By Michelle Guffey
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS Over the years, the city of Harker Heights has been known as a sleepy bedroom community not much in the way of retail or restaurants.
But that is changing. This small city east of Killeen is experiencing an economic boom that doesnt look like it will end anytime soon.
Bill Kozlik, president of the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce, credits much of the retail boom to Wal-Mart building its Supercenter.
Once business people started realizing the super Wal-Mart was a reality, I think businesses really started looking at the area, Kozlik said.
Kozlik said that when Wal-Mart opens on April 13, things will start opening up.
Wal-Mart has hired 320 new employees and will have 171 relocations, Kozlik said. There will be about 500 new employees.
The revenue that Wal-Mart will generate from sales tax will go up out of the sky, Kozlik commented.
But City Manager Steve Carpenter says that the revenue from sales tax was up 30 percent last year even without Wal-Mart. Imagine what it will be in a year, he said.
Retailers were coming anyway, but Wal-Mart will definitely help, attracting other large retailers, Carpenter said.
Kozlik said the only land available on U.S. Highway 190 is in Harker Heights. All down Highway 190 is commercial property. Its just a matter of somebody getting it, Kozlik said.
In the last few years, several capital improvement projects have been completed. In the last three years, three schools have been built. The city has a new City Hall, a new city park, two fire stations and will soon be building a new police station.
Harker Heights is also seeing a tremendous increase in housing. In the next five years around 2,000 to 3,000 houses will be built off Farm-to-Market 2410, Kozlik said.
The city has the highest per capita income in Bell County, Kozlik said. Most adults in Harker Heights have a higher education level than in most areas.
Several retail businesses have contacted the chamber about opening in Harker Heights, and some construction is already under way.
On the eastbound access road heading toward Indian Trail behind Quiznos, a sign has recently gone up announcing a 61-unit motel that will be going on that site.
Kozlik said the group that will be building the motel is waiting for financial backing to begin construction.
It will happen, but they are still looking for money, he said. Theyve got collateral. They just cant get the money out of Killeen as fast as they would like.
On Indian Trail next to Sonic, construction has already begun on a shopping center. J&R Plaza will have two 10,000-square-foot buildings for lease. A cleaners is already scheduled to go in the plaza.
It should be finished in the July-August timeframe, Kozlik said.
City Manager Steve Carpenter said he has had several conversations with land owners.
I think there will be a tremendous amount of activity, Carpenter said.
Carpenter commented theres going to be more retail opportunities and jobs for the community.
The positive side to this is it will bring in a lot of sales tax, which will allow us to fulfill some of the planning weve done, Carpenter said.
The revenue will provide good services to residents such as taking care of water and sewer needs, parks, and roads, he said.
Up until now we have operated primarily off of property taxes, Carpenter said.
Kozlik said that Bed, Bath and Beyond has been contacted about bringing a store to Harker Heights, several restaurants have contacted the chamber, and a car dealership will be coming soon to the area.
I wouldnt be surprised if H-E-B expanded their store with the new Wal-Mart coming, he said.
Ten years ago, the population was 12,500. In 2000, is was a little over 17,000. Now the population is around 21,000. Kozlik stated that by 2010-2015 the population is projected to be pushing up to 30,000.
Harker Heights is the 17th fastest-growing city of our size in Texas, Kozlik said.
Contact Michelle Guffey at firstname.lastname@example.org