Meet the Elite: Say Howdy to the Texas Elite Cities for Business
They say everything is bigger in Texas: the horizon, the hearts and even the salsa bowls! But it’s Texas’ business climate that has really caught the eye of industry leaders and site selectors around the globe.
It has been said that if Texas were a country, its economy would rank 10th in the world in GDP. The exceedingly business-friendly, right-to-work state also boasts top-10 rankings in job growth, business friendly regulations and smart, effective litigation reform. Maybe that’s why so many rankings find Texas No. 1 for Best Business Climate in America.
But while you can pretty much drop a pin anywhere on a map of the Lone Star State and find a city or town with everything your business needs to succeed, here in Texas there are an elite few that go above and beyond the rest when it comes to attracting, welcoming and retaining businesses. They’re called the Texas Elite, and these communities and business parks stand above the rest in terms of incentives, workforce, overhead, infrastructure, quality of life and cost of living. These communities should serve as a starting point when filtering through your choices of communities you want on your shortlist. Get ready to meet the elite!
Rumored to be named for Texas Revolutionary War hero James Bowie, the north Texas town of Bowie is just 25 miles from the Oklahoma border. It is home to the World’s Largest Bowie Knife–a more than 14-foot-long steel tribute to the knife made famous by James Bowie in the Sandbar Duel. A statue that rests in Bowie’s Pelham Park has become a popular destination for tourists and residents.
Aside from its giant cutlery, the small city of just 5,700 is well known for its manufacturing workforce, with such businesses as Bowie Industries, WL Plastics, Energy Services Co. and Brindle Products.
Home to Bowie Municipal Airport, the city is just 74 miles from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). The city is also served by two active rail lines: Union Pacific and BNSF. Bowie is easily accessed via highways 287 and 81 and is less than an hour’s drive to Interstate 35 that runs from Kansas to Mexico.
In 2000, the city of Bowie and the Bowie Economic Development Corp. (BEDC) worked with local businesses, government and educators to help develop a 16,000-square-foot, $2.196 million North Central Texas College branch, to help train residents in a variety of skilled trades. An 8,750-square-foot vocational expansion is under way and scheduled to open in 2018. The new center will help train Bowie residents in HVAC, machine welding and oil and gas production.
With its lower-than-average cost of living and housing, the city of Bowie offers your business a high-quality workforce for a minimal investment. And you won’t have to go it alone, either, because in addition to their support, the BEDC offers new and relocating businesses a wealth of incentive opportunities, from 380 agreements to freeport exemptions, rural business enterprise grants (RBEGs), fee waivers and fast-track permitting.
Seated about halfway between Austin and Houston, Brenham offers upscale amenities at a fraction of the cost of their big-city neighbors. From arts and dining to Brenham’s breathtaking bluebonnet viewing and numerous winery offerings along the Washington County Wine Trail, the scenic town has a little something for everyone.
In addition to its notoriety as the heart of the bluebonnet region of central Texas, Brenham is known for something else blue: Blue Bell Creameries, the iconic Texas ice cream brand that was founded in 1907. What started as a means to use excess cream now is a $680 million enterprise with a product line of more than 250 frozen treats.
Thanks to Blue Bell’s presence in Brenham, the city has a solid food manufacturing workforce. Other major employers in the city are global mattress brand Tempur Sealy International, precision machining company MIC Group (which supports industries from defense to energy and aerospace) and steel pole structure manufacturer Valmont Industries.
For businesses looking to relocate to Brenham, the city of just under 17,000 has openings at the Class-A business park Brenham Business Center as well as the 96-acre Southwest Business Park, which is conveniently located off U.S. Highway 290.
Brenham-area workers and students can receive a top quality education at several area schools, including the A.W. Hodde Jr. Technical Education Center and the Blinn College Workforce Education Program. Both educational facilities offer specialties in such areas as healthcare, HVAC, machining, CDA and many industry-required courses, including forklift certification, CMA refresher courses and OSHA training.
The Brenham Economic Development Foundation is eager to work with new and expanding businesses to coordinate site selection trips, assist with incentive applications and provide prospective businesses with demographic data as needed, all at no cost and no obligation.
With just under 10,000 residents, Brownfield may be small in population but what it lacks in people, it makes up for in infrastructure options. Just ask a company like Halliburton Energy Services, one of Brownfield’s most prominent businesses.
