By Don Bolding
The Cove Herald
Jerry Conner, executive director of the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corp. for the past three years, attributes the energy and success that has brought his organization statewide praises to "a lot of homework that community leaders have done in the past 10 years."
At its spring conference in 2008, the Texas Economic Development Council listed the Cove organization among 22 of 500 similar organizations in Texas recognized for "economic excellence" after a string of achievements.
They included construction of a speculative building in 2001, soon to become part of an entertainment complex including the new Cinergy Cinemas; attraction of a call center of GC Services that now employs more than 1,000 people; and securing a $5 million grant for business park infrastructure in 2003.
The EDC was also instrumental in three land swaps between the city and Fort Hood, the latest to be the site of a million-square-foot shopping center as soon as paperwork is completed, probably in April.
The corporation also won an Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council for its retail recruitment brochure and has earned an Investment Policy Certificate of Distinction for the past several years.
Through it all, Conner is emphatic in crediting teamwork between the EDC, the Chamber of Commerce, the city, the school district, the Copperas Cove Industrial Foundation and Fort Hood. The foundation donated the land for the speculative building.
Conner also enthusiastically celebrates the advances of other cities in the area, saying, "We compete to land individual businesses, but any victory for one is a victory for us all. When a big plant comes to Killeen or Temple, it's going to employ some Cove residents.
"In many ways, we're all an economic unit, from Temple down U.S. 190 as far as Lampasas, and anything that helps one of us helps us all. If Austin were out of the economic picture tomorrow, I think we would still be strong."
He also said the willingness of Fort Hood to engage in "land swaps" with Cove is very unusual in the whole defense system.
"In each case, the city and the fort each had land the other wanted. In the case of the land for the shopping center, the fort wanted land for a buffer between its operations and future development," Conner said.
The first exchange provided land for the business park that includes the Super Wal-Mart and neighboring businesses, and "every retailer wants to be close to Wal-Mart," Conner said.
The second provided 100 acres for the current industrial park, and the third provides land for the million-square-foot Shops at Five Hills.
Support of small business startups is part of the stated mission of the EDC, along with new industry recruitment and business expansion and retention according to a comprehensive economic development program.
EDC board chair Dan Yancey, a senior vice president and commercial loan officer with First National Bank Texas, said, "I think we recognize that Cove is on the cusp of some great development, the kind that Killeen has seen and Harker Heights is going through now. The highway bypass is about to come to fruition, for one thing.
"We've got disagreements, but the whole city has moved from an attitude of 'we can't, because' to 'we can, because,' and we're learning to rise above self-interest to work together. Our board has people with many different areas of expertise, and the way they work together makes them more than the sum of their parts."
Contact Don Bolding at email@example.com or (254) 501-7557.