Travis County commissioners consider plan to redefine economic development

Travis County commissioners are considering a five-year economic development plan.

Travis County commissioners are considering a five-year economic development plan.

Travis County commissioners are considering adopting a five-year economic development strategic plan, heeding recommendations from consultants that the county invest in residents and small- and mid-sized businesses rather than focus on incentives for corporations.

The plan, which was commissioned by the county and developed by consultant firm TIP Strategies, redefines economic development as expanding “opportunity for Travis County residents, particularly those who are disadvantaged,” according to a draft published Feb. 22.

“We think the importance is in making sure that we have our individuals and communities added to the mix and not just firms maximizing the use of their talents and skills,” said Diana Ramirez, director of the county’s economic development and strategic initiatives department, at a Feb. 26 meeting of the Commissioners Court.

Many large businesses come to Travis County and offer high-paying jobs, Ramirez said, “but they have to import their workforce.”

The plan includes 59 recommendations across four focus areas—business development, employment and financial opportunity, place-making, and transportation and mobility.

Recommendations include increasing the number of middle-skill jobs and encouraging employers to offer on-site child care.

Commissioners chose not to vote on whether to adopt the plan, citing concerns about funding.

District 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty expressed concerns about whether such a plan is necessary.

“I just don’t think we need to be in this business,” Daugherty said. “We have program on top of program on top of program on top of program.”

Funding for the plan—which Travis Gatlin, budget director for the county’s planning and budget office, said would total about $1.37 million in initial costs—was not up for a vote.

District 1 Commissioner Jeffrey Travillion said he supported the plan.

“We have to remember that we are overcoming a way of doing business that included some but didn’t include all,” Travillion said, referring to past economic development deals.

Commissioners will come back to the plan at a future meeting, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said. A date was not determined.
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By Emma Freer

Emma Freer began covering Central Austin for Community Impact Newspaper in 2017. Her beat includes the Travis County Commissioners Court and local business news. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School in 2017.


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