“With Halliburton, you’d think they’d want to be closer to the Permian Basin,” says David Partlow, director of the Brownfield Industrial Development Corp. (BIDC). “But their site locators determined that we were a better place to relocate to because of the infrastructure.”
According to Partlow, the same thing happened when Sanders AG was searching for a site to house its agricultural chemicals.
“Sanders came here for the rail access. They use Brownfield rail as their distribution center, so all of their chemicals come into Brownfield and then get distributed to their local branches from here.”
In addition to rail, Brownfield also has unprecedented highway access for a small town.
“We actually have five U.S. highways and two of those are four-lane highways,” says Partlow. “Unlike most small towns nearby, our roads actually lead to markets. We are really situated for companies to take advantage of our infrastructure.”
According to Partlow, companies who do business in Brownfield also benefit from a cheaper, small-town location, while still having an easy reach to markets in eastern New Mexico and the Central South Plains.
“We are in a location in a rural community that is less expensive, but basically a suburb of Lubbock,” says Partlow.
Brownfield is home to two industrial parks, and the BIDC can customize incentives to fit whatever options your business needs.
“Every town has incentives, but what we do is ask what you want; what would be best for your business? Do you need incentives for job creation? We can do that!”
Located 15 miles northeast of San Antonio, Converse is home to just over 18,000 people. Though the small city may not be a household name, it was instrumental in the Apollo 11 spaceflight mission in 1969 and played a major role in the modern space medicine and space biology programs.
Today, Converse is known for its construction and materials markets. It is home to such major employers as Ingram Readymix, Meadow Burke and Featherlite Building Products, but the city also has a workforce that is skilled in everything from information technology to manufacturing, biomedical and healthcare.
Converse offers a wide variety of incentive options for new or expanding businesses, including real estate infrastructure investments, Freeport Tax Exemptions and capital investment reimbursement grants. The city also has foreign trade zone designations for businesses importing or exporting goods out of the country.
Boasting lower-than-average costs of living and especially housing, Converse has a small-town feel while being just a short drive to the big city (San Antonio).
Located under seven miles to both Interstates 10 and 35, Converse is also under 250 miles from all major Texas seaports and under 300 miles from four international airports, the closest being San Antonio International Airport, which is just 12 miles away.
Kate Silvas, executive director of the Converse Economic Development Corp., says that in addition to a highly skilled workforce and central location, what makes Converse unique is the city’s desire to see businesses succeed.
“What businesses recognize about Converse is this:we have a can-do attitude,” she says. “We work aggressively to remove obstacles to make things happen here. One example is our building permit turn-around time is 30 days or less. We know that time is money and we do our best not to waste it.”
Are you looking for a business site in an “Affordable Small Town Where You Would Actually Want to Live?” Then look no farther than Dumas, which earned the No. 10 spot on Realtor.com’s 2015 rankings of the same.
Located in Northern Texas, the small town has also earned the distinction of being the No. 6 micropolitan economy in Texas, the 60th best economy in America and the winner of the Texas Workforce Excellence Award for the Best Workforce Development Project in the state. For businesses reliant on rail transportation, Dumas is home to the largest rail car park in North America. The city is even home to the world’s largest dairy and the world’s most-automated beef processing plant.
So what makes doing business in Dumas so unique? It comes down to the people. The small town’s residents are known for their strong work ethic and willingness to get the job done no matter what.
“What Dumas lacks in quantity, we more than make up for in quality,” explains Mike Running, executive director of the Dumas Economic Development Corp. (DEDC). “Our workforce has amazing work ethic, our cost of living is low, our access to markets is great and business support, incentives and minimal business restrictions will increase profits.”
As strong as the Dumas workforce is, the DEDC is equally as dedicated to helping new and expanding businesses come to town.
“Dumas is unique in that we will not only pay for a business to visit us and make sure our community is the right fit, but we will also help with a gradual, cost effective relocation and expansion program,” says Running.
“We are a ‘can-do’ community. We are hands on and support our businesses from beginning to end. If we do not have the answer, we will create one—but we never say no.”
With a population of just 16,800, Gainesville has earned a name for itself—as well as a title courtesy of Rand McNally/USA Today: “Most Patriotic Small Town in America.” Each year the North Texas town that is just six miles from the Oklahoma border invites new and past Medal of Honor recipients to the town to speak to high school and middle school students, followed by a parade and banquet in their honor. The city even plants a tree for each honoree along its Medal of Honor Walking Trail.
