Comprehensive Master Plan

NOTE — The Comprehensive Master Plan was created in 2004 to help the City of Blanco plan for its future. While the city still follows the plan, the factual information in this plan may have changed (such as the current land use map). Please keep this in mind when reading the plan.

Economic Development

Introduction

The retention and expansion of existing local business and the recruitment of new business are important factors in the creation, retention, and reinvestment of wealth for Blanco. Sustaining quality wage jobs helps contribute to the tax base for Blanco and helps relieve the tax burden on residents. The goal is to have a healthy balance of residential, retail, commercial, and industrial contributions to the tax rolls.

Before any community can create the desired level of economic development opportunities, its leaders must be in a constant state of community development improvement. Community development is a process, rather than an event. As leadership, social systems, infrastructure, and workforce all develop and continue to improve, Blanco automatically becomes more attractive to potential employers and investors.

If Blanco leaders begin now to implement the suggestions in the community development section of this plan, the citizens will reap benefits in many ways, economic development being one of them. Many people ask "what exactly is economic development"? It is many different things to different people and different communities, but it includes one or more of three things: creation, retention, or reinvestment of wealth. In other words it can be entrepreneurialism, recruitment of new jobs, retaining current jobs, expansion of current industries, tourism, and spending money in your community that was made in your community.

Shopping at home, promoting tourism, and retiree attraction are three commonly overlooked or misunderstood forms of economic development. They also happen to be three areas that the citizens of Blanco have said they are interested in developing. Attendees at the August 2004 Town Hall Meeting mentioned the following things as the top five most important projects or issues to address regarding economic development for the Blanco area. Members of the economic development focus group further discussed these topics and explored ideas for successful implementation. The following also includes recommendations from LCRA's Community and Economic Development staff.

Projects

Recruit Grocery and Retail
Most chain grocery stores use very specific demographic templates to determine where they plan to locate future markets. Often this information is compiled by their research teams and analyzed by their site selection experts to pinpoint the exact city block for ideal exposure and maximization of profits. This is not to say that communities cannot be successful at grocery recruitment; it just means that communities are not always successful at recruiting a specific grocery name they decide is the ideal "fit" for them.

Rather, Blanco's best chance at attracting an additional grocery store is to investigate other communities with similar demographics in Texas, and find out which grocery stores have located in their communities. Blanco leaders can be assured that Blanco will be more attractive to those grocers than any other they might just arbitrarily think is a good fit because they liked one in another community.

Other retail attraction may or may not work the same way for Blanco. The same method of determining which retail chains might be interested in Blanco should be used, but with the realization that there are many other ways to attract retail jobs, also.

Blanco should be taking specific steps to encourage entrepreneurial development throughout the community. Supporting home grown new business development will help create jobs and new wealth, which is critical to economic development. Building a local environment and culture to support small businesses is no easy task, but it can be done with express intentions to do so. The Chamber of Commerce is an ideal organization to create and disperse a "Start Your Own Business Guide" and/or offer a "Start Your Own Business" workshop. Potential audiences can be sought by advertising these offerings in the local newspaper or by direct mail into each Blanco area home. Some communities and chambers have advertised in the coupon packs that come to homes alongside ads for carpet cleaning, car repairs, and siding. Public and private groups can work with area leaders to develop a local or regional mentoring and volunteer business assistance organization with the purpose being to create new investment from within the community.

Communities can visit www.score.org to locate volunteers in the area who can be of assistance to folks considering starting a new business in Blanco. The Service Corps of Retired Executives is a great free resource to potential entrepreneurs to help with realistic analyses of market potential, writing a business plan, access to capital, developing marketing plans, creating budgets, and a host of other assistance that any new business owner might need. It is likely that there are potential business owners in the area who have the desire to invest in Blanco if they only knew who could help them and how.

