ELGIN, TEXAS - The Central Texas town, Elgin, made up of just under 10,000 people, is getting statewide recognition for their efforts to grow their local economy.
Gregg Brown is the co-owner of ATX Homemade Jerky and Artisan Market in Elgin.
"People really want to support local small businesses," said Brown.
In addition to walls of jerky, they have pecans, pasta and pickled peppers.
"All of our products are local, we don't have anything that's outside of the state of Texas for sure, and most of the products are within a 20-mile region," said Brown.
Brown said they chose this location for their small business because of Elgin's growth plan and incentives.
"For us, it's just been the downtown region has really started to, since we've been here in just the year and a half, it's really started to expand with new businesses," said Brown. "These are places that you'll find unique in different types of things, they're doing a really good job to promote that, that it's expanding our business on a regular basis."
"We're working with entrepreneurs, we're going to help them build their companies here in town," said Director of Economic Development Owen Rock. "We really focus on our downtown, it's very important to us, we really feel it's a huge part of our economy."
Specifically, Rock said they're focusing on businesses that make food products.
He said they're working to possibly even build a commercial kitchen, which people can rent to make and sell their products.
"With our downtown, we want to build it around that food environment, whether it's making food, manufacturing food, or eating food at our restaurants, so that's some of the avenues that we're going down," said Rock.
Mayor Chris Cannon told KVUE it's part of their unique downtown growth plan.
"There's never going to be more historic downtowns, right, they're always going, they're going to be diminishing if anything, so I think it's our responsibility to protect that," said Cannon.
To him, this downtown is special. He grew up here, and has lived in Elgin most his life.
"I've seen the ups and downs of the downtown a few times in my lifetime," said Cannon. "It's not a city, it's a culture, and that's our biggest strong point."
And part of that means getting new businesses in old buildings.
"We had a lot of dilapidated buildings," said Rock.
With their grant program, if someone buys a downtown building, and invests more than $100,00 dollars in renovations, the Elgin Economic Development Corporation will grant them $25,000.
"And that has brought us new businesses," said Rock.
Rock said they've done seven buildings in the last two years.
"We're down to one or two buildings that could stand a bit of a facelift, but other than that, it's worked," said Cannon.
Their plans are getting statewide attention.
In fact, the Texas Downtown Association was just named the Elgin EDC Best Downtown Partner in Texas for their work to revitalize downtown.
"Well, we're very excited about it," said Rock.
"I'm very, very proud of it," added Cannon. "The real award to me is what we've seen development in our city, especially the last two, three, years."
The pair said it was a tough competition.
"To win out of 115 applicants, is great, so I couldn't be more proud," said Cannon.
"We were very surprised, there were 115 applicants, it came down to three, we were one of the three finalists," said Rock.
They know it can be difficult even to compete with surrounding Central Texas towns.
"Every one of your neighbors has something going on all the time, it's hard to compete with, so to see people that are moving into your town, and it not being the typical bedroom community," said Cannon.
But he's glad to see the city's success.
"We've been doing a lot for a long time, that when there was no market we did see success so its easy to attribute these programs to cause growth, and cause things to happen when the market didn't mirror that," said Cannon.
And they have more on the horizon for the city's growth.
Rock said they just opened a business park with 60 more acres to develop, and currently have 450 homes under construction, with a predicted 2,000 more on the way in the next year.
"About 80 percent of any growth of any community is existing businesses, existing businesses that are growing," said Rock. "So if we can build them here, if we can grow them here, that's our whole goal."
He also said people can now live in buildings downtown, whereas that wasn't always the case.
"When you can walk down your old main street and have to introduce yourself to a few people, a street you've been walking down all your life, you know that things are happening," said Cannon.
"We're seeing a lot of growth," said Rock.
It's a sign of growth for the city, and businesses owners like Brown hope it will be for them too.
"It's been terrific, Elgin is a growing community, a lot of new people coming through all the time, a lot of traffic that goes back and forth between Houston and Austin," said Brown.
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