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Years of planning paying off for Cove’s economy

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Copperas Cove’s economy is coming into its own.

With ribbon-cutting ceremonies planned Thursday for the State Highway 9 project and a new Chick-fil-A, the city is embarking on a year of dynamic growth.

As information from the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation shows, the next six months will be busy ones.

Opening this spring will be the Copperas Cove Business and Professional Park, just south of Cinergy Cinemas, as well as The Summit fitness center. The city also will have a street dedication of Charles Tillman Way.

This summer, the city will cut the ribbon on the long-anticipated U.S. Highway 190 bypass, which will become the official U.S. 190. The 5.2-mile roadway will take traffic around Copperas Cove, from east of the Five Hills shopping center to west of Farm-to-Market 2657. The current route through the city will be renamed Business 190.

Also this summer, the city will formally open The Narrows Business and Technology Park, a 72-acre commercial and residential subdivision.

And this fall, a new Scott & White Clinic will open its doors to the city’s residents.

Taken all together, the activity paints a picture of a city with a vibrant economy and a bright future — a far cry from a town that had difficulty attracting new business less than two decades ago.

The key to growing the city’s economy was the ability to grow the land-locked city — and Cove did this through three separate land exchanges with Fort Hood.

A 100-acre swap in 1988 brought Cove the Walmart Supercenter site in exchange for a parcel north of U.S. 190, and 10 years later, the city offered Fort Hood another land exchange. The following year, the Copperas Cove EDC purchased 507 acres near Pidcoke and offered it to Fort Hood for 109 acres south of U.S. 190. Congress approved the agreement in 2001, giving the Army post valuable training land and providing Cove with room to develop much-needed commercial property.

In 2007, the city and Fort Hood completed another swap that gave Fort Hood property for a buffer zone near its airport in exchange for 90 acres of land near the proposed bypass route. That parcel became the site of the Five Hills development and also provided land for the east end of the 190 bypass.

Along the way, the Cove EDC used a $1 million Economic Development Administration Grant — matched by $365,000 from the EDC — to build water, sewer and drainage infrastructure through the industrial and business parks.

Now the city is reaping the rewards of its vision for growth.

Just a year after the city completed the sale of Phase I of the Five Hills development, a Whataburger restaurant opened in January 2013 as the complex’s first business, followed soon after by a 135,000-square-foot H-E-B Plus! store. The Five Hills center is now 98 percent leased, and the EDC anticipates the purchase of Phase II later this year.

Of course, the opening of the new U.S. 190 later this year could be a possible hindrance to continued growth, as a sizeable portion of traffic is routed around the city.

Monica Hull, the EDC’s director of business development, said the city currently sees 50,000 vehicles a day driving through town on U.S. 190. The resulting traffic congestion may discourage shoppers, she said.

The key, Hull said, is ingress and egress, and with less through-traffic clogging the roadway, businesses likely will benefit from the improved traffic flow.

City officials are optimistic that businesses will continue to see the benefits of locating in Cove.

It’s hard to argue with that outlook. After all, success breeds success.

But in building on what the city has achieved, officials must pay careful attention to aesthetics. Already, more than $200,000 has been earmarked for beautifying Business 190.

That’s a good start.

Placing a high priority on building and landscaping standards will help ensure that Cove continues to be a desirable place to shop, work and live.

Contact Dave Miller at dmiller@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7543

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