(Seguin) -- The city of Seguin Economic Development Department says it expects the positive growth to continue in Seguin this new year. Seguin Economic Development Director Josh Schneuker oversees the department and also serves as the executive director of the Seguin Economic Development Corporation (SEDC). Schneuker says 2017 was a good overall year for Seguin, and that's one of the reasons he is so optimisitc about the new year. Schneuker says there's a lot of diversity to their work, and they saw a lot of improvements in the overall economy last year.
"A lot of people think economic development is strictly business recruitment, but there's several facets of economic development. We put a lot of effort into focusing on a lot of other pillars that are involved. Our job is not just to recruit business. It's to create an environment that's positive to growing our businesses within our community, the ones that are already here. Then also creating an environment that has other businesses from outside the area look at Seguin as a viable option for them to either relocate or expand. So some of the pillars that we're really focused on in 2017 were business retention efforts and workforce development efforts. Looking back, I think it's some of the pillars that we really needed to focus on in the past, and are going to be paying more attention to...just like we did in 2017. Putting more time towards growing our talent pipelines, working with our partners in economic development and ensuring that the economic development climate in Seguin remains positive for years to come," said Schneuker.
People often think that economic development is all about job retention or creation. Schneuker says that's a big part of what they do, but he says they also work in a number of other areas that are important to the local economy.
"From working with manufacturers...healthcare, retail, even on single family (housing) side of working that to get new developments like that here to Seguin. There's something new every day in economic development. You're not working on the same project over and over. You're wearing multiple hats all the time. So it definitely keeps you on your toes. It's a fun job and this is a fun city to be a part of a job like this," said Schneuker.
Schneuker says one of their biggest accomplishments in 2017 was the work that was done in starting up the Talent Pipeline Project. He says the project is really a partnership between his department, local schools, the Seguin Area Chamber of Commerce and the business community. He says the project helps to make sure that there is a proper alignment between what's being taught, the skills that are being acquired, and the jobs that are available here in Seguin. According to Schneuker, the Talent Pipeline Project really started something that should serve this community well for years to come.
"That is probably one of the most rewarding things that I think I've worked on. We likely won't see the fruits of our hardwork any time, this year or next year. This is a project that takes decades and years, but you got to start some where. In 2017, not only did the SEDC work hard at this, but a lot of our partners in the community (also worked on it). When you work together, things get done. Things get done well and we were very happy with the way our town pipeline initiatives went when it comes to not only career fairs, but exposing kids in high school and middle school to the career opportunites here in Seguin. We want to ensure that we have the talent pipeline in place to feed our employers that are currently here with the jobs that they need to fill now and the jobs of tomorrow as well," said Schneuker.
The project really opened up the lines of communication between schools and industry, and also helped to open up the eyes of students in both the Seguin and Navarro school districts. There had been a disconnect before, and Schneuker says the Talent Pipeline Project helped to make those connections for everyone. He says better communications was crucial to this project.
"That's one thing we noticed really wasn't taking place. There wasn't a lot of solid communication across industry. It all started back in March or actually even went back I think to 2016 in December when we had our first summit. When we brought manufacturers in with leaders in our local independent school districts and just had them talk to one another and get an understanding what manufacturing needs are, what's going on in the school districts and how can we work together to strengthen what we have in place and add upon that to make it even stronger," said Schneuker.
The project helps to better align schools with what's happening with local businesses, and vice versa. Schneuker says it also helps to broaden the perspective of local students, who get to hear more about the jobs and careers that are available in their own back yards.
"A lot of this got me thinking back to when I was in high school and what was I exposed to. I started thinking about it, there wasn't a whole lot that I could remember that I was exposed to. I think just exposing can make a world of difference. Just to get kids in front of companies like Alamo Group, GRMC or Caterpillar. Just show them this is what they do, (and) these are the pathways. This is what you know. If you want to go to college, that's perfect, but there's a career here for you with your engineering degree, or your with your marketing degree. You can come back to Seguin and use your skills to help grow our community and you don't need to go to San Antonio or Austin or Dallas to find jobs like that. They are available in your backyard. That was the whole point is expose kids of the career pathways available within so many of these wonderful employers within our community," said Schneuker.
Schneuker says the Talent Pipeline is a project thas enjoyed a number of partnerships. He says there were some other partnerships that were also key to the success of 2017. He says they have worked with the city of New Braunfels to help provide some training and workforce development opportunities for workers across this region.
"One way that we've really wanted to move forward in addressing any skills gaps that we have in the community. We've partnered with our colleagues in New Braunfels, the CTTC (Central Texas Technology Center) and Workforce Solutions Alamo on a grant that we were successful in being awarded. That will allow the CTTC to purchase some new CNC machines. That'll help trian students at that facility, train high school students through the Alamo Academies program and also be a tool for businesses here to train their incubment workers and upscale them on those machines. So we were very happy about that project as well. Our big thing is working together and that's kind of -- I guess sums it all up. How we are not only working together here within the city but (also) within our region, trying to make this a great place to be," said Schneuker.
Schneuker says Seguin also continues to invest in it's infrastructure, which is also helping to boost the local economy. He says all of this work will ultimately lead to a very productive 2018.
"2018 is going to be a very good year in terms of housing growth for the city of Seguin. We've seen some tramendous growth over the past couple of years, but I think 2018 is really going to make those look a lot smaller. We've got at least three housing projects that all have plats under review by our city staff. So those are very imminent projects moving forward and breaking ground. We anticipate maybe some time this spring to break ground. We've got a lot in the pipeline as well. We continue to work with developers on moving those projects forward. The old saying goes in economic development is 'rooftops equal retail.' That's one thing that we've heard in our retail recruitment efforts is that we need more housing coming out of the ground. It looks like we're finally going to have that housing coming out of the ground. It'll make our jobs a little bit easier in going out and marketing Seguin to retail development prospects," said Schneuker.
Schneuker says the completion of some of the access roads along Interstate 10 in Seguin will also help to encourage more growth along the I-10 corridor.