Economic development victories take lots of patience, official says

Dale Fowler with the Victoria Economic Development Corp. said he considers Caterpillar's announcement a major victory.

Large-scale projects like Victoria's incoming manufacturing plant don't happen by accident.

The economic development process is all about creating relationships, maintaining relationships and persevering.

The Victoria Economic Development Corp. first learned about Caterpillar's project about nine months ago, when real estate company CB Richard Ellis brought it to the organization's attention, said Dale Fowler, president of the development corporation. The organization keeps in contact with 30 or 40 real estate companies like Ellis, he said, because they often generate such leads.

Other leads come from the Texas governor's office of economic development and tourism, while the VEDC pursues others on its own.

Local partnerships are just as important.

Every city and county department, as well as entities such as Workforce Solutions of the Golden Crescent and the Victoria Regional Airport, contributed to the Caterpillar project, Fowler said.

They might not have known which company was looking at the area, he said, but they contributed information Caterpillar requested. That helped keep Victoria within the company's radar.

"The reality of this is they do this on a routine basis," Fowler said. "But this time it paid off."

Companies maintain a list of factors they're considering when locating in a city, and that varies from entity to entity. Several aspects of Victoria caught Caterpillar's eye, said Jim Dugan, the company's chief corporate spokesman.

The city's proximity to highways, the barge canal and railways came into play, while training possibilities at the Victoria College also helped.

Available workforce also contributed to the decision, he said.

"It's a fairly large puzzle, and a lot of pieces fit into it," Dugan explained.

Not every lead results in businesses setting up in Victoria, however.

Many projects evaluate the city but don't locate here, Fowler said, and many such projects never come to fruition at all.

The process is confidential, however, so the public rarely hears about developments until they are set in stone.

That often leads to criticism from individuals wanting to see proof of the VEDC's efforts, he said, but it takes patience. When the right project comes in, the organization goes after it.

"Just because it's not in the press doesn't mean there are not good things going on in Victoria," Fowler said.