“Many honorees come back and visit the people in the community and check on their tree,” says Arleene Loyd, executive director of the Gainesville Economic Development Corp. “Some deep friendships have been developed over the years.”
As dedicated as Gainesville is to U.S. military veterans, the city is equally devoted to the many businesses that call the small town home. The city recently opened the Gateway Industrial Park, which is situated off Interstate 35 and has many shovel-ready sites available for new or expanding businesses. Gainesville has also developed plenty of new housing to accommodate employees, including a 240-unit apartment complex and a new, farm-themed “agrihood” housing community that is currently under way.
Due to its adjacency to an Interstate, Gainesville is a prime location for hotels, retail and dining. Just six miles from the Winstar Casino—and not far from the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers stadiums—Gainesville is becoming a destination of its own.
As for labor, 22 percent of Gainesville’s workforce is skilled in manufacturing. Gainesville is already home to world renown businesses such as Zodiac Seats, the largest commercial manufacturer of long-haul airline seats, and Molded Fiber Glass Companies, a manufacturer of blades for wind turbines and truck body parts.
“You create wealth when you bring a manufacturer to your community,” says Loyd. “Here in Gainesville, there’s not a corner where dirt’s not turning.”
Just an hour’s drive from Austin and 90 minutes from Houston, Giddings is a small town with the diversity of a big city.
“We have an interesting mix of entrepreneurs here from all over the world, who have been exposed to different industries and cultures,” explains Tonya Britton, executive director of the Giddings Economic Development Corp. “For a small town of 5,000, we have a lot of diversity within our labor force.”
But don’t let Giddings’ small size fool you. The town may not have many residents, but it still has access to a vast labor pool.
“Our location is at the heart of Central Texas,” Britton notes. “We have 110,000 people within 30 miles of our city, as well as schools, colleges and universities nearby.”
Another benefit to living and working in Giddings is that it draws water from the Edward Aquifer instead of from a reservoir.
“We have no restrictions to water access,” Britton says, “so if your business depends on a constant supply of water, Giddings has that.”
For businesses that are hesitant to move to the southern part of Texas following the inclement weather of the past year, Giddings offers a strategic advantage there, too.
“We are on high ground—some of the highest ground between Austin and Houston, so we have access to the port without being vulnerable from a weather standpoint,” Britton explains.
The city currently owns a 150-acre, shovel-ready site and is hoping to attract everything from call centers to warehouse and distribution centers, logistics companies and food processing and manufacturing plants.
“Giddings has a highly technically skilled workforce, and we want business,” Britton says. “We’re very business friendly. Half the battle is being somewhere that actually wants diversity.”
If you ever find yourself driving along Highway 69 North into the small, east Texas city of Jacksonville, you’ll probably see a sign that reads “Home of the World’s Largest Salsa Bowl.” That’s because the city with a population of 14,544 holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest bowl of salsa, prepared back in 2010 during the city’s annual Tomato Fest.
Best known for its tomato crops, Jacksonville once held the title of “Tomato Capital of the World,” but today it is known for much more. Namely, according to Sherri McDonald of the Jacksonville Economic Development Corp., the small town is regarded for “the people.”
“Our strong, skilled workforce is comprised of residents who embody a fervent work ethic while cherishing our rich heritage and honoring our traditions,” says McDonald. “You’ll find a sense of pride and ownership in our community unique to any other town I’ve ever encountered.”
That pride shines through in everyone from the caring and dedicated healthcare workers at Cardinal Health to the hardworking warehouse employees at the nearly 500,000-square-foot Stage Stores distribution center, and even among the skilled manufacturing workforce at Jacksonville’s many thriving injection molding plants.
Despite its small-town feel, the close-knit agricultural community is well connected to the rest of Texas. Seated at the intersection of Highways 69, 79 and State Highway 175, Jacksonville is about two hours from Dallas and DFW. For businesses that utilize rail transport, the city is also served by the Union Pacific Railroad.
But the city isn’t just a great place to work, according to McDonald: “Jacksonville is an excellent place to raise a family. Among many other amenities, we offer highly awarded schools, a private junior college, ATV parks, zip lining, a unique 30-mile scenic lookout park and the best kept secret in the state, Lake Jacksonville.”
