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‘Elevating Bastrop’- Economic Strategy for 21st Century Sets Sail

By Terry Hagerty – Contributing writer/photographer

Bastrop’s civic and business leaders are charting a detailed course to spur the City’s economic growth well into the 21st century.

In April 2019, the Bastrop Economic Development Corporation partnered with Jay Garner, president of Garner Economics LLC (Atlanta, Ga.), to create a multi-year strategic plan to stimulate economic development in the City. “The BEDC envisioned a strategy that would build on previous work and help the City identify ways to influence high-quality job creation and talent recruitment to the area - based on its strengths as a business location,” BEDC officials said.

Jay Garner and Cyndi Dancy of Garner Economics (Terry Hagerty photo)One of the key results of that strategy is a detailed (56 pages), highly readable marketing report titled, “Elevating Bastrop: An Economic Development Action Plan to Attract Talent and Investment,” presented in summary form during a workshop meeting of the BEDC Board of Directors and the Bastrop City Council on January 15. Garner and research analyst Cyndi Dancy led the workshop with BEDC Chief Executive Officer Cameron Cox delivering the opening remarks. After the report, Council members and the BEDC directors participated in a Q&A session. (The full report is available at: https://bit.ly/2u9Kgn2)

“We help communities like yours, large and small – we craft economic development strategies,” Garner told his audience. “Companies hire us (for) where they might want to do investments and expansion. We’re applying that knowledge (to Bastrop) of what companies are looking for in ideal communities.”

Vice-Chair of BEDC Board of Directors Kevin Plunkett‘Great Feedback’ – The study and recommendations of four focus groups, composed of “key community stakeholders” - with synthesis provided by Garner and company –  comprise the foundation of the report, whose chapters are titled, “Where Bastrop Stands as a Place for Business; Optimal Business Targets for Bastrop; Where Do We Go From Here?” Garner said the focus groups totaled 43 people; 87 online survey responses were also obtained. The focus groups were organized into categories of small businesses/entrepreneurs, large-company employers, government, academia, nonprofits, and real estate developers. “We got great feedback, we had robust stakeholder engagement – meaning we wanted to hear what your constituents, what your customers (think) about the business climate of Bastrop – How is it to do business in this community? We were able to capture that information,” Garner said.

Six business areas are seen as “core target business groups” for Bastrop’s economic vitality, with several strong anchors already in place, according to the report. The main business areas include: life science, agribusiness/food and beverage processing, niche manufacturing, film and creative services, high-value business services, and hospitality/experiential. Examples of established life/science businesses include AEI Technologies and Keeling Center/MD Anderson. Film and creative services are also ripe for further recruitment to Bastrop, having a solid head start with New Republic Studios’ 200-acre campus and a planned move this year to Bastrop of an Art Institute of Austin campus.

Detailing economic and labor assessmentsKey ‘Products’ – Under a heading of “Strengthen the Product” in the report’s Chapter 3, there are four recommendations: “Work to convince the community” of attracting a new technical college in Bastrop (Elgin has an ACC campus); Develop a speculative building in the BEDC’s Business and Industrial Park to attract a potential business; Develop a sports complex for local use and as a destination for amateur sports tourism; Create an entrepreneurial-knowledge center that would include a small business center and a makerspace.

Garner had high praise for work already under way to “Tell the Bastrop Story,” including the BEDC revamping its website’s graphic appeal. “Bastrop is well on its way to leveraging its location...as a competitive place for high-quality businesses. However, the community needs to strengthen the product it has to offer, as well as improve the quality of its workforce,” the report says. Streamlining the City’s process for obtaining building permits was also recommended, which is already being addressed.

BEDC's CEO Cameron Cox said, "Bastrop has a rich history and bright future as the next frontier for growth in Central Texas. We at the BEDC are excited about helping our local businesses grow while laying the groundwork for out-of-state businesses to locate here."