Sterling Flynn grew up in Canyon at his father’s knee, watching him paint.
“He had a career, but he’d always come home and paint,” Flynn said.
The elder Flynn turned out many western pieces, including one of a stagecoach – which now hangs in the foyer of his son’s new office.
Just like it was all planned.
On Monday, Sterling Flynn began his newest role as the executive director of the Bridgeport Economic Development Corp., in the “Stagecoach Capital of Texas.”
“Is it a good fit or what?” the younger Flynn joked. “This painting hung on the wall of all of the offices I’ve ever had. Now it hangs on the wall of a building in a city where a stagecoach like it came through.”
It’s also a city in which Flynn, a seasoned developer, sees plenty of opportunity.
“Very few cities are as forward-thinking and proactive as Bridgeport,” he said. “This city went out and bought 900 acres to create a business park called Endeavor Bridgeport. That’s amazing that they did that and funded the street construction to make improvements out there and extend utilities … I’m impressed with the decision-making they’ve done in the past to position this town for economic growth.”
In addition to that planning, he commends the innovation of city officials.
“There’s a broad range of thinking,” he said. “There’s the OHV park. What city would think that far outside the box to create something? And it fits this community. The topography, the land is perfect out there. It’s great. It’s already attracted some national events and put Bridgeport on the map.
“Jump from that to the theatre they refurbished downtown,” he continued. “So they’re involved in quality of life, helping make this a cultural community that’s attractive.”
Flynn is adamant that economic development must take those cultural factors into consideration.
“When you’re thinking about economic development, you have to think, it’s also people,” he said. “It’s more than just saying, ‘We want a shoe store,’ or ‘We really need retail’ or whatever the community is lacking. We have to appeal to the fact that there’s people who come with the business who have to live here. They want to have cultural amenities. For this EDC to think that far down the road and think it through, it shows some real good decision-making.”
Flynn brings experience in both the public and private sectors.
“I worked for four different cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and have been involved in economic development my whole career,” he said. “I’ve been a developer, have worked for five different development companies so I’ve been involved on both sides of the desk, if you will – public and private.”
After graduating from Texas Tech University, Flynn started as the planning and development director for the city of Euless, where he implemented the city’s first development review committees.
“That job was very fortunate because immediately it put me in the position of being liasion to developers and businesses and helping them work through the city process,” he said. “That’s really what economic development is – being that liasion and making things happen.”
After five years, Flynn switched to private development as land manager for a homebuilder that became the largest in the country in a matter of two years.
After that, he established a residential development company in Dallas before joining Woodmont Co., a major retail developer that focuses on mall-peripheral development. Flynn traveled all across the country scouring sites to establish shopping centers.
“We wanted to start a family, but I was traveling more than my wife, who is a flight attendant,” Flynn said, “So I went to work for Grapevine.”
As Main Street director there, Flynn helped start up the city’s trademark GrapeFest.
He transferred to the city of Arlington to serve as a planner and the economic development liasion.
“Every city does economic development different, and they don’t have an actual economic development department in Arlington,” Flynn said. “They work heavily with the Chamber, and I was the liasion for the city.”
Flynn returned to the private sector, opening a consulting firm.
“I did public-private partnership projects, working with developers and cities to make the projects happen,” he said. “Somebody with practical experience like myself, we can help make those wishes more real and focus on bringing to reality the ones that have true feasibility. That’s what my consulting firm did. You really can’t do a significant project without some kind of partnership with public funds.”
While consulting, Flynn was named to the Tax Increment Finance District for the Downtown Fort Worth Project, which realized the ample, free parking available in Sundance Square and the surrounding area.
“Tax Increment Financing is the go-to mechanism all developers all across the country rely upon to attract them to a community to make a project happen,” he said. “TIF is a way to finance public improvements and common improvements out of the revenues from the future development. It’s a very Texan concept – it’s like pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. That’s why it’s been so attractive and successful in Texas …
“Any serious private development today, especially real estate and job creation, it requires a smorgasboard of financial tools and partnerships to make it happen,” he continued. “TIF is a vehicle that allows cities to do that. This town has created two of them … I don’t think they’ve funded anything yet out of the TIF.”
But with his experience managing them – as well as with a variety of other tools – Flynn seems like the right guy to help the city realize development.
“I’d like to help Bridgeport be the best it can,” he said. “The fact that I’ve been a developer and gone through the practical aspects of making projects happen will help me bring their vision to reality … I don’t know what that is yet. Part of the fun of the job is finding out and seeing what we can make happen.
“With my architectural baggage, if you will, I might be able to help them envision the best that they can be,” he said. “That’s what I hope to do anyway. I think Bridgeport has so much opportunity.”