The community is best served with a high percentage of occupied buildings housing operating retail businesses. In many cases, a greater diversity of retail offerings attracts a wide range of visitors and locals and results in greater amounts of time spent in these retails areas, inside and outside of the downtown area. An ideal mix might include restaurants, antique shops, a shoe store, museum, bike shop, ice cream parlor, ladies' boutique, variety clothing store, gift shop, card shop, post office, courthouse, hair salon/barber shop, hardware, and coffee shop. Of course, the possibilities are limitless; this mix is just an example of the variety a community may seek to appeal to a wide range of consumers and a consumer's wide range of needs.

The goal in downtown-specific retail development, which is discussed in greater detail in the downtown revitalization section, is to keep store fronts open and interesting to catch the attention (and pocketbooks!) of passers-by who may not otherwise stop. Any store fronts that are under construction should have an "Under Renovation" sign posted with the expected opening date. But retail development is more than just downtown development; Blanco has thriving retail businesses in other parts of town. When intentionally growing existing retail areas, careful consideration should be taken to locate future retail and commercial development near similar retail uses. Take into account the type of customer who is already visiting a certain area for a particular product or service. What other products or services might that same customer -- local or tourist -- also need?

Of course, there are many steps involved in the actual recruitment process and Blanco will be best served with the assistance of a professional economic developer or other consultant experienced in retail attraction.

Create and Promote Youth Recreational Opportunities
A community's young people is often overlooked, but the forward-thinking citizens of Blanco expressed an interest in developing local recreational opportunities for youth. It is a progressive indicator when a community puts an importance on their youth. There are actually two separate groups of young people that we recommend Blanco leaders create opportunities for: younger elementary aged children, and teenaged youth.

The younger group is attracted to much different types of recreation than those who are reading this comprehensive plan might imagine. One of the biggest mistakes that community leaders make today is to plan for the recreational needs of their youth without actually involving them in the process. They and their parents should have seats at the table of any discussion regarding their desires. It is an error in judgment for citizens to allow leaders to spend taxpayer dollars on parks and recreation improvements without asking the end users (children) what it is they want. Too often city councils make the mistake of building baseball or softball fields when they later learn that kids today want soccer fields and skateboard ramps. Regardless of what it is Blanco's youth want to have and will use, the city can rest assured that is money well spent when they have the green light from their end user. Don't forget that their parents happen to be taxpayers and voters, too!

The teenaged youth are sometimes more difficult to pinpoint as far as specific recreational opportunities. The methodology happens to be the same, though. Most teenagers and their parents will tell leaders that they want a place where they can go to "hang out" with their friends, stay out of trouble, have fun, and be safe. Ideas like small movie houses, coffee shops, non-alcoholic music venues, ice cream shops, and specialty restaurants are popular requests from teenagers these days. These actually sound more like a business recruitment list than a recreational opportunity list.

Of course, there are also sports-related or more outdoor recreational desires for teenagers, too. Soccer, mountain biking, and rock climbing are three opportunities that are often requested by teenagers, but overlooked by adults. Blanco youth will have their own request list, so it is important to spend taxpayer money wisely and get it right the first time by asking the youth before building any projects.

There is not an exact science to attracting these types of businesses, but there are many possible avenues. The first possibility that Blanco should consider is the idea mentioned earlier about fostering local entrepreneurial development. If Blanco could entice a local resident to open a coffee shop where local musicians can play and local artists can display their wares, leaders may be surprised at the number of youth who patronize such a place. Perhaps a local investor could be encouraged to build a movie house or similar business with the right incentives designed to help them get started.

Another option is for leaders to travel to neighboring communities (Fredericksburg, San Marcos, New Braunfels, Kerrville, etc.) to visit with local owners of such youth-friendly establishments. By educating them on the benefits of a second location in Blanco and supplying them with demographic information supporting the demand for such an establishment, Blanco just may be able to convince one or two of those business owners to open an additional location to serve the folks of Blanco.

A third option is for Blanco to design an advertising campaign to appeal to small business investors in larger metropolitan areas such as Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas. This type of appeal will undoubtedly be more expensive and time consuming with unpredictable results. However, there are business owners, franchisees, and venture capitalists who seek just such opportunities. The difficult part is finding them and making that match.

Of course, these new small businesses, parks and other sports facilities can also be a destination for tourists visiting the Blanco area. If these facilities were such that they could host tournaments for youth or adults, they generate more exposure to greater numbers of tourists and could actually help create and reinvest new wealth.

