Victoria Educational Gardens

The Victoria Educational Gardens at the Victoria Regional Airport was designed, constructed – and continues to be maintained weekly – for more than a decade by the Victoria County Master Gardeners.

The Victoria Master Gardeners Association is a terrific organization deserving of full public support.

But Victoria is at a crossroads and needs to cultivate its economic development efforts above all else. If it does, the community will still be able to support the master gardeners and many other worthwhile organizations in the decades to come.

The two thoughts are connected because the Victoria County commissioners decided at their recent meeting to cover the cost of the lease for the Master Gardeners at the Victoria Regional Airport’s officers’ club. The commissioners agreed to pay market rate to the airport, which is a requirement of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The requirement stems from the airport’s history as a former Army air field. The federal government gave the air field to Victoria under various conditions, including most prominently that the airport be operated and maintained properly.

Victoria Regional Airport runway

In this Advocate file photo, clouds are seen drifting over the Victoria Regional Airport, partially covering it in shadow.

Somehow along the way, Victoria lost sight of this requirement and started using airport land for gardens, soccer fields, a juvenile jail and other assorted reasons. That’s not to say these aren’t all important services for the community. They most certainly are.

But they do not further the operation of the airport. And the airport is an essential cog for economic development in Victoria.

The airport has more than 1,000 acres of land available for development, and Victoria is sorely in need of a new business park. A regional distribution center could be one ideal fit for the land.

Many other uses are possible, but first, Victoria’s leaders need to get together to focus their efforts. The city, the county, the Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission, the Victoria Sales Tax Development Corp., the Victoria Economic Development Corp., the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Victoria College and the University of Houston-Victoria need to be better aligned. They aren’t working together in a cohesive way.

Victoria has a new mayor and city manager who are both focused on economic development. They need to figure out how to coordinate all these entities, plus get buy-in from Victoria’s surrounding counties. All of the Crossroads will reap what is sown.

UHV breaks ground for new northwest campus

UHV President Bob Glenn speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony at the former Town Plaza Mall, which will become the Northwest Campus of the university. The campus will accommodate the UHV Small Business Development Center, Partnerships for Regional Economic Prosperity, athletics, the university’s kinesiology program, classrooms, administrative offices and climate-controlled space for records retention. Completion is slated for summer 2020.

UHV’s new center for regional economic development could be a key player in these efforts. Crossroads counties can trust the UHV center to look out for the region’s interests and not put any county above another.

Victoria will have a new chamber director soon. It might have a new economic development director, too, if Dale Fowler is elected sheriff. Victoria also is hiring a second assistant city manager, largely to focus on economic development.

All of these changes could plant a seed for Victoria, but economic growth is stagnant now. Community leaders need to spend a lot more time tending to these efforts.

If Victoria can make the right moves now, the community will flourish for decades to come. If not, the community will dry up in the hot Texas sun, no matter how much its airport garden grows.

This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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