Kilgore Economic Development Corporation is closing out 2019 with new awards and the selection of new board members.
At Kilgore Rotary Club’s Wednesday meeting, KEDC Executive Director Amanda Nobles and Assistant Director Jana Russell gave an overview of the year’s accomplishments. They will deliver a formal year-end report to Kilgore City Council at their regular meeting Tuesday, Dec. 10.
“I get to start with some really exciting news,” Russell said.
“Kilgore, this year, was awarded two new credentials. We say ‘credential’ and ‘award’ together intentionally. Kilgore is a fantastic community, it’s a fantastic community for the work that we do but when you are a town of 15,000 two hours away from a major metro, you need to establish some credentials to be effective in what we do.”
Russell went on to describe how Kilgore had received the Community Economic Development Award, which is given to an entire community based on its size compared to communities throughout the state of Texas. Kilgore won in the 10-to-20,000 population category.
“It’s kind of special this year because, in past years, the size range has been a little bit different. We were the largest city in our category and we’re not anymore. We compete against cities that are much larger than we are. It’s judged on our accomplishments,” Russell said, explaining accomplishments come in the form of KEDC projects, the number of companies they help and future projections for those companies in terms of employment, investments and expansion.
The second award was the Transferability Award. Kilgore’s receipt of the award in 2019 marked the first time any Texas city has received the honor.
“It is a ‘best in show’ kind of award. It is given to a community who has done something that’s deemed a best practice regardless of size,” Russell said.
“We were competing against communities of all sizes across the entire state of Texas. We won for something called the Virtual Building Program. What it allows companies to do is choose a greenfield site in Kilgore and have a rapid opening date. That’s important because speed has become so important to what we do. I’d say it’s one of the top trends we’ve seen in the past few years.”
Following Russell’s announcements, Nobles told Rotarians about the purpose and value of economic development in Kilgore.
“Why do we do economic development?” Nobles said.
“The reason it’s important for you to know this is because you’re out in the community. You hear conversations that we don’t hear. It’s important that you understand the impact that it has on the citizen level. The thing that we try to do, first of all, is diversify our economic base. If you don’t diversify the economic base, you’re dependent on one or two things to keep your economy going and diversification is really why KEDC was started back in 1990.”
Nobles explained, at the time of KEDC’s creation, Kilgore had been through a severe downturn in the oil and gas industry and revenues were cut in half, leading to widespread layoffs and service elimination. The city responded by establishing KEDC to ensure the city was not overly dependent on oil and gas businesses in the future.
“We’re doing that. It makes us less vulnerable to fluctuations. We still have fluctuations but they’re evening out somewhat and we’re more able to sustain the economy through those fluctuations.”
Diversification also helps Kilgore “take care of its own destiny”, Nobles said.
“Economies are not static. Competition is global and primary jobs are the thing that bring in the new money into a community,” she said, comparing the economic status of a city to a pie. If a community is overly focused on only one or two industries, competition increases within the community, resulting in smaller slices of the pie for businesses. Diversification leads to larger slices and more economic growth.
“What we’re trying to do is grow the pie. If you grow the pie, the slices are going to grow also. That’s when retail follows. When the pie grows, retails comes in, new commercial (business) comes in. That’s the importance of focusing on primary jobs, jobs that 50 percent or more of their product or service is sold outside of this region, outside of the state.”
In addition to receiving awards, KEDC has selected new board members.
At its regular monthly meeting November 19, KEDC’s board of directors retired its president, welcomed two new directors, and elected officers for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, according to a recent press release.
Bryan Johnston, president for 2018-2019, retired from the board after his second term. Bob Davis, Jr. was elected president for 2019-2020.
Johnston, a native of Kilgore, attended Kilgore public schools and Kilgore College. He earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from Texas A&M University in 1990. Today, Johnston serves as President of Merritt Preferred Components, where he is responsible for all aspects of the business. Prior to joining the company, Mr. Johnston was an investment advisor for Edward Jones and a financial analyst for GE Capital.
The board elected Bob Davis of Bob Davis Sales as president to replace Johnston. Davis is in his first term as a board member.
He has worked in the supply chain sector of the oil and gas industry for more than 38 years and is the co-owner of Bob Davis Sales, Inc., a wholesale distributor of products used in the drilling and production of crude oil and natural gas. The company, founded by his father in 1978, represents 18 companies and provides sales, distribution, and technical support for the exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas. Bob attended the University of Central Oklahoma.
Ricardo Viloria was elected Secretary.
He has experience of more than 25 years in leading businesses domestically and internationally, focusing on P&L oversight, operations, multi-channel distribution, and marketing involving both startups and growth organizations.
Mike Head was named Director of the board.
He has experience of more than 30 years in manufacturing with the Kilgore facility of Closure Systems International, which manufactures closures for food and beverages. CSI serves multiple countries with manufacturing facilities throughout the world and has been in Kilgore since 1985, expanding several times through the years.
Bobby Beane will remain on the board as Vice-President and Ruben Martin will remain as Asst. Secretary.
KEDC will deliver a Fiscal Year Ending Report for 2018-2019 to Kilgore City Council during their regular board meeting Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall.