COPPERAS COVE — Almost every week in April, someone from the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation staff traveled out of town to make pitches to businesses.
“For the longest time, no one has known about Cove and what it has to offer,” said Polo Enriquez, executive director of the Cove EDC.
This year, with the development of the Narrows Business and Technology Park, the Cove EDC started to market the city to prospective businesses.
According to the EDC’s budget, about $8,500 is being paid to a prospecting company to search for possible businesses for the Narrows, $30,000 is budgeted for marketing, $20,000 will pay site selectors and up to $25,000 will be used for travel.
“My feeling is that it will be less than that,” Enriquez said about the final costs.
The EDC’s travel calendar shows 14 trips, including five in April, that were projected to cost about $16,000, excluding mileage and food. Destinations include Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Las Vegas and Chicago.
“These were carefully chosen places,” Enriquez said. “These are where we think we have the best opportunity (to attract businesses).”
Almost nine years ago, the EDC selected target industries that would be a good fit for the city and would not affect current businesses, Enriquez said.
Those industries included renewable energy products, construction materials, medical devices, light manufacturing, distribution and logistics and information technology, said Monica Hull, the marketing director for the Cove EDC. Trips continue to target those industries.
Enriquez said now is the time to start marketing and networking the city’s available properties, because it could take a year or longer for businesses to move or locate here, a time frame in line with development of the Narrows.
During recent trips, EDC members learned of some challenges and misconceptions to address with new business prospects.
Site selectors and companies want buildings to look at, Enriquez said. Copperas Cove has none.
“We get people in that say existing buildings only, and we have to turn them away,” Hull said.
Those companies may not end up in current buildings, but they want to see what stock the city has, Enriquez said. With no industrial or distribution-type buildings in Copperas Cove, there is nothing for them to compare their possible future operations with.
Enriquez said the EDC may construct a facility when the Narrows is developed to use like a model home.
Another obstacle is the distance from Interstate 35.
“Logically or illogically, these people are concerned about the 25 miles between us and I-35,” Enriquez said.
Enriquez hopes the U.S. Highway 190 corridor improvements underway from Cove to Belton will help mitigate the issue of distance from I-35.
Once explained, a third concern — proximity to Fort Hood — often turns into one of Cove’s strongest selling points, Enriquez said.
Many people outside of Central Texas believe the Army is nothing but infantry soldiers, “nothing but people who can only hold a rifle on their shoulder,” he said.
There are so many other workforce skills people are learning in the Army, Enriquez said. There is a talent pool that is going untapped and the EDC explains that to potential future businesses.
Cove EDC staff members also travel with promotional materials referencing the city’s biggest star — Robert Griffin III.
People may not have heard of Copperas Cove, but they’ve heard of Griffin, Hull said.
“We have made great progress because we are now relevant, because we are the home of a Heisman Trophy winner,” Enriquez said. “This guy has opened doors for us because we have a connection right way.”
Griffin is an example of the type of work ethic people have in Cove, Hull said. He is a product of our schools and he is someone many people around the nation and world have read or know about.
When the team starts talking about Griffin, “we have opened the opportunity for dialogue right away,” Enriquez said.
The EDC team can then start talking about other benefits of the city and Central Texas, including its workforce and land availability.