Any youth-oriented recreational opportunities should be considered and planned with the safe pedestrian access efforts to maximize the planning process and avoid the duplication of efforts. Safe pedestrian access goes hand-in-hand with new business development and recreational development. Parks and parks programs are considered more community development, but the actual start up or recruitment of sports related businesses and recreation facilities are economic development because they are creating, retaining, and reinvesting wealth.

Promote Historical Tourism and Agri-Tourism
Historical Tourism is a way to experience the heritage of a region while learning about, and being surrounded by, local history, culture, and customs. It serves to preserve, protect, and promote a community's most prized historical and cultural resources.

Blanco has a rich historical heritage and it is recommended that the leaders of Blanco build on that to attract tourists. The Blanco River was named in 1721 by Spanish explorers. Although there is evidence that Indians camped in the Blanco area as early as 1150, Blanco was settled in 1853 by stockmen who needed a place to protect themselves and their families from the hostile Indians there. Thirty years later in 1885 well known architect F.E. Ruffini built the Old Blanco County Courthouse. The courthouse is now a Texas Historic Landmark. The National Register of Historic Places says "Overall the courthouse is one of the finest examples of courthouse architecture from the late 19th century in Texas."

The Blanco Jail was built in 1877 and is one of the oldest buildings in Blanco. In 1885, Al Lackey killed six of his own relatives with his rifle and was jailed in Blanco. A few days later, a group broke Lackey out of jail and hanged him from a large oak tree north of the town which still stands.

Stories and historical facts like these and many more make Blanco an interesting place to visit and learn about the Hill Country and frontier Texas life. Visitors will only have the opportunity to visit these historical buildings and learn of Blanco's heritage if community leaders develop specific plans to attract tourists to learn about this part of Texas. An ideal number of potential visitors pass through the community via Hwy 281, but they need to be given a specific reason to stop and explore history.

Signs from both sides of Hwy 281 before entering the downtown area would help direct these potential tourists to stop for a while. Knowing they can shop, eat, and visit historical places all by only exiting the vehicle once is extremely attractive to tourists who travel without a planned itinerary.

Specific events that celebrate, remember, or honor significant events in Blanco's past can be marketed to locals and tourists to generate revenue. Upcoming events such as the 2005 celebration of Blanco National Bank's "100 Years in Business" are ideal opportunities to showcase the rich heritage of Blanco and its people. If the exposure of events like this are maximized, Blanco can benefit from the spending by historical tourists, as well as locals with ties to the bank's history.

Agri-tourism is term that indicates a niche market for tourists who pay to observe or participate in an agricultural experience. Often these experiences are "alternative agriculture" where a piece of property is being used for something other than its original intent or profit center. Agri-tourism is also referred to nature tourism and eco-tourism, although these can sometimes imply slightly different uses.

Now that there are approximately eight lavender farms around Blanco, community leaders need to capitalize on the opportunity that comes along with such a niche market. Currently, there are plans underway to create and host a Lavender Festival in May 2005. The Greater Blanco Chamber of Commerce is in the process of applying for a grant through Texas Yes! to help fund the festival.

With the proper resources, planning, and marketing, the community and region can reap huge benefits from such a unique "themed" festival. It will be extremely important that as many retailers as possible be open, stocked, and ready to serve by May 2005. By working closely with the local lodging facilities, retailers, and restaurants, the Chamber will be able to expose Blanco to visitors throughout Texas and further. Another idea worth considering is working with Real Ale Brewery to suggest a tap room in the downtown area. A local pub may be patronized by tourists and residents from the entire region.

Other forms of agri-tourism that are popular in other communities that Blanco may want to consider include fruit or vegetable picking farms, petting farms/zoos, farmers' markets, hayride farms, horseback riding, canoeing/kayaking, bird watching, corn mazes, nature photography, aerial tours, wineries, farm tours, fishing/hunting guided trips, etc. Vast amounts of money are spent by tourists to experience these things for themselves, their children, and their grand-children. Often it is a moment of nostalgia for tourists or an opportunity to show their descendents what life was like for their ancestors.

