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Consultant: Increasing visibility is key for economic development

By ALLISON MILES
Nov. 15, 2012 at 5:15 a.m.
Updated Nov. 16, 2012 at 5:16 a.m.

Woody Hydrick

Annual economic impact of VEDC-supported projects between 2003 and 2012:

• Economic output or revenues for business

• Direct: $398,675,705

• Indirect and induced: $276,932,951

• Jobs

• Direct: 1,316

• Indirect and induced: 1,759

• Workers' earnings

• Direct: $96,699,728

• Indirect and induced: $76,980,867

• Source: Victoria Economic Development Corp. performance report sheet

As communities nationwide work to recover after the 2008 economic downturn, one business consultant said Victoria is in a good place.

"...It really seems to have weathered the storm well," said Woody Hydrick, managing director with Cushman & Wakefield Global Business Consulting. "Overall, like I said, I think the signs are positive."

Hydrick spoke Thursday at the Victoria Economic Development Corp.'s annual meeting, offering an update on economic development and his observations on the Crossroads.

Multiple factors contributed to Victoria's economic situation, he said.

Home values didn't see the steep increase other communities did, so it didn't face the steep cliff once that bubble burst.

A good location, transportation options and diversity when it comes to industry also helps.

Hydrick said one of Victoria's main challenges was visibility - making sure others know the city is here - but said it's something the economic development team constantly works for.

Air service issues are another obstacle, he said.

Victoria Mayor Will Armstrong, who attended the presentation, said he enjoyed what Hydrick had to say and hoped to see him back, scouting out a business proposition.

As for air service, Armstrong said it's a work in progress, but that he saw good things in the future.

"We have a company here now who will invest in us as we work with them," he said. "I encourage people to use the local airport."

When it comes to economic development trends, Hydrick said businesses willing to relocate to new areas where regional manufacturing is predominant, and Victoria's Caterpillar plant serves as a real-life case study.

Costs are up in emerging markets such as China, India and Russia, he said, noting that accounts for some of the change. Class A office space in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for instance, costs more than in Chicago.

When it comes to economic development organizations, Hydrick said access to information is key.

Because data is available so readily online, clients ask consultants to do their jobs faster and faster, he said.

The digital factor also means time crunches for organizations such as the Victoria Economic Development Corp. While such companies once had a month or so to get information together, now a week is fairly luxurious.

He advised organizations to offer websites with more than pretty pictures of the community. Meaningful data such as unemployment rates, the reasons behind those numbers, the site's environmental history, technical studies performed and more must become part of that online presence.

Dennis Patillo, economic development corporation board chairman, said he, too, believed it was important for cities to be proactive in making themselves known.

"No longer, I think, is it a possibility for a city to sit back and just assume that companies will come here because we've got bright, shining faces," he said. "It takes a lot of preparation, and it does take the leadership of the city county and the port, everybody together."

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