Travis County to form economic development strategic plan

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Travis County Commissioners Court meeting Jan. 24

Travis County is working to mitigate economic disparities by creating an economic development strategic plan that will examine existing and planned initiatives throughout the county.

The plan will be developed in two phases:

  • Phase 1: Background research and stakeholder outreach
  • Phase 2: Development of strategic action plan

“Our intent is to focus on the county’s role in promoting economic equity without duplicating services,” said Heather Ashline, senior planner for economic & strategic planning at the county’s planning and budget office.

Ashline’s colleague, project and program planner Karen Thigpen, explained both phases to Travis County commissioners at a meeting on Tuesday morning.

Phase 1

According to Thigpen, Phase 1 will include a background assessment to determine economic conditions within the county, analysis of key demographic data, analysis of economic opportunity and resiliency analysis.

A resource document review will ensure that the county’s economic development efforts are not duplicating other programs, Thigpen said.

“Stakeholder outreach is pretty significant and will be undertaken with the advisement of county staff,” Thigpen said. “This will enhance the analysis with public input.”

A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, or SWOT, analysis is included in Phase 1 and will look at areas related to economic development within the county.

Thigpen said the Capital Area Council of Governments, or CAPCOG, has access to this data already. The county will work with CAPCOG to complete Phase 1 of the project. Thigpen said an interlocal agreement is currently being reviewed by the county attorney’s office.

Phase 2

Thigpen explained that Phase 2 plan will consist of an assessment of the county’s economic competitiveness and resiliency so that recommendations can be formed to enhance future economic stability. It also includes the analysis of incentive programs at the local, state and federal levels, Thigpen said.

This phase also calls for an analysis of the county’s business formation and the workforce training programs.

“We already have groups that are working on something similar so we’re working on alignment of jobs to make sure we are not duplicating efforts,” Thigpen said.

A benchmark analysis will be conducted to identify best practice programs using comparable areas as well as an evaluation framework, which will provide criteria for the county to evaluate the implementation of the plan moving forward.

“A policy review will be conducted to analyze local bylaws, policies, processes and regulations to provide recommendations on necessary adjustments to make sure the county is supporting economic diversification and resilience and finally a review of financing options that includes the review of available grants, loan programs, and unique financing options,” Thigpen said.

What’s next

Thigpen said the office will finalize the interlocal agreement in conjunction with the county attorney’s office for their work with CAPCOG before returning to commissioners court for approval of the agreement.

The commissioners unanimously approved the partnership with CAPCOG in carrying out the first phase of the project as well as the solicitation of requests for proposals for Phase 2.