2020 has been one of the most challenging years in recent times, but the work of the Boerne-Kendall County Economic Development Corporation (BKCEDC) has remained focused.
By Amy Story, President/CEO, Boerne Kendall County Economic Development Corporation
Photography courtesy of Boerne CVB
The BKCEDC is a public-private 501(c)(6) that exists to promote and foster business opportunities that will strengthen, diversify and grow our local economy, ensuring a future that is vibrant, prosperous, inclusive and resilient. The BKCEDC is not a sales tax-funded entity, rather it is supported by over 80 private businesses, as well as the City of Boerne and Kendall County. The BKCEDC has three primary objectives: to attract new business opportunities to Kendall County, to help retain existing businesses, and to support entrepreneurial activity.
This year, the BKCEDC was fortunate to partner with an organization called Planet Texas 2050, supported by the University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, to create a 5-year Economic Development Strategy Plan (“the Plan”). Utilizing the vast resources of the University and their faculty team, as well as incorporating input from community stakeholders, the BKCEDC is sharing the ambitious results of this months-long process which culminated in a written document that will serve as a guide, or road map, for the BKCEDC to execute its strategy. Stating a vision for Kendall County to become “an environmentally responsible community with an appreciation for its singular quality of life, Boerne/Kendall County is the creative and innovation hub for the Texas Hill Country,” the BKCEDC is ready to implement this Plan for the benefit of Kendall County.
Underlying all aspects of the Plan, the values in it include: embracing prosperity and “graceful” growth, honoring the county’s rural legacy while encouraging innovation, engaging a broader group of community and economic development players, focusing on family-supporting jobs, and maintaining Kendall County’s unique Hill Country quality of place. The BKCEDC is energized by the Plan to focus its resources on targeted industries that will add value to the community. Implementing the specific action items requires the involvement of a number of community partners from local businesses to the City of Boerne, Kendall County, the Chamber of Commerce, the Convention & Visitors Bureau and members of our community.
While COVID dramatically affected business decisions, the BKCEDC shifted its focus from the attraction of new businesses to supporting the retention of existing businesses. Serving as a resource for COVID-related information and assisting businesses with navigating the process of applying for the available programs, the BKCEDC worked collaboratively with community partners to assist local businesses via a variety of marketing initiatives, connected with elected officials to advocate on behalf of affected businesses, and supported the City’s Business Assistance Grant program. Currently, the BKCEDC is partnering with The City of Boerne, The Chamber of Commerce, the Hill Country Mile and the Convention & Visitors Bureau to kick off a Shop Local campaign to keep the focus on supporting our local businesses. As our community continues to function in the new COVID “normal,” it is critical to work to shift the mindset of the community to support local first.
Another outcome of the Plan has been an increased focus on supporting entrepreneurial ventures and start up companies that are looking for locations for their businesses. The concept of “growing our own” businesses is one that the strategic plan supports. The BKCEDC has played a key role in the launch of the new Boerne Kendall County Angel Network (BKCAN) this year. The BKCAN will provide a valuable tool by which to attract new businesses to Kendall County through access to capital. Creating a pipeline of companies that will be exposed to Kendall County, the BKCAN is the first step in a deliberate strategy to increase resources available to entrepreneurs. More information regarding the BKCAN can be found at www.bkcan.org.
Additionally, as a result of the post-COVID business environment, the BKCEDC has seen a trend in businesses looking at moving their operations out of larger cities and into smaller communities that are in proximity to big cities. A particularly significant project that recently announced its decision to move the corporate headquarters and manufacturing operations from California to Comfort, O.W. Lee, a 70-year-old family-owned business, continued its process of relocating to Kendall County despite COVID challenges because of the tremendous business benefits they would realize moving to a business-friendly state like Texas. The BKCEDC was instrumental in helping O.W. Lee navigate their site selection, due diligence process and local relocation incentive package. The luxury patio furniture manufacturer will be opening their new $24 million headquarters in Comfort in 2021 and the facility will ultimately employ over 200 people. Companies are evaluating their business location decisions, and Kendall County is poised to attract established businesses that no longer feel compelled to locate in large cities.
Working to attract quality businesses to our community, assisting with the retention and expansion of our existing businesses and creating an atmosphere of entrepreneurial spirit and support will be the priorities of the BKCEDC. The BKCEDC remains committed to fulfilling its mission to promote business opportunities that strengthen and grow a vibrant and diverse economic future for Kendall County.
For more information on the Boerne Kendall County Economic Development Corporation, please visit www.bkcedc.com.