The annual meeting of the Aransas County Partnership Economic Development Corporation (ACPEDC) was held Friday, Jan. 29 at the Rockport Country Club. Members heard featured speakers, including Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation CEO Iain Vasey, Principal of AMSquared, LLC Anne Marie Maloney, and Del Mar College Executive Vice President and COO Lenora Keas. Talking about the Communities As A Start Up (CASU Series) were Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) Director of Coastal Bend Innovations Center Russel Franques, and TAMU-CC Professor and Director of Entrepreneurship Education Kent Byus, PhD.
Vasey congratulated the local EDC on its accomplishments during its first year of operation.
“We value you as we move forward in the region,” he said.
He noted the region took a blow due to COVID-19, but it wasn’t as bad as it was in many other areas of the nation.
“We’ve started to head in the right direction,” said Vasey.
He said the region needs to focus not only on new businesses, and growing existing businesses, but also on making the Coastal Bend area a great place to live.
He noted the Rockport-Fulton area offers a great sense of place, adding, “People are going to start choosing Aransas County as a place to live.”
Vasey noted it will be important to continue working together, noting all area economic development professionals have been meeting, and gathering accurate data about the region.
“The data you provided was very important in that effort,” he said.
Addressing the need for a trained workforce, to fill new positions, Vasey said, “It’s important that Aransas County joins in these training programs.”
Keas, who has worked closely with Aransas County and Aransas County Independent School District officials, to bring a workforce development and entrepreneurship center to Aransas County, talked briefly about the 16,000-square-foot facility planned for the former Little Bay Elementary. Aransas County has received a $1.7 million U.S. Economic Development Administration Grant for the facility.
(Note: Aransas County commissioners are scheduled to vote on accepting that grant at their regular meeting Monday, Feb. 8. Similar action was tabled at the court’s Jan. 25 meeting after a motion to accept the grant ended in a 2-2 tie. Commissioner Jack Chaney was not present.)
Byus touched briefly on the CASU Series, and noting the ACPEDC’s growing relationship with Del Mar College is very important.
“Small businesses are seeds that grow the local economy,” said Byus.
He noted the CASU Series treats cities as if they are start up businesses, to focus on the direction it wants to go, and what it can be.
(Note: The CASU series is ongoing. The Rockport Pilot has published stories about each of its meetings. The fifth of six sessions will be held Wednesday, Feb. 10. A story about that session, as well as earlier sessions, was published in the Feb. 3 edition of The Pilot.)
He said TAMU-CC staff, along with IC2 (out of the University of Texas at Austin), worked with the ACPEDC and came up with the TEAM (Technology, Entrepreneurship, Arts, and Maker Space) concept, which will be the blueprint for the workforce development and entrepreneurship center.
ACPEDC Chairman Jatin Bhakta closed the session acknowledging the challenging times Aransas County has faced with Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and now the COVID-19 pandemic, but noted, “We’ve had many successes on which we can build.”
The ACPEDC’s officers and directors for 2021 are: Jatin Bhakta, chairman; J. Mark Wagnon, vice chairman; Rebecca Bagby, secretary; James Creekmore, treasurer; and John Jackson, past chairman.
Directors are Karen R. Mella, Robert Mitchell, Jim Riedel, Phil Salemi, Keith Barrett, Nancy Bolting, and Donna Townsend.
Ex-Officio Directors are Aransas County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills, Rockport Mayor Pat Rios, Fulton Mayor Kelli Cole, Aransas County Navigation District Chairman Malcolm Dieckow, Aransas County Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Joshua Garcia, and Rockport City Manager Kevin Carruth.
Advisory directors are Clayton Reaser, Diane Probst, and Tom Callan.
Barbara Gurtner is marketing coordinator.