After serving in economic development and project management roles in Round Rock, Rowlett and Greenville, Ben White is now working for the city of Cedar Park, working on advancing the city’s employment opportunities. White stepped in after the former economic development director, Phil Brewer, retired in May 2018. Just before taking on his role in Cedar Park, White served as the vice president of economic development for the Round Rock Chamber for eight years. He also worked previously as the director of economic development for the city of Rowlett and as a projects manager and executive director for the Greenville board of development, according to the city of Cedar Park. He began serving as the economic development director for Cedar Park on Oct. 15.
What are your responsibilities as the economic development director?
The way I view it is my job is to diversify the tax base, create good jobs and bring in high capital investment. Cities are always looking [at]how to build quality of life for their citizens, and I believe that quality of life starts with a quality job. So our responsibility is to help bring in those quality jobs, so therefore, the quality of life continues on.
Given your previous experiences in Round Rock, Rowlett and Greenville, what inspired your interest in economic development and project management?
I was raised to help my surrounding community. That’s kind of the mantra that my family [had]. My brother is a police officer up in the metroplex, up in Dallas. I thought I was going into city management, but I kind of found what I consider a fun side of city government, and that is economic development. It goes back to building that community by building a strong economic base—by having strong, quality jobs and bringing in commercial development—so that therefore the elected officials have a tax base to be able to create more parks and hire more firemen and policemen and do a great job at the library. If you have that strong commercial base, a high-end commercial base, that generates tax revenue for those things to occur. So, I see it as a way of helping out the community.
What are some long-term goals that you have for Cedar Park?
Pretty simple: we want to make Cedar Park the next employment hub of the MSA [metropolitan statistical area]. We’re looking to increase the daytime population tremendously. We also want to develop unique and entertaining development opportunities. So [the goal is]a mixed use of elements that would be unique to the region that would bring in people from all over the state to Cedar Park to visit, spend their money, shop [and]everything else. Really expanding the economy and making Cedar Park the employment hub of the MSA, that’s what we’re looking to do.
What are you most looking forward to this year in your role?
Starting to execute our plan for economic development moving forward. … Getting the tools in place to be more proactive for Cedar Park, to where we can target companies. Instead of waiting for them to contact us, we want to go out and reach out to those companies and tell them about Cedar Park and tell them where they need to be. I’m also excited about some of the very exciting projects that we have in the pipeline that will hopefully come to fruition this year, that will really put Cedar Park on the map. And I think that’s going to be very exciting for everyone in the region, but I think the citizens of Cedar Park will be very excited about the projects that we have in the pipeline. So project announcements and steering the program to the proactive-style are the two things I’m most excited about.
Incentivizing economic growth
How the city offers companies incentives
1) Typically use 380 agreements, a type of economic development agreement, for performance-based incentives
2) Look at capital investments, jobs and infrastructure needs
3) Ensure city faces little to no risk
4) Can work with state on skills development fund and tax enterprise fund
5) Can be tax agreements and grants when certain milestones are reached
6) Tailor incentives to each project
Source: Ben White, economic development director for the city of cedar park/Community Impact Newspaper