The town of Flower Mound will pursue an economic development strategic plan, although Town Council narrowly approved funding for the plan at the Oct. 16 meeting.

Council’s approval came in a 3-2 decision. The plan was approved with the inclusion of public meetings present in the scope of work.

Council members Jim Engel, Brian Taylor and Ann Martin voted for the plan, and council members Chris Drew and Adam Schiestel were opposed.

The background

The professional service agreement with TIP Strategies Inc. of Austin calls for the creation of the plan in Flower Mound. A council agenda memo stated the agreement will give the town a strategic plan that will examine the policies, relationships and organizational priorities that will influence the planning process and prepare a targeted assessment of factors that define the area's overall competitiveness.

“The overall plan will be tailored to meet project objectives, including tax base enhancement, compatible development opportunities, and quality of place preservation,” the agenda memo states. “This study will serve to identify both strengths and weaknesses that affect the town's ability to attract the type of projects necessary for a successful future. This strategic plan will be utilized to not only determine where we are, but also to look at potential new opportunities and what we are best suited for.”

The plan will look at the entire community, and both existing and future opportunities will be reviewed.

“Although this project will concentrate mostly on commercial development, it will take into consideration housing and quality of life issues that make Flower Mound a place for development,” the memo states.

The agenda memo stated TIP Strategies Inc. will conduct its work with input from Town Council, town staff and stakeholders within the community, and the company will be compensated through the economic development funds at a fee of $150,000 as well as up to $10,000 in preapproved expenses. Expenses for the strategic plan were approved in and appropriates funds from the fiscal year 2023-24 budget.

Zooming in

Schiestel said he thought the money provided for the project could be better spent on existing economic development program costs.

He asked Tom Stellman—CEO and founder of TIP Strategies, who attended the meeting—why the town should spend money on this plan when it is already “doing a pretty good job” with economic development strategy. The town has a strategic plan, Mayor Derek France pointed out later.

Stellman said the town has performed well up to this point in its planning and likely will continue to see growth coming, but he wondered whether it is the growth town leaders want. His company’s plan will provide a number of strategies, such as helping town officials anticipate trends showing up in the data to help them make sound decisions and ensure town leaders have tools in place to attract the growth it wants.

Schiestel said he was unconvinced, explaining he wasn’t against studies but found some to be unnecessary. He thought council “needs to be accountable to the public”; this study was “nonspecific”; and that town officials don’t know what the outcome will be.

“I think this is $150,000 that we can spend investing directly in economic development projects,” he said.

Drew suggested tabling the agenda item, saying he wasn’t sure what the outcome of the plan would be and asked to see examples of reports from other municipalities.

The other side

Engel offered a different take on spending money for the strategic plan, explaining the town has master plans for a number of areas, such as parks and thoroughfares. He thought this project was a master plan for economic development and would create a “larger document” for the town to have for an economic plan.

“There are much bigger opportunities that can develop that are not on the radar now,” he said. “It’s an investment into the town’s future to make sure that we get it right for what we’ve got.”

When France asked if the town had spent any money on a strategic plan for economic development, Town Manager James Childers said it hasn’t since 2012.

Assistant Town Manager Tommy Dalton said the 2012 plan document was not an overall strategic plan for economic development but a “site-specific plan” as it examined a number of sites in town. Once that plan was approved, there was change in council and town manager, and no movement was made on the document because it was shelved, Dalton said.

This project, though, will try to put together a plan and have actionable items that can be brought to council for its review, he said.

Childers said the plan would be woven into the town’s overall strategic plan and can connect to the other activities the town does across the board.