In order to be successful in the tourism arena, small businesses must be more interesting, cleaner, and safer than any neighboring opportunities or competing attractions. Should any Blanco citizens or business leaders consider starting an agri-tourism business, there are specific nature tourism educational awareness programs that can be delivered upon request. Contact PEC for more information.

On a similar note, if tourism is going to be an important focus for Blanco's future, lodging will surely take center stage. A variety of lodging opportunities would be ideal to accommodate visitors who prefer different experiences. Some seek minimal amenities at low prices such as a local motel; others, the luxuries and Hill Country feel of bed & breakfasts, and still others prefer more amenities such as with a chain hotel. Blanco should work closely with area hoteliers to solicit feedback from them regarding the types of lodging they would like to see join them. Most hoteliers will agree that more available rooms can only be good for a community trying to increase tourism, and most will welcome more rooms being built.

If a community has enough unique and interesting things to do and see to occupy more than a full day, it automatically increases its chances for overnight stays and a larger economic injection. During events such as the annual Trail-of-Lights and the upcoming Lavender Festival, it will be extremely important to track the traffic patterns and lodging and travel habits of those attending. One hotel owner mentioned that he is working to organize weekend bicycle tours of wineries to bring in new visitors. If events like this can come to fruition, Blanco's exposure can be capitalized upon. When overnight visitor numbers are high enough and events and festivals are estimated to be a recurring success, it will be much easier to convince another lodging facility to locate in the Blanco area.

Blanco needs an increase in sales tax collections. During many months of 2004, the City of Blanco collected fewer dollars in sales tax revenues than the corresponding months in 2003. Regardless of what the cause(s) may be, Blanco stakeholders should be concerned enough to be discussing ways to increase every month each year. As more dollars are injected into the tax system by tourists, the burden on residents begins to subside.

Grow and Strengthen the Chamber of Commerce
There was significant discussion during the Town Hall Meeting that the Greater Blanco Chamber of Commerce could be a stronger organization and play a larger role in the community development and economic development of the Blanco area. The Chamber has taken steps to raise its profile including moving its offices onto the Square and hiring an employee to staff the new office and Visitor Center. It was evident that there was much misunderstanding regarding the definition and purpose of a chamber, as well as its proper role in a community.

A chamber of commerce is a private, not-for-profit, voluntary organization that unites business and business people in an effort to help its members become more profitable, thereby expanding the economy of an area. It is neither a department of any government, a political organization, a civic club, a professional society, a charitable institution, nor an advertising or public relations agency.

The chamber membership shapes the policy of the organization by electing board members who create an atmosphere that represents their needs. If a chamber is large enough to have a paid professional executive director, that person is responsible for the implementation of that chamber policy. In a case where no paid professional exists, the board is actually a full working board that is also responsible for the implementation of the policy they create. Ideally, they create revenue generating programs that enable them to eventually hire a full-time chamber professional with chamber management experience.

There are several very specific things that the board of directors of the Greater Blanco Chamber of Commerce can do to become an even more effective organization. The board is in charge of creating products, programs, and services that help their members be more profitable, either directly or indirectly. Every chamber member should expect a return on investment of their membership dues. Every dollar invested should reap some return for each investor. In fact, a few chambers have stopped using the term "member," and begun using the term "investor" as a constant reminder to board members that these "investors" expect to receive something of value in return for their "investment."

Creating a new successful plan for a chamber is impossible without face-to-face surveys of the existing membership regarding what types of programs and services would actually assist members in making more money. Also, the board should consider asking a few past members why they discontinued their membership and what the chamber could offer to renew their membership. As a third step in the surveying process, board members should visit the offices of a few potential members and ask them specifically what types of offerings they would consider worth the cost of membership.

The key to success of such surveying is the actual implementation of the recommendations that are given to board members. It is incumbent upon them to make every effort to design or acquire and deliver the products and services their current members, former members, and potential members told them would be necessary to offer to retain, regain, or attain their investment. Asking and not delivering is worse than never having asked. An added benefit for many chambers has been that they learned during this process that a local employer was considering closing or relocating and they were able to offer the business solutions to their problems and actually retain them as an employer in their community. This is true business retention at its finest.

