ROUNDUP: Economic Development Secrets and Best Practices Summit


Here are some takeaways from our Texas Regional ED Best Practices Summits:

DFW – Mansfield


  • Scott Welmaker, Director of Economic Development, City of Mansfield
  • Allison Thompson, Director of ED & Tourism, Cedar Hill EDC
  • Bruce Payne, Economic Development Manager, City of Arlington

In this kick-off summit, the panelists shared these tips:

  1. Always double check data that you find online for accuracy and make note of the “on the ground truth.” This means that metrics on your community may differ from what you as an economic developer actually know to be true. (Allison Thompson)
  2. All 3 panelists agree that when formulating an incentive package, payback periods always vary based on the size of the project. However, they all are most comfortable staying in the 5-7 year payback period range.
  3. When asked about one thing that they wish their boards knew about them and their job, they answered that they’d like their boards to know just how many different moving parts there are in economic development and how much work goes into each project. They suggested having board members shadow them for a day. (Bruce Payne)
  4. Allison shared that when onboarding new board members, they must attend a TEDC class to gain a well-rounded overview of economic development.
  5. The panelists shared that they don’t do print advertisements and do not use print materials to present to their board or council. They like to project everything onto the wall for more confidentiality. (Scott Welmaker)

DFW –  Dallas


  • Dan Bowman, CEO  / Executive Director, Allen EDC
  • Allison Cook, Director of Economic Development, City of Farmers Branch
  • Jim Grabenhorst, Director of Economic Development, City of Rowlett
  • Danny Booth, President, Terrell EDC

During our second DFW summit, the following advice was shared:

  1. Dan Bowman’s community has a HR Advisory Board that helps their BRE efforts. This group of HR professionals are a resource for other companies in the community that need business advice.
  2. The panelists shared that site selectors are telling communities now that performance requirements and clawbacks are not the norm anymore. Stand your ground – the majority of communities still use these tools.
  3. In terms of marketing, all three panelists use their website most heavily. Beyond the website, they suggested holding events for brokers.
  4. When evaluating prospects, the panelists agreed that you need to ask really critical questions in order to filter out the companies that are not very interested.
  5. All panelists stressed the importance of coordinating with different city departments in order to move the project along.

North Texas – Sherman


  • John Plotnik, President, Sherman EDC
  • Arleene Loyd, Executive Director, Gainesville EDC
  • Tony Kaai, President, Denison Development Alliance

These notable takeaways came from our third summit:

  1. When on BRE visits and while working through a deal, the panelists stressed the importance of visiting with HR managers and plant managers alike in order to get the whole story of how the company is doing.
  2. 70% of projects (companies) have site selectors leading their efforts.
  3. Here are the top 4 print ads that John Plotnik shared that Sherman EDC uses: the Dallas Business Journal, Texas Real Estate Business, Social Media, and a President’s Monthly Report that is distributed nationally.
  4. Tony Kaai shared that Denison utilizes a Destination Business Incentive that eases 15% of the renovation cost.
  5. Arleene Loyd shared that in Gainesville, 9/10 times she will not receive a completed incentive application after sending it to a prospect.
  6. The panelists all stressed the importance of having land or spec space available. Without it, you are out of the conversation.
  7. It is difficult to rezone from agriculture, but is easier from the tax standpoint if the EDC can buy the property.
Paul Scheuren is explaining the importance and best practices of data management.

Gulf Coast – Aransas Pass


  • Foster Edwards, Executive Director, San Patricio County EDC
  • Theresa Carlberg, Executive Director, Goliad EDC
  • Iain Vasey, President & CEO, Corpus Christi Regional EDC

The panelists shared the following tips during this Gulf Coast ED Best Practices Summit:

  1. Conduct a Target Industry Analysis to narrow down industries that you have a good chance of winning and can aggressively recruit.
  2. An Industry Committee can be a great resource for your business community. This committee will work as a focus group and share advice with each other, as well as local businesses.
  3. Always conduct a criminal background check on companies seeking incentives. Your job could be on the line if public money is accidentally put in the wrong hands.
  4. Hold a “Senior Executives Breakfast,” also known as a “Partners Breakfast.” As a BRE activity, this event can also work as a focus group. It encourages the cooperation and support of businesses in your community and is an opportunity for you to form a relationship with these business people.
  5. Regionalism can be one of your community’s greatest assets. Collaborate with other communities in the area when recruiting new companies. Even sharing the cost of advertisements can help ease the financial burden.

Central Texas – Georgetown


  • Michaela Dollar, Director of ED, City of Georgetown
  • Tim Chase, President & CEO, Hutto EDC
  • Shawn Kirkpatrick, Executive Director, Bastrop EDC

The panelists shared the following advice during the Georgetown ED Best Practices Summit:

  1. “The worst thing you can do is be introduced to a business owner when there’s a problem” – Tim Chase, Hutto EDC
  2. When conducing a Targeted Industry Analysis, use the skill and knowledge inputs in the location quotient to determine exactly what industries your community can support.
  3. Make sure to provide quarterly updates of every active project to your board and/or council. This is also a great refresher for you and your team.
  4. You must prioritize real estate solutions. The biggest issue that all the panelists have confronted is having a lack of available space. This high occupancy rate makes it difficult when recruiting new businesses.
  5. Use the ABC Targeting Strategy – seeking primary and non-primary job creation.

