Many folks have asked what led to my return to this great community. They ask, knowing that we had served this region once before, however, like so many others had moved on to other opportunities outside of our area.
The answer is simple: we always wanted to come back, should an opportunity arise that allowed me and my family a new way to provide servant leadership in the area of growth.
Well, thanks to an overwhelming majority of citizens, that chance was realized through the formation of a Type B Sales Tax and the governing Stephenville Economic Development Authority (SEDA).
Joining more than 500 other Texas cities, the 2015 vote designated 1/8 of 1 percent of the collected sales tax to be used for a variety of projects intended to increase the local tax base, and grow the ‘economic pie’ of our community. There are very specific uses of these funds as outlined by law, but suffice it to say that this is a major step for any town seeking to realize its dynamic potential.
Although SEDA is still in its infancy, the Board of Directors have been judicious in placing resources toward projects which elevate the quality of life for our citizens. Additionally, SEDA is strategically positioning for future growth in an effort to be competitive for investors looking at like-sized communities. The continual uptick in sales tax revenue suggests that the decision to adopt the Type B program of economic development is working.
The next obvious question I get (after why I returned) is ‘what’s coming to town?’ The exciting part of being here is seeing all of the great projects already under way! Dirt is turning in many parts of town suggesting a growing interest in the Cowboy Capital. While SEDA cannot claim responsibility for everything you see popping up in our community, we are currently managing 8 projects totaling more than $200 million in investment. As for timing, each project is at a different stage of development yet generally falls into one of 8 phases as is typically recognized by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC): 1) Predevelopment, 2) Market, financial & political feasibility, 3) Site & engineering analysis, 4) Financing, 5) Contractor negotiations/public approvals, 6) Construction, 7) Marketing, and 8) Building occupancy and management. Each project works its way through the phases at differing speeds depending on the scope of the endeavor, and it is our charge to facilitate their journey toward completion.
Some developments need SEDA’s assistance throughout the entire process, while others may need only a bit of direction. At the end of the day, our Board, staff and community partners remain dedicated to doing all we can to serve the Stephenville citizenry through strategic and intentional economic development activity.
This process was enhanced by the voters’ decision to create SEDA. You are to be congratulated for taking this step toward prosperity!
Jeff K. Sandford, IOM is the Executive Director of the Stephenville Economic Development Authority. He has spent the past 25 years as a business owner, non-profit CEO, and economic developer for communities across Texas, Arkansas and North Carolina, but is proud to call Stephenville, Texas home.