As Pearland grows, the city needs a plan that focuses on boosting the economy, beautifying the city and creating effective thoroughfares. The Pearland Economic Development Corp. works with the other entities in the city to create a strategic plan for a better Pearland—specifically, Pearland 20/20.
The PEDC will soon wrap up Phase 2 of its 20/20 strategic plan. The plan began in 2012 is named for 20/20 vision, not the year 2020, and will take several more years to implement. Even still, the plan will never be fully completed, as it is meant to be constantly evolving as the city evolves, PEDC board President Brandon Dansby said.
“A strategic plan should be a living, breathing document. We’re in phase two of a five-phase plan, so we’re just getting started,” Dansby said.
The plan had nine objectives which fell into the larger umbrellas of economic development, mobility, development of Pearland’s corridors, and making Pearland a more attractive recreational and cultural district. While some parts of plan were addressed, such as economic development in terms of increasing its biomedical and energy presence, other parts did not come to fruition, including the goal to build a community center, specifically, an indoor sports facility.
“We’ve done everything we need to so that if we want to pick it up at some point in the future, it’s an easier understanding of what we need to do,” Dansby said.
A growing job hub
One of the biggest successes of the latest phase of the 20/20 plan was the addition of major corporations to Pearland, PEDC President Matt Buchanan said.
“To me, that’s the culmination of all the work we’re doing because they are saying, ‘You’re the place we want to invest in,’” he said.
The city succeeded in recruiting biomedical companies, including Lonza, Base Pair Biotechnologies, Merit Medical Inc., Adient Medical Inc. and Cardiovascular Systems Inc., all located in the Lower Kirby district near Hwy. 288. The Lower Kirby district was meant to support these types of economic development, as well as multiuse developments, so employees could live and shop near their work. Lonza’s Pearland location is the first and only location in Texas for the company.
“To be able to get international pharmaceutical companies—those aren’t just hits. Those are home runs,” Dansby said.
On the other side of town, the city has converted the old silos spot off Rice Drier to the Rice Drier Commerce Park. In April, Energy Solutions broke ground on its site in the park, bringing an energy aspect to the city as well.
This points to what the 20/20 plan revolves around: making Pearland a great place to live for its residents. Larger corporations bring in new residents, too, affecting the city’s size and demographics and improving the quality of life for the citizens, Dansby said.
“Everyone wants the Whole Foods and the Central Market and the Trader Joe’s, but there’s demographics that they utilize, and so far, we aren’t a fit for them,” Dansby said. “If we want better retail, restaurants and stores … then we need to bring in industries and corporations that help.”
The larger corporations also help contribute to the tax base, taking a lot of the onus off the residents to pay more, Dansby said.
“In order to vent as much as possible, the reliance on property taxes, the way we do that is to bring in industry… to bring in corporations to help with the sales tax or property tax increase,” Dansby said.
While the city has always had job training opportunities, the additional corporations are a new and welcome addition to the city, Pearland Chamber of Commerce President Carol Artz Bucek said.
“We haven’t always been the job mecca like we are now,” Bucek said.
A larger private sector may make a new community center possible sooner, Bucek said.
One of the categories on the 20/20 plan is to make Pearland a recreational and cultural destination. An objective within this plan was to build a community center for the city. After surveys and research, the PEDC landed on two options for the center: a hotel with a conference center and an indoor sports facility. The challenge of choosing a community center was to pick something that would draw people to Pearland without competing too much with the surrounding area, Buchanan said. Because of this, the PEDC and the steering committee for the center were able to rule out different options, such as a theater.
“How could we have these facilities when we have other things to do [in Houston]?” Buchanan said.
The PEDC landed on the indoor sports center, as the PEDC would rather wait for more private partnerships on the hotel and conference center, Buchanan said.
The committee also had to consider things that would bring in money to the city for the plan to be viable. This was one of the reasons City Council gave for postponing the sports facility at the June 24 council meeting.
“Because it is not an economic driver, I cannot support this being an EDC project,” Council Member Trent Perez said at the meeting.
The council also suggested the project come back as a parks and recreation project, taking it out of the PEDC’s hands entirely.
Bucek said a community center might be possible through the help of a private partnership, making it an economic driver for the city.
“Of course, we need a meeting space. But, if the private sector isn’t building it, then it’s not a profitable situation right now,” Artz Bucek said. “I think we’ll evolve to that. I just don’t know that we’re there now.”
While a community center is something the PEDC still believes the city needs, Buchanan is unsure how much of a priority it will be when the PEDC revisits its goals in December.
“Whether that is in the forefront of the next plan hasn’t been decided,” Buchanan said.
Priorities in the strategic plan stem from community input, Dansby said. Many of the priorities in the most recent phase—including the type of community center—were decided through a survey sent out to citizens in 2013. Now, as this phase of the plan is wrapping up, another survey has been sent out, and the data will be collected later this year. As social media has grown in popularity over the last seven years, the PEDC is hoping to reach a wider audience with this survey, Dansby said.
“I feel like we will have some good direction, some good feedback and some good discussion of what the citizens feel like we need,” Dansby said.
Bucek also feels that the city will get more variety in feedback, as new corporations have brought new residents.
Because the city and PEDC are still waiting on the survey results, the future priorities of the plan are largely undecided. Several entities, including private, public and nonprofit entities, will talk about the priorities for the city.
The PEDC cannot make the strategic plan happen on its own due to control and funding, Dansby said. Because there are so many different entities that contribute to the city’s overall plan, there are a lot of things out of certain entities’ control, as well as different ideas to achieve the same goal of making Pearland a better place to live.
“You do the best you can do to get a wide swath of opportunities and voices in the steering committee to mold this [plan],” Dansby said.
A lot of the plan will continue to change as the city continues to grow. Hopefully, Pearland 20/20 can also be used to shape some of that growth, Dansby said.
“I know people say they don’t necessarily like growth, but if you do it by your choice, you can be in control of it,” Dansby said.
Because the plan will never be completely finished, it may be easy to overlook the accomplishments of the plan, but the city has made strides, Buchanan said.
“When you’re in the middle of it, you think all this work needs to be done, but if you look back, a lot has been done,” he said.