Incorporated in 1831, the city of Liberty is the third-oldest city in Texas. Located halfway between Houston and Beaumont via Highways 90 and 10, Liberty’s central location shares all the connections of its larger neighbors. George Bush International Airport (IAB) is an hour’s drive away, and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) and the Port of Houston are just 45 minutes away, but Liberty boasts much less traffic and cost-of-living expenses than most neighboring communities.
Liberty’s largest employer, Boomerang Tube, employs 500 people. Boomerang supplies tubing to the oil industry, and many of Liberty’s other businesses are oil and gas related as well. With a highly skilled oil-and-gas adjacent workforce, Liberty workers are prepared to work in many facets of the oil and gas industry.
The town is also hoping to attract big-box retail businesses such as home improvement, sporting goods and automotive supply stores.
In addition to skilled workers, Liberty has many other qualities desirable to new or expanding businesses. The city is included in a foreign trade zone (FTZ No. 171) and, according to City Manager Gary Broz, Liberty can easily establish an FTZ within the city upon request. Liberty also handles all its own utilities, and Broz notes that it is the only city east of Houston with a Freeport Tax Exemption.
Liberty also has many educational opportunities for workforce training. “We have an arm of Baytown’s Lee College right here in Liberty,” Broz notes. “They teach everything from welding to electrical and mechanical engineering. And if your business needs employees trained with a specific skill set, Lee College is happy to help.
“If someone needs a program developed, Lee College will work with them. They can do the training right there.”
As it turns out, Liberty has a long history of being an excellent site for businesses. According to Broz, the famed war hero-turned-politician Sam Houston once had a law office in Liberty.
With a population just short of 7,500, Mexia (pronounced muh-HAY-uh) offers a prime location with a high quality of life and low cost of living. Situated between Interstates 45, 35 and U.S. Highway 84, Mexia is in the heart of the “Texas Triangle,” one of 11 “megaregions” in America, which in this instance includes Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. Mexia is just three hours from the Port of Houston and is so well-connected you can reach 93 percent of the U.S. population within 48 hours via a tractor trailer.
“Our location really does lend itself well to the DFW Metroplex,” says Susan Cates, executive director of the Mexia Economic Development Corp. “As DFW continues to sprawl, Mexia becomes increasingly attractive. The draw is really the accessibility of getting to any of the major cities within three hours.”
As for businesses already thriving in Mexia, local branches for Carry-On Trailer Corp., Martin Marietta and agricultural-adjacent manufacturing companies such as Kioti Tractor, Swarco Manufacturing and Rogers Manufacturing call the tiny town home.
According to Cates, Mexia’s target industry is distribution
“We do have the workforce capacity for manufacturing and distribution, because Mexia is part of a 40-mile labor-shed,” she explains. “We’re drawing employees from as far away as Waco, Fairfield and Buffalo. That allows us to fill a large variety of jobs.”
With a population of just over 18,000, the eastern Texas city of Palestine (pronounced Pala-STEEN) values the past as much as it does the present. With a beautiful historic downtown, the city is home to 1,800 historic markers—the second most in the state outside of Galveston. But don’t let Palestine’s nod to history fool you: The city is also surprisingly modern and even has its very own NASA balloon base, the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, which launches weather balloons for research purposes.
Palestine also has its hand in the aerospace manufacturing arena, with Aerospace Fasteners headquartered right in town. You may not know this business by name, but chances are that if you’ve flown on an airplane, it had an Aerospace Fastener product on it. That’s because at any given time, 98 percent of all planes in the air have at least one Aerospace Fastener on them.
The city has a strong logistics presence, with not one but two Walmart distribution centers in town, as well as a Ben E. Keith Beverage distribution center. The Results Co. recently opened a 585-workstation capacity call center in Palestine, and the city is home to a 1,376-employee processing plant for Sanderson Farms, an all-natural chicken brand sold throughout the Southeast.
Palestine also boasts an unbeatable location.
“Logistically, you can enjoy all the major markets—Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and Shreveport—all without dealing with traffic,” explains Palestine Economic Development Corp. Director Tom Manskey.
As for what really makes Palestine special, Manskey offers two word: the people.
“We have a very loyal and dedicated, hardworking workforce, which we’re working to increase all the time,” says Manskey. “We also have great quality of life and excellent educational opportunities.”
For businesses seeking a site not far from the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex with all the conveniences of a metropolitan location but with all the charm of a small town, Rockwall is the place to be.
This small, lakeside city has a population of just under 44,000, but it continues to grow in both residential and business presence. In fact, Rockwall has been called “The Best U.S. City for Job Growth,” by CNN Money and the “Fastest Growing City in Texas” in the 2010 United States Census.
