After almost 40 years in the county, the Fort Bend Economic Development Council could dissolve in June, leaving the county’s development efforts to the county’s economic opportunity and development department.

The gist

Fort Bend County officials made the announcement in a Dec. 18 news release outlining its path forward.

The FBEDC and Fort Bend County’s development department partnered in February to hire planning firm TIP Strategies to create a five-year strategic plan that studies ways to refocus the county’s economic development efforts and make recommendations, Community Impact reported.

According to a Dec. 20 emailed statement from the FBEDC, the firm recently presented the FBEDC’s executive committee with two pathways for the future of the organization:
  • Reorient the FBEDC and change the board composition and staff
  • Create an entirely new organization, board and staff intended to carry out a new mission
The executive committee will meet Jan. 10 to receive TIP Strategies' final recommendations from the strategic plan and recommended organizational realignment.

The board will vote then whether to dissolve, but based on information provided so far, the board plans to end the council’s operations at the end of the fiscal year 2023-24 on June 30, according to the FBEDC’s statement.

The background

The FBEDC was created in 1986 as a public-private partnership. The membership-based organization is governed by its eight-member executive committee of business leaders, according to its website.

For the last few decades, according to its website, the FBEDC has worked with public entities such as Fort Bend County and local cities as well as private companies to:Meanwhile, the county launched the internal Economic Opportunity and Development department in early 2022 to keep up with the county’s projected population growth, Director Carlos Guzman said. Guzman, who was appointed director in October 2022, said Fort Bend County is following a trend of other counties creating internal economic development departments.

Unlike the FBEDC, the county’s department is funded by public tax dollars and governed by the elected commissioners court, Guzman said. As a public entity, the development department can form tax increment reinvestment zones to highlight opportunity areas and can be a more direct resource for businesses looking for economic incentives, he said.

If the FBEDC doesn’t dissolve, Guzman said he “definitely” sees a place for organizations like the FBEDC to continue partnering with the county.

“We need someone like the EDC; ... we need chambers of commerce; we need our educational partners; we need a lot of people,” he said. “This is not something that one department can do. ... The more people running in the same direction, the easier the journey will be.”

Next steps

TIP Strategies officials will present the final strategic plan to county commissioners in early January, Guzman said. The county will then form an ad hoc committee made up of community stakeholders from the public and private sectors to determine the best way to implement the strategic plan, he said.

The purpose of the strategic plan is to prioritize efforts to make Fort Bend County an attractive place for residents and businesses over the next few decades, Guzman said.

“We're all trying to do the right thing, and we're just following best practices [and] standards,” he said. “The strategic plan, ... that's one of the first things you always want to do because it just gets community input and support. Because a lot of times there's just so many priorities, but you have to prioritize. So you wanna make sure that you focus on the ones that have the community support.”