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Economic development takes forethought, planning

By ALLISON MILES
June 16, 2011 at 1:16 a.m.


Want to learn more about long-term economic development? Thomas Mote, vice president of operations for the Southwest region of Hines, suggested reading "The American City" by Alexander Garvin.

When it comes to economic development, bringing in new business is great, Thomas Mote said Thursday. Just don't forget the existing ones.

"If you're not taking care of the harem that you have, going and finding another wife is not going to make the situation better," said Mote, vice president of operations for the Southwest region of Hines, an international real estate firm.

Mote spoke to about 120 people inside the Victoria Country Club for the Victoria Economic Development Corp's semi-annual membership meeting.

There, he discussed common economic development mistakes and ways to stay on the right path.

Much economic development doesn't work, he said. Communities work to draw in big companies but forget the longtime small-business owner. The larger retailers bring minimum wage jobs and also send much of the profits to shareholders.

Ninety percent of jobs coming in the next wave will come from business retention and expansion, he added.

"We've taken out of our community the profits that used to create jobs and wealth in the community," he said, adding he has nothing against large retailers. "How does that qualify as economic development?"

The ways communities compete in the marketplace are also misguided, he said. While they should be working to make sure they stand apart from other cities, many focus on offering the potential client more money.

He encouraged people to do little things to make a difference. Bake brownies for a neighbor, he said, or visit a sick friend in the hospital. Little gestures make the community a better place to live, and places people want to live attract capital.

"This is what our country needs right now is for people to step up and say, 'I can't do everything, but I can do something,'" he said.

Amy Leissner, interim executive director of the Nave Museum, attended the Thursday event because she said she wanted to hear more about ways for Victoria to grow.

"I thought the presentation was great," she said. "Very exciting."

Good things are happening in Victoria, said Dale Fowler, the economic development corporation's president. Walls are going up at Caterpillar's plant and the magazine Trade and Industry Development recently selected the project No. 4 on its list of the "Community Impact Top 15."

"Because we're getting that kind of publicity, we're getting real busy at the office of the VEDC," he said.

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