Garza, who has completed his first year in his economic development position, said the Foundation’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30, and he has spent the first year working on “fundamentals,” that is preparing the community for economic growth.
That preparing included joining key economic development organizations in the region
The growth involved housing and quality of life issues, as well as securing an online presence for the Community Development Foundation.
Garza praised AEP for donating the money to purchase software for the website, accounting for $2,500 annually.
Garza noted that one of the main problems facing Refugio was housing. That’s why he urged the city to focus on Chapter 380 agreements allowed by the state in which governmental entities can partner with private business to benefit the community and everybody involved.
Now, two housing projects are under way.
“We’re well on our way to bringing 180 multifamily units in,” Garza said.
And he said he was working on single family units to come.
He also said revenue from sales tax was up.
“It is the highest it has ever been,” he said.
He said about a 12 percent increase has been seen in Refugio.
However, he reported that hotel occupancy money while up has dropped 3 percent, and he blamed the longer than 30-day stays for the drop. No HOT money is collected on longer stays.
Garza said the county’s unemployment rate was at 3.5 percent “well below state and national averages.”
Garza also talked about business retention and expansion.
“Most businesses are homegrown. I have had meetings with all employers in the county,” he said.
Moreover, a series of “Lunch and Learn” programs was begun and helpful to county businesses.
And he noted the partnership with the University of Houston-Victoria’s Small Business Development Center has resulted in one new business and five new jobs in the county.
As far as business recruitment, Garza said Refugio is now on the Governor’s Economic Development and Tourism’s Prospect Leads List.
He said Refugio will now receive prospective business leads from the state.
“We are about to be included in the Corpus Christi Foreign Trade Zone. It will be a great tool in the economic development toolbox – the Port of Corpus Christi,” he said.
Garza also noted that the Refugio County Museum and the Community Development Foundation hosted the Tropical Trails meeting in March, showcasing Refugio County’s assets.
Then, in June, 25 San Antonio visitors came to Refugio. Comments among the group was a desire to come back and see more of Refugio County.
Garza included complimentary letters with his report from the Woodsboro school district, UHV Small Business Development Center and Del Mar College.
The latter letter came from Lenora Keas, executive director of Del Mar’s Strategic Planning and Workforce Initiatives.
“Victor Garza’s contribution to the strategic planning and economic development of the region will be critical to a successful future,” Keas wrote.
“We are facing unprecedented opportunities, changes and challenges over the next decade. Counties and communities will meed professional and experienced leaders such as Victor to provide leadership.”
Garza presented a similar annual report to the Refugio County Commissioners Court on Tuesday morning.