By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
Community financial stability is something Killeen City Manager Connie Green listed as his sixth priority in the 2007-08 proposed city budget.
The sixth of six priorities states, "Adequately fund economic development activities to promote Killeen as an ideal place to live and to do business."
"I'm pleased our budget, as presented, fully funds economic development and the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce," Green said.
The chamber receives about 60 percent of its budget from the city of Killeen. GKCC President John Crutchfield said the GKCC's predominant activity is protecting and growing Fort Hood through economic development in the community. He said the chamber's goal is to get the fort to its maximum capacity of 50,000 soldiers by making Killeen and the area a more desirable place to live.
"This budget continues to fund those activities," Green said.
Some of those recent activities include a city branding study, a retail marketing study and maintaining the existing economic base.
"We're talking to retailers all the time," Crutchfield said.
But it goes beyond retailers, he said. The GKCC is looking to recruit businesses and industries that will retain long-term employees.
"This last year we really got involved in talent development and place design," Crutchfield said. "Talent is a critical issue."
That includes recruiting companies such as the Sallie Mae student loan corporation and Longhorn International trucking company.
Crutchfield also said a stand-alone university falls into that category. The chamber helped push for state legislation – which was approved by the Texas Senate and House only to be later vetoed by the governor – that would lower the enrollment threshold needed by Tarleton State University-Central Texas to become a stand-alone university.
Tarleton State University-Central Texas is a branch of the Tarleton State University main campus in Stephenville, which is part of the Texas A&M University system.
If the Central Texas branch meets full-time enrollment requirements, it would remain a member of the Texas A&M system, but no longer be part of Tarleton. If approved by the Texas A&M Board of Regents, the local college would become Texas A&M-Central Texas.
Crutchfield said the support for that is still in the community, and the chamber does its part by meeting with legislators and giving testimony about the positive economic impact.
"Our role at the chamber is to work with the university task force," Crutchfield said.
He said a stand-alone university is just a piece of the puzzle to build employee retention and recruitment to Killeen.
"Place design has to do with creating a place where talent wants to reside," Crutchfield said.
Green and Crutchfield said that and major retailer recruitment are competitive.
"It takes money and resources because it is a very competitive environment," Green said.
He said 2 cents of every 69.5 cents (the tax rate per $100 assessed property valuation) is used for economic development.
Another thing the chamber focuses on is helping small businesses.
"We have a lot of people who leave the military and want to start a business," Crutchfield said.
He said the GKCC and the Central Texas Business Resource Center help people get started and maintain their own businesses.
The chamber also helps with city services. Crutchfield said the GKCC plays a role in the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport's success, "which is an economic generator.:
He said this year the GKCC will work on a passenger advertising campaign. The chamber also works with airlines to bring more services to the airport.
"We have a very aggressive airline recruitment program," Crutchfield said. "The airport is really the front door to the community."
Crutchfield said it's more than the city and chamber working together on these economic activities.
"We do all this with a lot of allies," Crutchfield said.
Some of the organizations the GKCC works with are the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, Central Texas Workforce Centers, Killeen Works and the Killeen Independent School District.
The proposed city budget also funds the Killeen Economic Development Corporation, a nine-member committee that provides incentives for projects that create jobs, "to get them to make that capital investment," said Crutchfield, a KDEC member.
The council is scheduled to vote on the proposed budget on Tuesday.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7550