Business people love to talk about the communities they are building. They do it at Chamber of Commerce events, Economic Development Corp. meetings, city council workshops, hospital board sessions – any time they get together.
But sometimes it’s good to hear from an outsider.
Brian Kelsey, principal of Civic Analytics in Austin, gave a group of Decatur business people an overview of their own economy, from an outsider’s perspective, at Tuesday night’s 2013 Business Appreciation Dinner.
The annual event, hosted by the EDC and the Chamber of Commerce, brought together a sizeable group of business leaders at the Civic Center for some fellowship, a good meal, a few awards and what turned out to be a spot-on analysis of the local economy over the past 10 years and going forward.
“A third-party analysis of the readily available data shows the Decatur economy is on solid footing,” Kelsey said, winding down a presentation that touched on the strengths and weaknesses of Decatur’s economy.
He cited Decatur’s location on major highways, its proximity to DFW, and the competitive environment for investment – along with a couple of key factors that sometimes get overlooked.
“Health care is driving the diversification of the local economy away from basic services,” he said, “and that’s a good thing.”
One chart showed the total mix of business establishments in Decatur in 1998 and 2010. Although sales growth was strong, the number of retail trade businesses shrank from 19 to 13 percent during that period, while health care and social assistance grew from 10 percent to 17 percent.
Education is the other key.
“Decatur and Wise County offer promising opportunities for linking economic development and workforce development,” he said.
The opening of Weatherford College’s new campus on U.S. 380 between Decatur and Bridgeport offers businesses a partner to train potential workers – something high on the list of things they are looking for.
“You have an ‘eds and meds’ workforce,” he said. “Economic development is increasingly about partnerships, and flexible and responsive delivery systems for meeting the workforce needs of employers are highly competitive assets.”
Kelsey cited two 2011 corporate surveys that ranked the availability of skilled, affordable labor as the second-most important factor to most companies considering a location.
“Whether from renewed optimism in the economy, or a realization that talent cannot be ignored long-term, decision-makers have again elevated human capital above many cost factors,” he said.
One of the few measures in which Decatur trailed was education.
In the D/FW area 38 percent of the workforce has some type of certificate, an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree. In the U.S. overall, that number is 36 percent, while in Texas overall it’s 32 percent. But in Decatur, only 28 percent have any post-secondary education.
And education is the key to future prosperity.
“Thirty-seven percent of all new jobs in the U.S. expected by 2020 will require a post-secondary degree,” he said. “Sixteen out of the top 25 fastest-growing jobs, and 91 out of the top 100 highest-paying jobs require a post-secondary degree.”
That does not, he stressed, mean everyone has to get a college or graduate degree. In fact, skilled trades are the areas needed most by manufacturing companies.
Perhaps the most startling chart Kelsey showed was the median wage for all U.S. occupations in 2010. As expected, those with doctorates were at the top, earning an average of $87,500. Workers with bachelor’s degrees were next at $63,460, followed by those with an associate’s degree at $61,590.
A master’s degree brought in $60,240 – $1,351 a year less than someone with an associate’s degree.
The message is that specialized training – a mainstay of community colleges – is a key factor in workforce development.
Kelsey recommended Decatur invest in education and workforce partnerships, both to attract new businesses and to provide the workers existing businesses need in order to grow.
“You also need to communicate the realities of the labor market to students, and invite them to participate,” he said.
OUTSTANDING NEW FACILITY:
CASA TORRES MEXICAN RESTAURANT
Jesus and Maria Torres opened their restaurant in a leased, small house on Farm Road 51 in 2001, started with 15 employees. The business grew, they were able to purchase the property, and in 2011 they hired Jonathon Bethune to design and oversee construction of a brand-new facility. That opened last September. The new restaurant employs about 40 people, many of them family.
OUTSTANDING NEW BUSINESS:
FUZZY’S TACO SHOP
Fuzzy’s Taco Shop originated on Berry Street in Fort Worth and has grown into a multi-location restaurant chain. Last summer, they began an extensive renovation to a historic, 4,000-square-foot building on the Decatur Square, which opened last fall. They have 25 employees and, along with other restaurants, have made a huge difference on the Decatur Square.
OUTSTANDING QUALITY SERVICE:
Dr. Daniel C. Mallory earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M, where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets and commanding officer of the Ross Volunteer Company. He got his DDS and MS degrees from UT Dental Branch in Houston, earning numerous awards along the way. He is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists, Southwest Society of Orthodontists, and the Fort Worth District Dental Society. He and his wife Allison have three children Claire, Carter and Catherine, and are actively involved in several ministries through Crossroads Church.
OUTSTANDING PUBLIC SECTOR/NOT-FOR-PROFIT BUSINESS:
WEATHERFORD COLLEGE WISE COUNTY
Decatur EDC leader Charles Burton invited the leadership of Weatherford College to a meeting years ago to see if it were possible to have a branch campus in Wise County. On the strength of a $50,000 grant from the EDC, they opened their first Wise County campus in an old Wal-Mart building in January 2000. Since then, three WC presidents worked with the county’s leadership to bring about the new $24-million campus that opened last summer.
The Texas-based aerospace company developed a material that could withstand the high temperatures of re-entry when the space program began ramping up in the early 1960s. The technology was sold to Pure Oil Co. in 1964 and the graphite division became known as POCO, an acronym for the new owner. Decatur recruited the company from Garland in the late 1960s, and in 1969 they moved into the buildings vacated by Decatur Baptist College after it moved to Dallas. Shortly after that, they took over about 19 acres on the east side of town. In August 2008 Poco was purchased by Entegris, Inc. Poco makes materials for many industries including the semiconductor and general industrial markets, biomedical, glass industry and electric discharge machining. They are the only U.S.-based manufacturer of specialty carbons and graphites.