With build-out nearing, city keeps focus on tourism
For the past 25 years, the city of Grapevine has focused its economic development strategy on tourism, targeting all avenues of retail, and the city isn't looking to fix what isn't broken any time soon.
Instead the city is adding to that strategy, City Manager Bruno Rumbelow said. Based on recommendations from Austin-based economist firm TXP Inc., Grapevine City Council has reviewed and given its blessing to a host of new initiatives within an updated economic development plan, which includes expansion, intended to revitalize the city. Rumbelow said the plan is expected to guide the community through the next five to 10 years.
"Good stuff has happened, but we're going to make more good stuff happen. [The updated plan] wasn't meant to change our course; this was meant to give us a boost," he said.
P.W. McCallum, executive director of the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau, summed up the lasting economic strategy by explaining it as a two-pronged process: The city develops projects that provide a strong quality of life for its citizens, simultaneously attracting visitors who come, spend money and relieve residents of a tax burden resulting from the new projects.
Sales tax revenue
The city has not raised tax rates since 1996 and has even lowered them at times. The property tax stands at $0.3425 per $100 of valuation, one of the lowest in the Metroplex, Grapevine Economic Development Manager Dan Truex said.
With a population of nearly 50,000, less than 1,000 acres available for commercial development and nearing residential build-out, Truex said Grapevine has to rely on retail sales tax for revenue. He said tourists account for 85–90 percent of the city's sales tax revenue.
"We're always chasing leads down for retail, always calling developers and brokers," Truex said. "We constantly focus on retail and new entertainment venues."
The city hosts two annual events, GrapeFest in September and Main Street Days in May, that Truex said each bring in nearly 300,000 people to Grapevine.
"The fact that we're building on hospitality, retail and entertainment, where people come in and spend money here, that enables us to keep a lower property tax rate for the residents," Truex said. "The citizens can enjoy a high quality of services, and at the same time have a low tax rate."
Aside from the annual festivals, Truex said residents enjoy a restored Main Street, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as a quality school district and parks system.
With 19 hotels already in the city, Truex said there are still development tracts available for more.
The largest piece of land left in the city, near the northeast corner of Grapevine Mills mall, is still under consideration for development as the city continues to interview consultants who will conduct a future market analysis that determines what kind of development suits the tract best.
"We hope our market analysis study points in [the hotel development] direction because hotels bring people in for business and leisure," Truex said.
The Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center plays a large role in attracting tourists to the city, bringing in up to 2 million each year, said Martha Neibling, Gaylord Texan director of marketing and public relations.
The resort reaps the benefits of convention-goers with its six-minute proximity to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and it partners with the city to offer good experiences to both locals and visitors, Neibling said.
"The city of Grapevine has done a brilliant job of creating a charming, entertaining and unique destination that we are extremely proud to call home," she said.
While the Gaylord Texan specializes in convention business, Neibling said it also attracts families who like to "staycation." She said that seasonal events such as SummerFest and Lone Star Christmas bring in more than 1 million visitors each year.
Because the trends and needs of citizens and tourists change over time, the city is constantly optimizing what it already has, McCallum said.
Even residentially, McCallum said Grapevine citizens are breaking the norm from 10 or 15 years ago. Rather than buying a new home, he said residents are more prone to invest in and upgrade their current home.
"Our job never really stops even when the community is fully built out," Truex said. "We have to continually move forward and reinvest and reinvent."