Kyle planning for ‘next level’


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Kyle planning for “next level”
Kyle planning for “next level”

Photo by JJ Velasquez

Despite its reputation as a bedroom community, Kyle could be on the cusp of becoming an economic development hub, said policymakers and private development leaders gathered at a March economic development meeting.

Could Kyle achieve the same level of economic development prosperity as the city of Plano, a fast-developing Dallas suburb? One observer—who is working in an advisory role with Kyle’s Plum Creek, a 2,200-acre, mixed-use, master-planned community—said he thinks so. Growing up in Dallas, Marshall V. Davidson Jr., the managing principal at KMD Studley, said there was “nothing sexy” about Plano.

“Really they were the object of ridicule when I was young,” Davidson said. “Nobody knew where it was, and nobody really cared because it wasn’t part of Dallas.”

In January, the city of Plano landed Toyota’s North American headquarters, its latest catch in a long line of economic

development achievements.

Now as the city of Kyle prepares its economic development strategic plan, which will drive the next five years of economic development, city leaders are considering which industries, jobs and developments the city should attract.

The city contracted with the Natelson Dale Group Inc. for its latest update of the economic development strategic plan. The last plan, adopted in 2008, was the guiding document behind the city’s push for industry growth in the medical field, the attainment of a higher education institution, and fast-food and retail expansion.

‘The next level’

Diana Blank, Kyle’s director of economic development, said most of the objectives in the 2008 plan were achieved, but noted that revitalization of Kyle’s historic district was not “tackled as much as we would like.” Also, depending on the recommendations of the next plan, she said the city should still pursue a business and industrial park development. Conversations with developers had begun on a possible development, but nothing was ever completed, Blank said.

City Manager Scott Sellers said those involved in creating the next economic development strategic plan will look to identify what the next step is for Kyle.

“The things that we take for granted now … are probably what we were all praying to have back in 2008,” Sellers said. “So now the next iteration of the plan is, ‘What is the next tier of development?’ We’ve got the first tier based on the growth cycle of Kyle [since] 2008.”

Blank said although the planning process has just begun, two of the plan’s primary recommendations will be to create jobs and diversify the city’s housing.

The city has experienced a “delayed brain drain” because of its lack of move-up housing levels, Blank said. Kyle offers affordable housing largely for first-time homebuyers, but a dearth of homes beyond that means the college graduates and young professionals who moved to Kyle to purchase their first home must look elsewhere for housing when they are seeking a larger, more expensive home.

“Then we lose them,” she said. “We want to be able to keep those kinds of individuals, especially.”

The creation of primary jobs, which would keep Kyle’s residents from having to commute elsewhere to work, will likely also be high among the priorities for the city’s next phase of economic growth, Blank said.

Among the target industries and amenities that were outlined in the 2008 plan were logistics, medical and small technology companies, along with a desire to create more corporate office space, she said.

Blank said the current process will determine if those are still relevant for the city to pursue. She said she anticipates growth in those sectors will become “more focused” in the upcoming process.

Retail attractions that can draw people from outside Kyle are also a natural target for the city’s growth trajectory, Sellers said. He added the city is a family-oriented town, and retail space would be a good fit for its demographics.

“Destination retail brings people in from outside the community,” he said. “This economic development plan will probably be talking about [getting to] the next level.”

Planning process

March 26 was the first so-called summit meeting to begin the development of the city’s economic development strategic plan.

A market study examining the demographics of the city will be completed in May ahead of a second summit meeting, when stakeholders will work on strategies to tackle weaknesses raised by the study.

In late June the final summit meeting will be held. A draft of the plan will be distributed, and attendees will be able to recommend refinements to the draft.

The plan is scheduled to be brought to council for adoption in August, said Roger Dale, principal of Natelson Dale, which is one of two firms working on the plan.

Dale said a lot has happened since Kyle’s last economic plan update. The global recession struck, the U.S. made a gradual recovery and Kyle continued to experience growth. For example, Seton Medical Center Hays and the Austin Community College Hays campus did not exist when the 2008 plan was hatched.

The current process gives the city a chance to revisit previous targets while adding new ideas to the fold, Dale said.

“I think it gives Kyle the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat for the types of growth it would like to attract,” he said. “So instead of just letting growth happen in a random way where you might not get good results, this is a way to be proactive and intentional about the types of growth that you get so that five, 10 and 15 years down the line, you have a community that matches the vision that people would like to see.”