My career has taught me about the type of environment businesses need to thrive. As the CEO of DeTar Healthcare System for nearly 30 years, I knew there were only two ways DeTar’s base of potential patients could grow: if the community grew or if we offered new services to attract outsiders. Similarly, a city looking to promote economic activity must find ways to attract or retain residents and create a welcoming environment for visitors.
I’ve served on many professional and nonprofit boards during my career and after retirement, seeking to use my skills to grow our community and economy. When I learned about the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corporation, I knew the organization was a perfect fit for me. I’ve been serving as the board president for almost a year now, and it has been a privilege to guide the VSTDC in its important mission of investing in economic development.
In order to better articulate our goals and determine the steps needed to achieve them, the board spent some time earlier this year discussing our views about economic development, the VSTDC’s role and the challenges and opportunities we face. Although our members brought many different ideas to the table, we share a consensus that economic development includes any activity that makes Victoria a better place to live or visit.
These discussions led us to draft a detailed plan of work for our organization, outlining short-range action items and identifying project categories that fall within the scope of our mission. We’ve also updated our budget format so that each project is identified by its project category within the plan of work, which will ensure that our projects align with our goals.
These administrative changes will help us to continue the VSTDC’s established strategy of growing Victoria’s economy using a multilayered approach to economic development. Here are some of the projects currently in the works:
- Infrastructure: As in years past, one of our top priorities is to fund street and utility projects that will improve quality of life for Victoria residents, from maintaining existing streets to investing in expansion projects like Placido Benavides Drive that will grow our economy in the long term. Ongoing projects for the upcoming fiscal year include the Crestwood Drive reconstruction project and Airline Road repairs.
- Opening land for development: As we saw with the construction of Placido Benavides Drive, sometimes a transportation or utility project can create new economic opportunities by providing access to developable land. This was the case when the VSTDC recently agreed to fund the relocation of a ramp to allow an outside developer to build a new shopping center. Another recent example is the Springwood Medical Plaza project, by which the addition of a single sewer line will open more than 140 acres for development. In both cases, the VSTDC’s investment will yield dividends in terms of tax revenue, job creation and greater services for residents.
- Industrial site identification: One of our goals this fiscal year is to identify and actively market at least three large-scale tracts of land that could serve as industrial sites. This is crucial if we want to attract big companies like Caterpillar.
- Economic development strategic plan: Victoria’s economic development strategic plan has not been updated in 20 years. We need to bring together stakeholders from local government, education, commerce and other sectors to revise our current plan and set goals that reflect the entire community’s needs.
My first year as board president has been a productive one, and I look forward to working with my fellow board members on these projects and others that will help our local economy thrive. To learn more about the VSTDC’s current and upcoming projects, you can view our 2020-2021 budget at www.victoriatx.gov/vstdcbudget.
William R. Blanchard is the board president of the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corporation.
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