Typical responses from surveys include increased seminars and workshops. These may or may not include tutorials such as how to write a business plan, how to manage company finances, or how to create a marketing plan. They could also include a desire to have more networking opportunities where business owners or leaders can meet in a non-threatening environment to showcase their businesses and learn about others' businesses. This networking service can also help reinvest Blanco-made dollars back into Blanco when a chamber member can begin doing business with another local member instead of some company outside of the Greater Blanco area.

Of course, new product offerings are not free and membership dues never pay for the delivery of such returns-on-investment, so chambers must create other successful revenue generators. These can take any form that fits the culture of the membership and community. Golf tournaments make huge dollars for some chambers, where auctions and silent auctions work for others. Other big money makers could include cook-offs, chamber bucks (shop-at-home program,) cookbooks, festivals, Internet portals, seminars/workshops, adopt-a-brick programs, and others. Many chambers offer services to non-members at a premium for a two-pronged approach: to create non-dues revenue and to expose non-members to the benefits of membership.

Many chambers have been successful at raising money by hiring a professional chamber fundraising firm to raise the money for them. Most of these companies are paid no money upfront, but take a portion of the monies raised as their commission. The key to success with a professional fundraiser is that the chamber must deliver value throughout the member's first year in order to retain the member the following years.

Shop-at-home programs have been very successful for some chambers of commerce. They take many different shapes, but they all are designed to encourage local residents to shop in the city or county instead of taking their wallets elsewhere. This keeps sales tax dollars at home, which creates more jobs, improve the schools, enhance city services, etc. It creates a stronger and financially healthy economy. Some chambers have gone a step further and designed it such that the program itself is a revenue generator for the chamber in addition to increasing sales for local merchants.

Other than these person-to-person interviews and building the product/service offerings, board members should also consider appreciation strategies. Everyone likes to be told "thank you." Everyone likes to be told how much their contribution to the community is valued. The chamber board should consider new techniques in showing appreciation to members, such as appreciation luncheons, business-of-the-year award, or a vinyl banner in a member's lawn exclaiming "Greater Blanco Chamber of Commerce Business of the Month." Many chambers now host an "Operation Thank-You" where the board members get together one day and do a "blitz" visit to every single member, hand delivering a little token of appreciation. The type of display is irrelevant; it's the act of saying thank you and the recognition their business and the jobs they provide are appreciated.

Once new programs are introduced, they should be regularly evaluated to measure their continued effectiveness and value to the general membership. The chamber should only be involved in festivals and events if they generate funds for the organization, thereby enabling it to provide improved products and services to its members. If a chamber finds itself involved in any event that does not make money for the chamber and its members, the board has a responsibility to seriously evaluate its role and either disassociate the chamber from that event, or poll its membership to make sure they want their investment spent on an event that provides no return-on-investment.

As new programs are added and eliminated as needed, value increases, return-on-investment rises, and elated members tell the chamber's story to non-members. This type of word-of-mouth promotion increases the membership numbers each year and increases the membership retention rate. The chamber becomes a value-added organization where businesses eventually cannot afford to not belong.

The chamber board should consider creating a downtown committee that is made up of merchants and others interested in the downtown area. This committee should meet often to discuss issues that are specific to them. This gives them a forum to regularly solve problems in their infancy as well as be pro-active in their own success. The business owners have begun to organize a group already. This should be supported and brought into the Chamber to ensure communication and coordination of efforts to improve downtown.

As the chamber grows and strengthens itself internally, the value it adds to the community can be limitless. The non-dues revenue generators can take on a "community" feel to offer an increased value to the entire community or region, as well as its membership, as the membership dictates. It is common to see chamber memberships expand their offerings to more community events after they become solvent and are a money-making organization. It should be remembered, though, that if the membership does decide to take on a more visible role in the community, it must still help fulfill their purpose of helping their members be more profitable.

