Palestine’s Progress in 2020
Friday, February 12, 2021
Palestine entered 2020 with exciting plans and initiatives. Though historic challenges were soon to follow, their dedication, expertise, and pragmatism prevailed. Here are a few of the year’s highlights.
1.) High Speed Fiber - Partnership with Etex Communications - A Connected Nation broadband survey showed that Palestine was in need of more reliable, high speed, cost effective internet. PEDC committed to fund 50% of the construction cost to pull fiber into Palestine from Jacksonville. Bringing broadband internet to local businesses will help create jobs, support economic growth, and generate revenue for additional broadband expansion into residential communities. This is a large step in moving Palestine forward. Phase I focuses on the business corridors in town with the goal of reinvesting in future phases.
2.) New Leadership - In May of 2020, Palestine Economic Development Corporation (PEDC) hired a new director of economic development, Lisa Denton. Denton brings 17 years of economic development experience in both Type A and Type B organizations. With Denton at the helm, the organization began working on an updated strategic plan to identify focus areas for the upcoming budget year. By the end of 2020, that plan, including new grant programs and revised procedures, was well underway.
3.) A More Beautiful Downtown - PEDC continues to focus on the revitalization of downtown through the revised Downtown Grant program. Restoring, revitalizing and beautifying downtown will boost economic activity and occupancy. Main Street continues to be the priority. Matching grants of up to $25,000 can be utilized for façade improvements, building stabilization, signage, property improvements and demolition for commercially zoned structures.
4.) A Re-energized Main Street Program - A reduction in city staff led to the loss of the full time Main Street Manager. To fill that void, Cori Conrad, the Heritage Development Coordinator, has taken on an expanded role that allowed her to steer the Main Street Program back on track. Under Conrad’s leadership there have been many exciting improvements to the program.
“People are starting to see some movement downtown, and they’re interested in that,” Conrad says. “That’s an exciting thing to see.”
She added that those who are interested in making a tangible difference downtown are encouraged to volunteer. There are several exciting opportunities available.
5.) More Community Development Grants were added to provide financial assistance with projects which enhance the quality of life for the residents of the City of Palestine, while promoting business development and sustainable economic growth.
Projects that meet the eligibility requirements will be considered for funding through the 2021 budget year. Anyone interested in learning about the grant guidelines and applications can learn more online.
6.) Collaborative EDC Action Plan - PEDC, along with City Council, have started the initial legwork on an Action Plan for the city and EDC. Both groups will be meeting to discuss the outcome of a recent analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT analysis) and the objectives for PEDC moving forward. Having both groups work together will help ensure the efforts to promote economic development are done in tandem.
7.) A New Building for the State of Texas Department of Health and Human Services and Child Protective Services - Wildwood Development, LLC is currently building a new office facility for the State of Texas Department of Health and Human Services and Child Protective Services in the Willow Creek Business Park.
PEDC conveyed 5.599 acres of land to the project. In return, the development will bring $3,100,000 in capital investment, and 50 retained full time positions, with 26 new full time positions to be created.
8.) A Place on the Texas Whiskey Trail - Tahwahkaro Distilling Company closed on the purchase of the former Coors facility at 100 N. Church Street. Construction is underway, with hopes of opening in March. Tahwahkaro plans to invest $4,200,000 and create 13 jobs, over a five year period.
In addition to adding to the tax rolls and creating jobs, this project has added Palestine to the Texas Whiskey Trail, which will create a large impact on our tourism economy.
9.) New Commercial and Housing Developments - 2020 was a big year for new developments. The Palestine Herald wrote an excellent article about them. You can access that article by clicking here.