East Texas – Tyler


  • Tom Mullins, President/CEO, Tyler EDC
  • Kelly Kinsey Overby, Industry Retention Director, Longview EDC
  • Donna Maisel, Executive Director, Marshall EDC

The panelists shared the following advice:

  1. Implement a comprehensive plan (ordinances) and a strategic plan (economic growth) in your community, and make sure that the two are not the same.
  2. Use your strategic plan as a defense mechanism when people ask you to lead and/or participate in activities that are not your responsibility.
  3. In regards to BRE, along with meetings, mix in some social events with business leaders in your community. You will learn more at social events in a more relaxed environment.
  4. Focus on regionalism when determining your marketing plan. All three panelists have the smallest amount of their budget allocated to marketing and rely on their neighbors to share the cost of marketing trips and materials.
  5. When going to trade shows, arrive early while exhibitors are setting up their booths, and stay later for take down. This allows you some one on one time with the exhibitors.
Tyler panelists sharing their ED wisdom.

Rio Grande Valley – Harlingen


  • Raudel Garza, Manager & CEO, Harlingen EDC
  • Hernan Gonzalez, Executive Director, City of Mercedes
  • Gilberto Salinas, Executive Director, Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation

The following advice was shared by our panelists:

  1. Your strategic plan should cover a three year term, but you should update the action items annually.
  2. Always collect a letter of intent from your prospects and submit it in the packet for your board or council when presenting the project.
  3. When building an incentive package, look at the company’s capacity, equity, banking relationships, and whether they have requested incentives before. The incentive you offer should be the last 10% of the budget that they need to conduct business in your community.
  4. Be sure to have shovel ready sites, the majority of projects are looking for this space.
  5. Attend a site selector guild forum – it will allow you to get one-on-one time with a small group of site selectors.



  • Jason Ford, VP – Regional Economic Development, Greater Houston Partnership
  • Larry Buehler, Economic Development Director, City of Alvin
  • Fred Welch, Executive Director – ED, Conroe EDC

The panelists shared the following tricks of the trade:

  1. Host real estate agents for breakfast and give them an update on your community. These agents have a lot of knowledge of the community that they can share with you.
  2. Focus on recruiting companies that have ties to other businesses in the area.
  3. Bring in media from other states to tour your community. They can help sell your community to out of state businesses.
  4. Make an Incentives Guidelines document to standardize the process of building incentive packages.
  5. When presenting a project to your board or council, refer back to your strategic plan so that they know why you would like to give an incentive to the company.



  • Charley Ayres, Vice President, Temple EDC
  • Kris Collins, Senior VP – ED, Greater Waco Chamber
  • Cynthia Hernandez, Executive Director, Belton EDC

The following advice was shared from the panelists:

  1. When conducting BRE site visits, focus on a particular industry for a short period of time in order to get a better snapshot of the businesses in the industry as well as the industry in your community. You’ll be able to better find syncracies.
  2. Always have something to give to your businesses when conducting BRE visits, don’t just ask for their data. You can bring information on your community, workforce development, or other topics of interest to them.
  3. Have a relationship with site selectors and brokers inn order to get intel on a company. This will be extremely valuable when vetting the business.
  4. You never want the incentive payback period to be longer than the lease. Only grant incentives to companies with wages over the county average wage.
  5. One of the panelists shared that in building an incentive package, they always have a payback period of five or less years and a 20% or less ROI.

New Braunfels


  • Rusty Brockman, VP – ED, New Braunfels EDC
  • Adriana Cruz, President, Greater San Marcos Partnership

The following are notable pieces of advice that the panelists shared:

  1. As a BRE effort, one of the panelists hosts the manufacturers association at the chamber every month. If you do conduct these meetings, be sure to have a program about the community activities.
  2. The panelists shared that it is hard for their communities to get out of the shadow of nearby big cities. In order to address this, San Marcos hired a PR firm. Marketing is extremely important for these communities to get out and let people know that they are here and can host certain companies that large cities cannot support.
  3. Smaller communities should make a marketing partnership and promote the region.
  4. When training new board members, make a board book filled with ED definitions and policies and information on incentives, strategy, and fellow board members. Then sit down with them one on one.
  5. You can also send new board members to TEDC’s Sales Tax Workshops.



  • John Clary, Executive Director, Levelland EDC
  • Jorge Quirino, Special Projects Coordinator, Lubbock ED Alliance
  • Justin Jaworski, Executive Director, Abilene Industrial Foundation

The following advice was shared by the panelists:

  1. “Everybody in your town is your marketing team” -John Clary
  2. Discuss your strategic plan at every board meeting so that you are constantly updating it and assessing your progress.
  3. Here’s what to put in your board/council packet regarding a project: company background information, timeline, company financials, impact analysis, and recommended incentive.
  4. Make sure your chairman attends the TEDC Sales Tax Workshop.
  5. Always have a volunteer discus your decisions. Although you’re the ED expert, these decisions must be shared by someone in the community. Your chairman is perfect for this job.

That’s all folks! You can view the presentation slides on data organization and management below and also listen to this month’s episode of Economic Development Secrets where Paul and Nicole share the ED trends they found during the Summits.

Big Data vs. Your Data

Want to host a Best Practices Summit in the future? Email Nicole at [email protected].

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