan, as well as Precinct 3 Commissioner Larry Walden, said they would like to give the public an opportunity to share their thoughts about the matter before taking any action.
“In light of our space issues that we have, we’re assured there’s plenty of space, but we haven’t heard from any other people that might want that space. I was actually contacted by two people today that could not be here that want to address this,” Walden said. “I know we’re just authorizing a draft agreement and there will be no action taken regarding that space right now, but there are other people, so I suggest that we bring this back to the next court so everybody can have an opportunity.”
The commissioners unanimously approved tabling the motion and will bring it back at a later meeting for continued discussions.
“The thought process on the office space was when we’re really serious about bringing a prospect in is bringing them into the building with the actual decision-makers,” Lawler said. “We’re going to see a significant amount of businesses that start to look at Parker County because we have now built the private apparatus for that to occur and so we’re starting to see some success.”