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Cuero wants new, larger H-E-B

By Sonny Long
Dec. 29, 2010 at 6:29 a.m.
Updated Dec. 30, 2010 at 6:30 a.m.

The Cuero Chamber of Commerce has launched a public relations campaign to influence H-E-B to build a larger store in Cuero.

TRAFFIC COUNTSThe Texas Department of Transportation conducted a traffic count in November at the intersection of Broadway Street (U.S. Highway 87) and Esplanade Street (U.S. Highway 183) in Cuero and where U.S. Highway 87 North and U.S Highway 183 South branch south of town.

HIGHWAY20092010
U.S. 18316,20021,028
U.S. 87 S.11,60015,386
U.S. 87 N.12,50019,104

Cuero wants a new H-E-B.

A committee formed by the local chamber of commerce wants the San Antonio-based grocery company to hear that message, loud and clear.

"We want H-E-B to see us and know we will support a larger store in Cuero," said Kay Lapp, the chamber's executive director.

The Project Buddy committee launched a public relations campaign, "All Cuero Wants for Christmas is a New H-E-B," that included signs and a proclamation by the city council proclaiming December as H-E-B month.

The campaign is in preparation of a visit from H-E-B corporate officials in January.

The Cuero H-E-B was built in 1960 and is 13,500 square feet.

"It's one of our smaller stores," said Shelley Parks, H-E-B spokeswoman.

The city of Cuero is also behind the new store effort, said Mayor Sara Meyer. Surveys conducted by the Cuero Development Corporation have shown the desire for a new store a high priority among respondents.

"The need for a newer and larger H-E-B with better parking facilities has been listed as one of the most important needs for this community," Meyer said. "The present store is stretched in providing the many services that the citizens request."

After the first of the year, the committee will work with Cuero High School government and economics classes to create a survey on why the town needs a new H-E-B.

ECONOMIC GROWTH

If economic factors are any indication, Cuero is on the grow.

The most recent monthly state sales tax numbers show a more than 30-percent increase from the same time period in 2009. Year-to-date sales tax revenue in Cuero is up 7.64 percent, according to the Texas Comptroller's Office.

"We are one of the fastest growing economies in our population category in the state," said Randall Malik, executive director of the Cuero Development Corporation.

In February, Gov. Rick Perry made a trip to town to announce that SIPCO Mechanical Linkage Solutions, a gear products manufacturer, will open a facility in Cuero.

Malik said that project continues to move forward.

"SIPCO would like to close on the Cuero property within the first quarter of 2011," he said. "It remains committed to coming to Cuero and has recently begun advertising jobs on its website for the Cuero location."

In addition, Tractor Supply Company is building a store on Broadway Street, next to Weber Motors.

"As a growth-minded company, Tractor Supply Company is always looking for potential new store locations that are a good fit as far as the target market is concerned," said Rob Hoskins, company spokesman. "Concerning the new location in Cuero, this is especially true in that the area is attractive due to the part-time and hobby farmers and horse owners in the area."

Hoskins said the store will employ between 12 and 17 full and part-time employees and should open in late February.

"Tractor Supply Company greatly looks forward to being a new member of the Cuero business community," he said.

Cuero National Bank, a branch of the First National Bank of Shiner, opened a temporary location in July, and a permanent building will be occupied on Esplanade Street in the spring.

Along with local resident David Kleinecke, vice president and branch manager, the bank is expected to employ five.

Existing businesses are also growing. In February, Cuero Community Hospital completed a $5 million expansion and renovation project.

Earlier this month, Cuero Nursing and Rehabilitation Center announced a $1 million expansion and renovation of its skilled nursing and rehabilitation center.

Construction is scheduled to begin in January and be completed by summer.

The Cuero school district is studying construction of a community center.

Malik added that there is more going on, too.

Sodalis, an assisted living facility and Alzheimer unit, will open early in 2011. The DeWitt County Industrial Park has had several properties close within the past few weeks, Malik said.

Christmas in the Park and the opening of the Venue on Church Street is continuing to attract people from the surrounding region to Cuero, added Malik.

THE NUMBERS

"If they just look at the census, the numbers may not be there," Lapp said. "But we want them to look at our numbers."

Lapp said the numbers she wants H-E-B to consider include traffic counts conducted by the Texas Department of Transportation in November.

Those numbers show that traffic has increased greatly on the major roads leading into Cuero.

In numbers collected at the intersection of Broadway and Esplanade streets (the intersection of U.S. Highways 183 and 87 South) and where U.S. Highway 183 and U.S. Highway 87 North branch south of town, about 15,000 more vehicles passed through those locations in November than in Nov. 2009.

"The traffic count numbers are through the roof, " said Lapp. "Our motels are full, our RV parks are full."

Lapp said the Best Western that opened in February is already looking at expanding, and two other hotels are considering Cuero.

Fairway View Townhomes are also under construction near the city golf course.

Malik agreed the economic outlook is bright.

"We have positioned ourselves as one of the leading communities in the Eagle Ford Shale region. The increased amount of people in the oil and gas industry has helped fill our hotels, restaurants and shops," he said. "Also, the designation as 'One of the Coolest Small Towns in America' has brought a considerable amount of attention to Cuero. We are receiving requests for retirement packets from all over the country."

Parks said for H-E-B to consider expanding a store or building a new one, it needs to "confirm documentation of growth."

This would include increases in housing and in school population, she said.

"We also look at sales per square foot," Parks said.

NOW AND THEN

Lapp said the push for a new, larger grocery store is not only for the present, but the future.

"It's not just for Cuero, either," she said. "We have people from all over the region come here to the doctor and many other reasons. They need a better place to shop for groceries."

"I feel we are going to get some overflow from the Victoria area, with Caterpillar coming in," she said. "Some people might not want to live directly in Victoria."

"We're doing this for our kids," she said. "I'd love to see people my kids' ages move back to Cuero. I want to see the day that our kids say, 'It's not that bad to move back to Cuero.'''

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