Many chambers of commerce are responsible for a community's economic development efforts, especially when there is no other group charged with that task. Since Blanco does not have a paid professional economic developer, the chamber board may feel that the chamber should take on those duties. Citizens say they want more job opportunities in the area, but with no one paid to do that, they may look to the chamber to lead the fight for more jobs. If the Blanco Chamber board does decide to make economic development a part of their long-term plan, they should consider that they will eventually need a paid professional.

Regardless of whether the board decides that economic development is its responsibility, growing the Greater Blanco Chamber of Commerce is an economic development objective as it aids in the reinvestment of local dollars, encouragement of members to patronize other members, and often serves as a contact for prospective employers considering relocating or starting a business in the area. The more versed this chamber becomes in serving the needs its members, the more valuable it becomes to the entire Blanco area.

Attract a Retirement Village
Attracting a retirement village or community was very high on the list of important economic development initiatives discussed at the Town Hall Meeting and the economic development focus group. As the population of Blanco ages, many residents are concerned that there are not enough living options for the elderly.

Many communities actually build a retiree attraction component into their economic development strategic plan, whereas others balk at the idea. The appropriateness of such a plan depends on the voice of the people. Providing for the housing needs of existing and future residents of Blanco is one thing, whereas creating a plan on how to actually attract new retirees from other communities is a completely different plan. The comments from the public meetings included an interest in each of those possibilities, but there was no discussion regarding which of the two were most desirable for Blanco.

A few folks mentioned that they felt Blanco would be a good fit for a Del Webb or similar community, like Sun City in Georgetown. This prototype might include a community only available to people 55 or better, with high-tech fitness centers, beautiful golf courses, planned activities, classes, and clubs. A retirement community of this type often provides a variety of moderate to upscale housing, ranging from resort style to a more relaxed feel. Children are allowed to visit, but no longer than 7-10 days or so at a time. These types of communities are best suited for well populated areas with high level public and private services, as well as many natural resource amenities with easy access. Without expanded local medical service, this option is impossible. This may be an appropriate plan for later in the future, but before Blanco can expect success with something of this magnitude, the community must be extremely successful in various community development efforts for many years.

Other residents spoke of the need for a retirement village or retirement center in Blanco to serve the needs of current residents. A community of this type might offer different levels of retirement living, ranging from completely independent living (no assistance,) to full medical care assisted living, or various levels in between. A retirement village or community of this style is what Blanco should plan for in the next several years.

There was much concern that as Blanco residents mature, the majority of people who are unable to move in with family members will be forced to leave their hometown to live in facilities in other communities. If this community could attract a facility, preferably privately owned, many folks could receive the occasional care or attention they need while remaining close to their family and friends. The security of an entire community designed for retirees is attractive to many potential residents as well as their families. Monthly rent at such a facility often includes an apartment or cottage, enjoyable lifestyle, and sometimes even a common gardening area. Over time, couple this with a few additional amenities like perhaps a golf course, nearby clinic and hospital, shops and restaurants within walking distance, and safe pedestrian access, and Blanco could not only fulfill a need, but create a desirable new village.

Blanco currently has a senior activity facility called the "Gem of the Hills Senior Citizen Community Center." This meets another need in the community by providing a place where seniors and others in the community can gather for programs and activities of recreation, health, fitness, and general welfare. This facility has also been a popular site for weddings, parties, family reunions, public meetings, and other community activities. There is also an effort underway to develop a community center that could offer additional opportunities for recreation, so it seems as if the bulk of the needs for seniors includes more residential-oriented opportunities.

A key component to trying to attract a private company that builds retirement villages is the current demographics. A community either has or does not have the proper numbers needed to attract an experienced retirement village builder. The USDA says that places best suited for retiree development are those with both the need for retiree attraction and the potential to attract retirees. The USDA Economic Research Service says "One way to identify such places is to examine recent population growth rates and rates of net in-migration of the elderly. Lack of population growth can be used to indicate need for retiree-attraction policies. Net in-migration of the elderly can be used to indicate potential to attract retirees." Other factors include income levels of residents, housing availability and conditions, traffic and congestion, unemployment and underemployment, as well as economic conditions.