Conveniently located along Interstate 30, the city is just a 30-minute drive to Dallas and an hour’s drive to Fort Worth. Situated along the eastern shore of the breathtaking Lake Ray Hubbard, Rockwall is also home to the popular destination Rockwall Harbor, a thriving waterfront entertainment district.
The city currently has vacancies in its very own Rockwall Technology Park, which already hosts such businesses as L-3 Technologies, Bimbo Bakeries USA and Pratt Industries. Outside of the park, companies like SPR Packaging, Whitmore Manufacturing and Channell Commercial call Rockwall home.
The city offers incentives and grants to new and expanding businesses as well as unsurpassed quality of life at an affordable price for employees of those businesses.
“One of the best things about Rockwall is that its far enough from the big cities but close enough to easily get to them when needed,” says Shara Fleming, executive assistant with the Rockwall Economic Development Corp. “Rockwall EDC is actively recruiting businesses, and businesses are growing and prospering here.”
TEXAMERICAS CENTER, TEXARKANA
The TexAmericas Center is a 12,000-acre, 3-million-square-foot industrial park in Texarkana that is among the largest in the United States. It is on the former grounds of the Red River Army Depot and the Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant.
Though the TexAmericas Center is no longer used as a military base, the niche there remains ammunition and energetics, according to Marketing Assistant Ashley Byrd.
“We still have the bunkers, and there are businesses here that use them for ammunition and energetics, like Expal USA,” says Byrd. “So we’re a unique find for those kinds of businesses.”
The TexAmericas Center can streamline many of the processes that might slow expansion in another location.
“We are a municipality that functions as a real estate development,” explains Byrd. “So we are able to do our own zoning and permit processing.”
Byrd says it’s that municipality-as-a-real-estate-development feature that enables TexAmericas to provide resident businesses with major savings on overhead, too.
“We have the fifth-lowest cost electricity in the United States, and the lowest tax rates available in Texas,” she informs. “We also don’t charge a city tax, because we aren’t affiliated with the city.”
Currently, the TexAmericas Center employs about 1,200 workers throughout its numerous businesses, as well as a staff of 10 employees to help operate the industrial park itself. But TexAmericas also has access to a 400,000-person workforce within a 60-mile radius.
As for what the TexAmericas Center “can do” for your business?
“We have a can-do attitude, and we’re willing to go extra mile for you,” says Byrd. “We will apply for grants for infrastructure for you, or do whatever we can to help. We go the extra mile to get businesses here.”
Just north of Austin sits a county with more than 545,000 residents. It spans all or parts of 16 cities and towns, including part of Austin itself. Williamson County is, according to Ben White, vice president of the Williamson County Economic Development Partnership, “One of the youngest, safest, most-educated and healthiest counties in the United States.”
Known for its highly educated workforce, Williamson County is home to numerous colleges and universities, including Southwestern University, Texas A&M Health Science Center, Texas State University at Round Rock and Austin Community College.
Williamson County’s presence as a center of education lends well to its enormous technology presence. The county is home to such tech giants as Emerson Process Management and Dell, as well as bioscience firms, including Texas Life Sciences. But Williamson County isn’t all technology, either.
Known historically for its cotton ginning industry, Williamson County city Taylor, Texas, is still a major cotton-producing city. Many cities within the county are well known for cattle ranching operations.
Other industries within Williamson County include education, manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, construction, real estate and health care.
For businesses reliant on infrastructure access, Williamson County is served by both Interstate 35 and tollways such as 183/183A. The county boasts regional and municipal airports, and it is less than an hour’s drive from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS).
“We are centrally located in the Central Time Zone, and we’re on the trade corridor,” notes White.
Other businesses well-suited to Williamson County’s workforce include back offices and corporate headquarters, but ultimately any business looking to relocate would be a great match for the county, to hear White tell it.
“If a business wants to relocate into a stable political and business community that is fast growing and forward thinking,” he says, “Williamson County is that place.”
WANT TO CONNECT?If you’d like to learn more about these elite Texas communities and how they can help you establish your business in the Lone Star State, visit www.choose-texas.com for more information. While you’re there, you can confidentially register your project, free of charge. Registering is your direct connection to exclusive information and VIP attention from representatives of Choose Texas and the Texas Elite. Choose Texas can also be reached by calling (469)- 778-2606