County leaders discuss economic development at luncheon
Business leaders and officials from across Milam County gathered to take a first step toward economic growth on May 13 and County Judge Steve Young hosted the inaugural Milam County Economic Development Luncheon at The Yards of Cameron.
The event welcomed Texas Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Robert Allen, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism Executive Director Bryan Daniel, and Cameron native and Texas Economic Development Corporation Chairman Drayton McLane to discuss and take questions regarding economic development in the county.
“As you all know it is in our best interest to have good economic development in this county,” County Judge Steve Young said in welcoming everyone. “What we need to do is come together as a county to solve this problem.”
Young said Milam County has about 25,000 currently, but people are moving here very quickly.
“Our neighbors have seen growth in Williamson and Bell counties,” he said. “If you have any question about that just look at rural land prices. They went up nearly 20 percent in the county last year. You ask why is that? Well the reason for that is they are coming here and our county is growing.”
Young said one of the reasons for that is our location.
“We are located right in the middle of the Texas triangle,” he said. “This contains four of the largest cities in the nation and nearly 14 million people live here. Some people estimate that nearly 1,000 people a day are moving to Texas. Williamson County is the sixth largest county in the state and it will grow in the next 10 years to over 600,000 people. Where are those people going to go? They are coming here.”
Young said that in 2017 there were 42 new homes built in Milam County. In 2018 there were 95 new homes built in the county. Many of those homes had a value in excess of $300,000.
“So people move here, they buy five acres, build a nice home, and drive back and forth to the Austin area,” he said.
Young said the county has many assets like transportation, a huge power grid, and an underground aquifer. The count is also very close to higher education and has good school districts to educate the workforce.
Young touted the work Cameron and Rockdale are currently doing on their water lines and wastewater systems to get ready for the growth. He also spoke of the work both have done on their industrial parks and the work everyone in the county did in coming together to work on the Blue Sky proposal for Amazon.
After a slideshow presentation from Young, the three men spoke about their experiences and desire to assist the county in moving forward for what is expected to be gigantic growth in Central Texas. They spoke on the need for a vision for the county and said that everyone needs to strive toward that vision.
Allen spoke on his job of marketing the state of Texas, discussing the big task of bringing business to Texas.
“We have about 27-28 million people in Texas today, we are going to double that by 2050,” Allen said. “Some days I wake up and say yay to that sometimes I wake up and I panic thinking about what we are going to do with all those people.”
Allen said the good news is those people are moving to Austin, Dallas and Houston. Austin is number one on that list.
“The growth is coming whether we like it or not and it is coming to Austin and outside Austin,” he said. “The good news for Milam County that growth in coming closer and closer. The real question is what do we do in advance of that growth?”
Daniel spoke on rural economic development.
“Economic development in Texas doesn’t care about if it is a rural area or a suburban area,” he said. “What really shapes it is the ability of the people that live there to take that process and make it their own. As the judge was talking about issues I was formulating solutions.”
Daniel said the important thing is to focus on continuing the conversation about economic development by doing more things like the luncheon.
“There was a time in history when this place was happening,” he said. “And some time along the way cattle and cotton ceased to be the exports and cash and kids became the exports and we never saw it coming. We have to understand that we are exporting our kids and a great deal of our cash.”
He said there needs to be a refocusing of what is exported to keep those kids and cash here.
“You are already ahead of the game because I saw that you are already making investments in the community like water lines,” he said. “You are replacing those things. We have electricity and telecommunications here. We just have to create those jobs. There are good things happening in this community.”
He said it requires patience to get it done and courage to talk about the uncomfortable things.
A roundtable was held to conclude the luncheon to discuss economic development problems and solutions.