If a retirement village or community is to become a reality in Blanco, residents will need access to an affordable and reliable transportation system, public or private. They will need quick access to medical clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, and grocery stores.

As with nearly any economic development initiative, there are possible undesirable factors as well as the potential positive ones. If a retirement village were to be built, it would likely be an automatic draw for retirees outside of the Blanco area. While this may be an economic injection, it could be opposed by some. Some fear that attracting new retirees may significantly change the political landscape or cause a rise in property values in the area. Others fear that seniors often vote against additional funding for schools and tend to no longer borrow from local banks.

It is recommended that Blanco begin to prepare for the needs of retirees by planning for existing residents. After some economic impact analyses and feasibility studies, the leaders of Blanco can better determine the exact nature and size of the needed retirement development.

Conclusion

Financial Toolbox
Regardless of the approach or combination of approaches Blanco decides to pursue, one key to success in many local small business development endeavors is for there to be a standing agreement between each of the local banks and other lending institutions that they will equally assist local entrepreneurs. This is done very carefully. Usually the chamber or other business association calls a meeting inviting all of the local financial groups. The purpose is to design an agreement that they will each offer the same thing (usually low interest loans for capital investment or other incentives) and rotate the options so that each financial institution shares in the loaning process. Blanco does not have to reinvent the wheel on this mechanism; use the standing agreement from another group of community banks offering the same incentives to design your own.

Another potential financial resource is the federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA.) The Community Reinvestment Act is intended to encourage depository institutions to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. It was enacted by the Congress in 1977 (12 U.S.C. 2901,) revised in May 1995, and is implemented by Regulation BB (12 CFR 228.) The CRA requires that each depository institution's record in helping meet the credit needs of its entire community be evaluated periodically. That record is taken into account in considering an institution's application for deposit facilities. Neither the CRA nor its implementing regulation gives specific criteria for rating the performance of depository institutions. Rather, the law indicates that the evaluation process should accommodate an institution's individual circumstances. Nor does the law require institutions to make high-risk loans that jeopardize their safety; the law makes it clear that an institution's CRA activities should be undertaken in a safe and sound manner. Leaders should work with the banks to find win-win opportunities that benefit the community while allowing the banks to meet their CRA requirements.

Yet another financial resource is the Texas Capital Access Fund, which was established to increase the availability of financing for businesses and nonprofit organizations that face barriers in accessing capital. Through the use of the Capital Access Fund, businesses that might otherwise fall outside the guidelines of conventional lending may still have the opportunity to receive financing. The essential element of the program is a reserve account established at the lending institution to act as a credit enhancement, inducing the financial institution to make a loan. Use of proceeds may include working capital or the purchase, construction, or lease of capital assets, including buildings and equipment used by the business. Refinancing of existing loans not originally enrolled under the program, construction or purchase of residential housing and simple real estate investments (excluding those occupied by the applicant's business), are ineligible uses of capital access proceeds. To be eligible a borrower must be: a small business (100 or fewer employees); or a medium business (100 to 500 employees); or a nonprofit organization; and domiciled in Texas or having at least 51% of its employees located in Texas. Loan terms are determined by the lender. There is no minimum or maximum loan amount, only a maximum amount that the state will provide to the financial institution's reserve fund.

Cooperation
Other than the ones listed below, there was little discussion regarding other types of economic development, such as other specific industries or types of jobs needed.

  • Recruit Grocery and Retail
  • Create and Promote Youth Recreational Opportunities
  • Promote Historical Tourism and Agri-Tourism
  • Grow and Strengthen the Chamber of Commerce
  • Attract a Retirement Village
These are five particular methods of economic development that Blanco should explore; partly because the residents say they are, and partly because the leaders and citizens are capable of coming together to achieve these goals. Bear in mind that none of these initiatives will come to fruition without sincere cooperation and citizen steering. Folks must work together to overcome barriers during the development process. Making a community better by planning for the economic development future is always a daunting task, and rarely a quick one. These forward thinking goals can be achieved with widespread support, hard work, and a positive optimistic attitude throughout the community.