The article below was published in The Katy Rancher on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. The article was written by Landan Kuhlmann.
Fort Bend County has become a symbol of economic and demographic growth, not only in Texas but nationally, as the fourth-fastest growing county in the nation, with several factors contributing the boom.
Fort Bend Economic Development Council President and CEO Jeff Wiley believes that quality growth is the most important driver of economic prosperity available to a community. He credits the cooperation between Fort Bend and the entities within it as well as a unified vision for economic growth for enabling the county to not only achieve, but maintain, such growth.
“These common core beliefs, the continued public and private sector leadership and the results themselves instill trust by the community and cooperation by leaders to achieve more together than by themselves,” he said.
The old phrase “numbers don’t lie” certainly holds true in this aspect, as Fort Bend County has become a regional leader in virtually every aspect of demographic and economic excellence tracked at the highest level for several decades.
The Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land region of the county is 11th fastest-growing metro area in the US, while Fort Bend County itself grew by more than 3.8 percent in 2013-2014 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown topped Forbes’ list of America’s fastest-growing cities.
Wiley did note that growth of any type brings its own set of potential obstacles. For example, he mentioned that residential and population growth means increased responsibilities–every type of service provided must expand in accordance with housing and population growth.
“In many cases, the cost of servicing this growth exceeds the service revenues and property taxes generated by the growth,” he said.
On the other hand, Wiley said growth of businesses in a community generates property taxes which exceed service costs, thereby helping support the costs of providing the aforementioned services and providing other benefits.
“Commercial growth also provides primary jobs to a community, allowing residents to find employment opportunities,” he said. “Keeping and growing jobs is the second vital component of a successful economic development formula,” he said.
Several Fort Bend cities appear on lists here too, with Sugar Land rated as the top place to find a job in 2014 according to Money Magazine and Katy garnering the distinction as the fourth-best city in Texas to start a business.
Setting the conditions which attract such business growth is equally important according to Wiley.
“Low taxes, low burdens of entry, quality schools, educated and skilled workforce, and in some cases, business incentives are all parts of the toolbox in efforts to draw businesses to a community,” he said. “This is not a secret, but delivery of these building blocks to success are often difficult to accomplish.”
Wiley also praised the county’s economic development leadership, whether it be housed in elected or appointed positions, city staff or public and private partnerships.
“We understand the critical nature of setting the conditions for growth and work to improve them every day,” he said.
Numerous highway projects such has the US 90, Highway 59 and Grand Parkway expansions have enabled the county to keep pace with its aforementioned booming growth. Wiley says transportation and mobility are important not only to connect Fort Bend to Houston, but to connect the communities within the county lines as well.
Another reason Fort Bend has maintained its quality economic growth according to Wiley is county officials’ forethought in attempts to head off or prepare for any potential crisis before it even arises.
“Whether transportation, education, water, or sewer drainage, Fort Bend works to develop infrastructure in advance of critical stages,” Wiley said. “To do anything different would compromise quality of life for the community.”
A full list of Fort Bend County’s economic and demographic recognitions can be found at fortbendcounty.com by clicking under the “News” tab and clicking “Accolades.”