During a recent Coffee and Concepts meeting hosted by Innovation Collective, I shared some exciting updates for our community: Boot Barn and Burlington Coat Factory are moving into Victoria Town Center, and downtown is getting some snazzy new crosswalk art thanks to a partnership with the Victoria Fine Arts Association and Free Art Victoria.
The positive response to these projects sends a clear message: Residents love seeing Victoria thrive. The City has a vested interest in promoting economic and community development, which is why I was promoted last year to a newly created role: director of Economic Development.
Some residents get my office confused with the Victoria Economic Development Corporation. Although we both work to improve Victoria’s economy, the VEDC does so by attracting employers and creating jobs, while my department is focused on supporting new and existing businesses and making our community a great place to live, work and play.
Our goals and the VEDC’s are crucial to each other’s success. When big companies decide whether to move to a city, they look at whether the community is a place their employees will want to live. Similarly, retailers prefer communities with high-paying jobs and plenty of disposable income. Working with the VEDC and other entities helps to grow and sustain every part of our economy.
Another organization I work with is the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corporation, which oversees the allocation of sales tax revenue for community development. I help them to identify projects that will make our community more attractive to businesses and residents.
Another part of my role is marketing our community to developers, which I do in partnership with consulting firm The Retail Coach. Recently, I attended the Retail Live! conference in Austin to network with retailers looking for places to do business. We can’t control which companies come here, but we can show them what Victoria has to offer.
I also help retailers identify potential sites to choose from. Their decision-making is mostly influenced by statistics, especially population density. This means that more rural parts of Victoria aren’t as attractive to them, which is why the City continues to support projects that will attract more residents to these areas, such as the infill housing program and the forthcoming apartment complex on Odem Street.
My department includes the Victoria Main Street Program, which is led by Main Street Program Manager Kate Garcia. We are working to implement the downtown tax increment reinvestment zone, a tool that sets aside funding to create a cycle of growth and reinvestment without raising taxes. We will receive our first payout next year, and we are in the process of establishing a board that will allocate this funding for downtown development.
If you’d like to get funding for an energy efficiency project at your business or nonprofit, mark your calendar: On Sept. 7, we will host a workshop with the Texas PACE Authority to help residents learn about the Texas Property Assessed Clean Energy program. The City joined this program to help property owners throughout Victoria secure private loans without using local or state funds.
I’m excited about the changes that are possible in our community if we continue to think outside the box and invest in Victoria. With support from the community and our partner agencies, we can expect to see many more updates like the ones I shared at Coffee and Concepts.
Danielle Williams is the director of Economic Development for the City of Victoria.