ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIC PLAN
In September 2016, New Braunfels Industrial Development Corporation hired Pegasus Planning and Development to assist them in updating their economic development strategic plan. Concurrent with the strategy update was a citywide Comprehensive Plan process, which the consultants for the Economic Development Strategy were also involved in, focusing on the Economic Competitiveness and Tourism Strategies for the Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan process was an 18-month process, whereas the Economic Development Strategy was a 7-month process and culminated in this document.
The strong, positive growth trends and economic opportunity in New Braunfels has continued since the last strategy, and new opportunities have emerged as Austin and San Antonio remain two of the top economies in the United States, with New Braunfels in the middle of these two growing metropolises. What has changed since the last planning effort are some emergent challenges, namely related to attracting and sustaining a quality workforce and having economic assets to support the growth of entrepreneurship, and commercial development. The following goals are focused on building upon existing economic development efforts and placing a stronger focus on new objectives that will improve the sustainable impact of continued growth..
- Objective: Develop a funding and implementation engine for public-private partnerships to increase affordable housing for households earning at or below 80% MFI.
- Goal: Create an environment that offers the same social and economic mobility for all New Braunfels residents by focusing on building more housing options that are affordable for core portions of the middle class workforce.
New Braunfels boasts relatively high median incomes compared to San Antonio and the State of Texas; and despite rapid population growth, 68.5% of New Braunfelens earn their salary elsewhere in the San Antonio and Austin metros. Local wages for people who actually work in New Braunfels are lower and have not grown fast enough to keep up with of rising land values, rents, and transportation costs. This is to say that the proportion of housing and transportation costs are rising faster than wages. Housing unit growth has also lagged behind the rate of population increase, and the vast majority of new units have been in single-family development or rentals at the higher end market rates. Since 2003, the New Braunfels population has increased by 58% while only increasing housing units by 23% and Taxable Property Valuations have increased by an incredible 153%.
- Strategy (1): Conduct Feasibility Analysis and identify census tracts, relevant designations and pre-approval for various federal, state, local, and philanthropic affordable housing, mixed-income or commercial funds.
- Strategy (2): Conduct a Gap Analysis on the number of units needed at various income levels as a framework for understanding the size of the gap between construction and available financing (Strategies 1 and 2 can be conducted simultaneously).
- Strategy (3): Once target areas and gap financing levels have been identified, a public education and marketing campaign to steer implementation where most feasible and with greatest overall impact (highest resulting number of affordable units).
- Strategy (4): Create a specific set of incentives/deterrents for developers and businesses—including but not limited to density bonuses, inclusionary zoning, fees in lieu or higher/lower impact fees. This should include a critique of existing codes and practices.
Quality of Place
- Objective: Improve the Quality of Place, recognizing that “place” matters to a very mobile workforce.
- Goal: Invest in creating more sustainable, connected, culturally rich, mixed-use community hubs built on a people- or labor-centric approach to economic growth to strengthen business attraction & expansion efforts.
Talented, creative people seek areas where they are constantly exposed to inspiring spaces, places, and people. New Braunfels’ rich cultural heritage, stunning natural resources, tourism amenities, small town feel, and quality of life give it a distinct sensibility. However, there is limited access to much of its rich amenities for local residents. There are relatively few areas with walkable, accessible, small-scale retail or dining establishments. There are gaps in bike & pedestrian networks to make it easy for residents to maximize their proximity to such attractive resources. Investing in these resources is not only a direct investment in what people want; it will also make the community more competitive for attracting businesses who offer higher-wages and are looking for a place that will keep their people happy and productive.
- Strategy (1): Continue to look for urbanization opportunities in Downtown by convening partners across the development community, banks & lenders, young adults, entrepreneurship, investors, and employer recruitment.
- Strategy (2): Plan (Jan 2018) and implement (2022) a redevelopment strategy for the Historic Milltown area of town.
- Strategy (3): Plan (Jan 2018) and implement (2022) a redevelopment strategy for the Westside area of town.
- Strategy (4): Leverage connectivity and place-making opportunities in emerging mixed use communities identified in this plan and emerging areas within the future land use plan in the 2017/18 Comprehensive Plan.
- Strategy (5): Improve connectivity to key areas of town via a strategically implemented bicycle and pedestrian mobility with an assigned fund for implementation.
- Objective: Implement final phase of a 3-phased strategy to support Entrepreneurship by creating a more sophisticated space and infrastructure.
