By Robert Nathan
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – The city has grown dramatically over the past 10 years – more housing permits are being issued and more businesses are on the way.
What has long been known as a bedroom community might become a bustling city of 40,000, with more hotel lodging and tourism promotion.
The Heights Inn, a 40-room hotel on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, is the only hotel in town, but a 50-room hotel is under construction on Pan American Drive near Indian Trail.
More hotels and motels could come to Harker Heights if the growth trend continues as city officials expect.
"If we get a lot of retail coming in, it (the city) could become a point of destination," speculated City Manager Steve Carpenter. "I could see a few more hotels coming in, but it would be a Holiday Inn Express or something like that."
Carpenter said hotel developers occasionally explore the possibility of building hotels in Harker Heights. He does not expect large hotels like the Plaza Hotel or Howard Johnson in Killeen, because the city does not yet serve as a destination point for tourists.
"I think if we get anything, it will be a motel or hotel and in all likelihood, they will be located somewhere along Highway 190," Carpenter said.
Carpenter does not expect bed and breakfasts here, because the city is not like Salado, Wimberly and other small, Hill Country towns.
Regardless, Harker Heights would benefit further from hotel and motel growth because the taxes they generate must be used to promote tourism. The city generated about $27,000 from the room-and-board taxes in the 2004-05 fiscal year.
"There are only a few uses it can have," Carpenter said. "It can be for the promotion of tourism or like what Killeen is doing, for convention centers."
Revenue from hotel taxes must be used to attract overnight guests to the city's hotels and motels, promoting the city's hotel industry, Carpenter said.
During crafts shows and other leisure entertainment, there is always a chance out-of-town guests could come to the event. Spending hotel/motel tax revenue on the promotion of such events is how some cities use the funds.
The city recently used some of its hotel/motel tax revenue to promote itself with the construction of gateway signs on U.S. Highway 190. Groundbreaking for the first gateway sign – which is constructed of Austin limestone and bears the city logo – took place in February. The sign was completed in May. Construction of a second gateway sign was approved at the May 23 council meeting.
The Texas Department of Transportation funds half the cost of gateway signs, excluding project establishment, maintenance and preparation of the project design plan.
Carpenter believes that, as the city continues to grow, the appearance of new homes, businesses and hotels will make Harker Heights a community residents will be able to identify with and be proud of due to the increasing number of services that could be offered.
"I think in the next five years you won't be able to recognize us, just because of the commercial growth coming in," Carpenter predicted. "Obviously, when you attract more people, you're attracting more businesses."
Contact Robert Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org