Public officials spoke about the state of the local economy during an economic summit hosted by the city of Willis Economic Development Corporation Thursday evening. Naming projects and initiatives underway to boost growth, speakers gave a positive outlooks for the city of Willis and Montgomery County.

District 16 State Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, addressed economic effects from the oil and gas industry, as well as positive economic drivers. Some examples he cited were the 25-percent reduction of the franchise tax in the last legislative session and initiatives to address rapidly increasing property tax strain on local residents.

“The outlook is better than what we previously thought,” Metcalf said. “Over the last year Texas has created more than 170,000 new jobs. The comptrollers office has indicated that they expect growth to continue.”

Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal addressed development in the county over the past decade. He said population growth as well as economic tax abatements for corporations have improved economic growth throughout the county.

“Over the last 10 years there has been a 8.9 percent growth in our tax base,” Doyal said. “I am proposing a quarter of a cent decrease in property taxes [for FY 2016-17].”

Doyal said he hears of people’s appraisals rising and that continuing to “chip away” at the increases would make a big difference to county residents. He said investments such as improvements at the Conroe-North Houston Regional Airport also help attract corporate operations to the county.

Willis EDC President Billy Click said local officials plan to build a new recycling center in the city to help keep local roads clean, and continue to invest in infrastructure to provide services to new residents and businesses.

He also said officials are aiming to attract a new hotel to the city.

“There [are] so many things going on that we are excited about,” Click said.

Willis Economic Development Director Stacey Osborne said a growing population and a manageable tax rate appeal to new employers looking to bring their business to the city. The city’s property tax rate is 53.63 cents per $100 of valuation.

“The city has done a very good job of preparing for the growth that is coming this way,” Osborne said. “Some of the things the EDC is working on are streetlight improvements for the Westside Connector, water and sewer improvements on Hwy. 75 north and several street improvements throughout the city.”

NewQuest Properties Broker Ashley Williams said projects such as the Willis Town Center and Sam Houston Town Center have become successful economic investments in the community. She said Kroger Marketplace, located in the Sam Houston Town Center, has become one of the best performing Kroger stores in the Houston area since opening in 2002.