- Goal: Strengthen the existing entrepreneurship resources with investments across the entrepreneurial ecosystem that will increasing local investment capacity, local funding sources, and marketing efforts.
Small business growth and Entrepreneurship became one of the core areas of focus for New Braunfels during the last Economic Development Strategy. Economic Development leaders sought to create a Center for Entrepreneurship by creating partnerships with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and University of Texas – San Antonio (UTSA). The Center for Entrepreneurship was created and is now SPARK Small Business Center, and the SBDC is now a vendor of SPARK.
Much of the “heavy lifting” for entrepreneurship was completed during these first two years of implementing the 2012 strategy, including the creation of a three-phase plan for supporting small business and entrepreneurship, including: (1) shoring up base of operations by creating the partnerships and base resources (UTSA/SBDC/Staff/Data Analysis) (2) rebranding & enhance marketing which is in its final stages with a new website and a new building, and (3) have local dollars chase local opportunities. Phases 1 and 2 are nearly complete, so the strategy should now focus on the third phase.
- Strategy (1): Set up the existing startup hub, SPARK, and the partnership it represents for success in an expanded space with smart design and a strategic location (preferably downtown, but potentially as part of a Veramendi Corporate Campus).
- Strategy (2): Funding a sophisticated, user-focused program to increase networking, Angel Investor Fund creation, and mentoring programs for the Greater New Braunfels that pulls in entrepreneurs from a 30-mile radius. Austin and San Antonio investors should also be sought for their involvement and to create links to Venture funds.
- Strategy (3): Create a benchmark survey and conduct ongoing needs assessment entrepreneurs in terms of their satisfaction of New Braunfels as a place to start a business.
- Objective: Create a short and long-range alternative transportation plan based on targeted, proactive land use planning and multi-modal connectivity.
- Goal: Create a car-alternative environment with transportation options implemented at the local, intercity, and regional level designed to connect, enhance and revitalize a strategic network of mixed-use districts, denser residential/commercial hubs, attractions, and unique districts.
According to 2014 US Census job inflow/outflow data, 27,472 people had were employed in New Braunfels and 68.5% (18,817) of residents leave the city for work everyday. At the same time, 70.7% of the 29,554 local jobs are filled by people outside the community who commute into the city for work. This type of commuter pattern is not only disproportionately large for the population size, but it is also concentrated along very few corridors and results in clogged arterials. Although some additional and expanded highway infrastructure will be built in the coming years, ultimately congestion will return due to the limited land available for outward expansion, sensitive environmental resources, and the continued need to use available land to increase density and commercial uses for fiscal sustainability.
- Strategy (1): Leverage the current ongoing Comprehensive Planning Process to engage the public, identify appropriate city/county tools (land use, infrastructure, transportation plans), incorporate commercial/mixed-use opportunities, and align phased implementation.
- Strategy (2): Engage stakeholders across public & private sectors, and target riders, both within and across the corridor (Ex: Schertz, Seguin, etc) to create a local & corridor transit plan with strategic links to a land use plan, multi-modal accessibility.
- Strategy (3): Align marketing and business attraction efforts to attract ideal tenants from subsectors within target markets [see Box below]
- Strategy (4): Within regional transit planning efforts, lead efforts to foment the identity and self-determination of communities within the I-35 corridor and their interdependence with economic centers of San Antonio and Austin.
Real Estate Development
- Objective: Continue to increase Commercial Real Estate investment with the addition of a diversified portfolio through boosting Class A Corporate Office plats by at least 300,000 sf.
- Goal: Maintain fiscal responsibility and support growth through expanding and strategically marketing for new commercial/industrial development with a focus on Corporate Campus & Class A office space expansion in strategic or higher density mixed-use nodes.
Commercial real estate investments over the past approximately 8 years have been largely focused within the retail and industrial markets. The following indicator demonstrates the amount of commercial investment the local economy is able to attract on a per capita basis.
- Strategy (1): Assess feasibility for a Class A Corporate Campus anchor tenant within current and projected commercial real estate opportunities with access to or potential for incorporating quality of place amenities.
- Strategy (2): Conduct in depth target industry analysis to identify white-collar recruitment opportunities within subsectors or strongly-linked service sectors.
- Strategy (3): Be prepared with a refined marketing strategy to promote the existing local talent & labor pool but also relocation assistance and a “welcome-mat” strategy for assisting targets with rapid expansion and likely domestic or international recruitment.