Maintaining El Campo’s roots as a close-knit community remains a priority, even as the city continues to grow, officials told attendees of the annual State of the City and County luncheon on Oct. 18.
“We want to be El Campo,” Mayor Randy Collins said. “We want to be a small community that cares about what’s going on around it and cares about its people.”
In the last four years, almost 60 businesses were opened in El Campo, improved their property or are moving to a new property, according to the City Development Corporation.
“This is a sign of a very healthy economy when you have entrepreneurs and young people and existing businesses and generational businesses ... that are growing like this,” CDC Executive Director Carolyn Gibson said.
Encouraging El Campoans to shop locally has been effective. In 2010, the CDC was awarded $423,000 in sales tax compared to its highest value of $730,000 in 2019.
“That’s kind of awe inspiring to me,” Gibson said. “A direct result on y’all supporting your local businesses. The list of growing businesses is a direct result of y’all supporting local businesses.”
At the luncheon, Gibson mentioned local underutilized funding opportunities for businesses. The CDC’s partnership with The Houston-Galveston Area Council Buy, a government council program that vets vendors looking to sell to local governments, and Opportunity Zones, which offer business owners tax reductions on capital gains in exchange for investment.
“We’re facilitators,” Gibson said. “I can tell you who you need to talk to about this situation or this problem or if you’ve got good news that you want to share, I can tell you how to get it out there and share it.”
In 2019, milestones were achieved in some city efforts, such as adopting a thoroughfare project and enhancing the city’s Geographical Information System and creating residential incentives for builders to promote construction of more affordable housing.
Other projects are still being completed, such as street rehabilitations and the rail spur project, which has taken longer to complete than Collins initially thought it would.
“It’s something that we feel like will have a huge economic impact on the city,” Collins said. “We are doing our best not to bend over too far, but yet come up with some solutions to get this project going.”
The city will have a better idea of a completion date for the rail spur project by the first of the year, according to Collins.
For next year, city officials have various projects planned including replacing the water meters in town, which are 20 years old, replacing sewer mains, as the one running up Highway 71 is more than 100 years old, renovations in Willie Bell Park and sound system improvements in the Civic Center.
“In El Campo, it’s about selling your community and making sure that your community is one that people want to come to and possibly move to,” Collins said.