The Stephenville Economic Development Foundation, Inc. held its annual meeting Monday at the N at Hardway Ranch, re-electing several sitting members of the board of directors who have agreed to continue to serve and pointing to direct financial contributions the group has made toward encouraging a positive economic environment in the last year. 

STEDCO’s fundamental goal is economic development, working hand-in-hand with the city of Stephenville, Erath County, Ranger College, Tarleton State University, the Chamber of Commerce, SEDA and others.

Wendell Hollingsworth, STEDCO's president, pointed to two major contributions STEDCO has made in the last year.

“We have been active in promoting a positive business environment this past year and I am very grateful to our board members for their dedication and hard work, which, by the way, they do for no pay,” he said. 

The two examples of STEDCO’s direct involvement in the economic wellbeing of Stephenville pointed to by Hollingsworth include:

• A $25,000 economic development grant to Equibrand, which manufactures Classic Rope and Martin Saddlery used in rodeo and ranching and other Western sports products, to encourage their relocation to Stephenville. Equibrand is currently building a 100,000 square-foot facility here that will add 50 or more new jobs to the area

• STEDCO’s $10,000 sponsorship of the Entrepreneurs of Erath business plan competition that will begin after the first of the year.

Guest speaker for the luncheon was Robert Johnson, formerly with the Texas Historical Commission’s Main Street Program. Currently serving as director of economic development with the Gladewater Economic Development Corporation, Johnson is in the Army National Guard and served in the United States Air Force working in the intelligence field.

During his career as an economic developer, Johnson has worked closely with city leaders, community developers, business owners, other state agencies and the Texas legislature. Along with helping business owners and cities operate more efficient fiscally, Johnson has helped communities capitalize on their historic assets and fully realize their capacity for heritage tourism.

In his address, Johnson lauded Stephenville’s vibrant downtown, city parks and positive business environment.

"I’ve visited many small towns in Texas and I am very happy to what this community is doing here with its historic buildings and in business in general," Johnson said. "I know this: If you do not focus on preservation and planning, you can end up with a town that conveys no sense of place. Obviously, this community - with the historic courthouse square and surrounding historic buildings serving as an anchor - the people of this community are very focused on preservation and planning. This is a beautiful small Texas town.”