Victoria should be intentional in its efforts to become a destination for people to live and to work, Victoria’s new city manager said during an address Wednesday.
“Oftentimes people don’t think of cities being in a competition, and the reality is that we are,” Jesús Garza said. “We’re competing for talent, we’re competing for workforce, we’re competing for businesses.”
Garza was the guest speaker at the Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon at the University of Houston-Victoria. Garza outlined his experiences working as the city manager of Kingsville and for the city of San Antonio. He also discussed his initial impressions of Victoria in his first three weeks on the job.
Garza talked about the shift happening nationwide as cities increasingly focus on quality of life issues as priorities. Garza pointed to San Antonio as an example, noting that its growth in the last decade was helped by changes like making the River Walk a resource for both tourists and locals and by investing in its airport.
Dawn Yager, a Victoria realtor, asked Garza about plans to build a dog park, an amenity that’s been discussed for years but never built in Victoria.
Garza said he looked forward to having conversations with the City Council about how to take a more broad approach to major city expenses, looking at both critical infrastructure like streets as well as amenities like parks and splash pads.
Yager, the proud mom of three pugs, said she would love to see more spaces and activities in the city for dog owners and their pets, like nights at the Aero Crafters bar where dogs are welcome. Yager said she was also excited to hear Garza’s enthusiasm for downtown.
Garza said he was interested in transforming Victoria’s historic downtown, so it could shed its “8-to-5” reputation of having limited spaces and activities after the workday.
“I was amazed at how beautiful downtown is. I can tell you coming from Kingsville, that Kingsville would kill to have the level of infrastructure and the level of beauty that the downtown here has,” Garza said about his initial impressions of the neighborhood. “But at the same time I was a little disappointed that it was dead, and there was really nothing going on.”
The city and business leaders could address that by thinking about how to create a “submarket” downtown and encouraging more people to live in and visit the neighborhood, he said.