Williamson County Commissioners Court approved an allocation Aug. 23 of $500,000 in the fiscal year 2022-23 budget for the Williamson County Economic Development Partnership between the county and its cities to improve the economic well-being of the region.

Some cities in Williamson County but not the county itself have participated in Opportunity Austin, a regional economic development initiative aimed at fostering job-creating investment across the Austin region to tap into economic development opportunities that have come up. But Williamson County has grown exponentially as a region, Precinct 4 Commissioner Russ Boles said.

Williamson County population growth ranks fourth in the state with a population of about 609,000, according to the 2020 U.S. census.

“Since 2016, there have been 908 announcements of relocations in the Austin [metro]. Travis County has secured about 85%; Williamson County has secured about 10%,” Boles said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long and Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey conveyed concerns about the amount of the ask, but Boles said the county does not have a full-time employee working toward its economic goals, while cities in the region do. The funds will go toward marketing, advertising, the website and a variety of things in the partnership, Boles said.

The partnership was founded in 2014 with volunteers and only recently added a part-time administration position. Some of the additional funds may go toward adding another position, Boles said.

Each city in the partnership is expected to pay up to $20,000 toward the partnership with bigger cities such as Round Rock and Cedar Park paying more than others. The amount is expected to be scaled down for other cities in the partnership, such as Hutto, Georgetown, Jarrell, Leander, Taylor and Liberty Hill.

“What we discussed today is that the county is going to have a contract with that partnership, and it's going to have representation on there,” Boles said. “We're going to set benchmarks; we're going to want to see site visits; and we're going to want to see where the marketing money is going and the return.”

The motion passed unanimously with County Judge Bill Gravell and all commissioners present.

“It's just time for the county and our cities to grow up and take control of our own destiny as far as economic development,” Boles said.