The City of Huntsville’s public officials met Oct. 24 in City Hall to discuss a new economic development plan. In the next several months, officials will introduce these plans to city councilmembers during the regularly scheduled meetings.
“We have talked about this a fair amount over the past couple of years,” City Manager Aron Kulhavy said. “One of the things that was very clear to myself and staff was [we] want to take the lead on this. We want to put together a very detailed work plan and we’re going to do it ourselves.”
According to Kulhavy, the purpose of this work plan is to guide the city in fulfilling its economic goals over the next five years by consulting with small business owners and prominent entities around Huntsville, such as Sam Houston State University and Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
“One of the biggest things that we need to consider as a city is a way to overcome the demographic identity,” Councilmember Mari Montgomery said. “We have a population that is close to 40,000 and a quarter of that are incarcerated.”
Another factor contributing to difficulty in economic development is the lack of a skilled workforce.
“At the university here, one of the big questions that keeps getting asked is ‘why don’t the graduates stay here in Huntsville?’” Councilmember Joe Rodriguez said. “One of the reasons is that somebody who comes out of college, their salaries are not going to be at the top when they start a new job, and they can’t afford to live here because we don’t have affordable housing.”
Other topics of discussion were the importance of Huntsville’s location and the reasons for land annexation.
“Our biggest economic strength is our location,” Councilmember Paul Davidhizar said. “If a company wants to locate someplace that’s going to take off, it’s Huntsville. That’s why we as a council are developing infrastructure and annexing land because there’s no place in the city limits to put distribution centers or small industrial situations.”
Mayor Andy Brauninger and many of the councilmembers stress the importance of attracting industrial growth over the next several years. SHSU and TDCJ could also play a role in attracting vendors to the city.
Public officials aim for this economic plan to be finalized by the January 2020 strategic sessions. The next City Council meeting takes place Nov. 19 at 6 p.m.