The Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council’s board delayed its decision on whether the council will dissolve or reorganize to meet the county’s economic strategic plans.

The overview

The FBEDC’s executive committee met Jan. 10 to receive realignment recommendations from planning firm TIP Strategies and decide whether to end the council’s operations at the conclusion of fiscal year 2023-24 on June 30.

Ultimately, the board chose to delay the decision.

“There was consensus from the FBEDC board to explore the options before a decision is made,” a Jan. 10 emailed statement from the FBEDC reads. “A timeline is being discussed. The FBEDC will schedule another board meeting with a date to be determined.”

The backstory

The FBEDC is a public-private partnership governed by its eight-member executive committee of business leaders, according to its website. Fort Bend County and the FBEDC hired TIP Strategies last February to create a five-year economic development strategic plan for the entities.

This came after Fort Bend County created an internal Economic Opportunity and Development department in early 2022 to meet the needs of the county’s projected population growth, Director Carlos Guzman previously said.

TIP Strategies gave the FBEDC board two pathways for the future of the organization, both of which involved reorganizing the board and laying off its staff members, said Jared Jameson, chair of the EDC’s executive committee, at a special Jan. 9 Fort Bend County Commissioners Court meeting. Since both options involved new staff, Jameson said FBEDC’s staff was offered severance, and their last day will be Jan. 31.

Digging deeper

Prior to making recommendations, TIP Strategies’ officials gathered feedback from community stakeholders, such as chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, education representatives and developers, TIP Strategies President Tracye McDaniel said.

The feedback highlighted some wanted changes in the county, including:
  • Diversifying the tax base to bring in more commercial development to lower the cost of living
  • Focusing on infrastructure and environmental resiliency
Additionally, McDaniel said the county’s economic ecosystem was described as being “siloed” and “divisive.”

Jameson said he believed the FBEDC was successful in its mission but agreed it had issues that needed to be addressed, pointing to a growing “imbalance of power.”

In their own words

Precinct 4 Commissioner Dexter McCoy said one challenge contributing to the power imbalance is the FBEDC's funding mechanism, as the county is the largest contributor to the FBEDC's operating budget.

"This effort is a way to level out that playing field where it's not the county is the biggest person in the room ... or any particular city but rather there's a 50/50 split on the contribution that the governmental entities make versus the contributions that the private industries make in this," he said.

Meadows Place Mayor Charles Jessup spoke during public comment and said he agreed it's time for change, but asked that smaller cities like his continue to be part of the discussion.

“Try to remember the small cities out here that are getting ready to get run over by economic development that don’t know what is available to them and don’t know who to go to,” he said.

Moving forward

Jameson told commissioners the board is committed to working with the county and TIP Strategies to keep an economic development organization going in some form.

“We care about economic development in Fort Bend County,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been doing for 37 years. We want to take an active role in that [reorganization] process.”

Commissioners asked Jameson his preference for the future of the organization, and he said the executive committee would prefer to have a clean slate, dissolving the FBEDC and starting a new organization from the ground up with help from an ad hoc committee the county plans to form.

What’s next

If an ad hoc committee is formed, a minimum of 15 individuals will be appointed to serve the committee by the FBEDC, county commissioners, cities’ economic development departments and other organizations, McDaniel said.

Over six to 12 months, McDaniel said the committee will work to launch the county’s strategic economic development plan as well as:
  • Establish a potential search for executives and other staffing.
  • Develop a funding model for the next one to five years.
  • Build a performance model.
  • Determine possibility for physical location for the organization.