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Williamson County businesses able to get upgrades

A new county program will allow Williamson County businesses to make energy efficient upgrades with long term financial plan. 

Commissioners hope a new program will allow businesses to make energy efficient upgrades.

"We recognize that some things need to be upgraded and updated," said Steve Berry, owner of Christian Brothers Automotive along 620.

Berry took out a loan to upgrade the appearance and make some energy efficient upgrades on the nearly 20-year-old building.

"You can see we have open rafters up here,” Berry said, showing KVUE the open ceiling in the garage.

He wants to change the ceiling, which can be costly during the colder months.

"I jokingly tell the guys when I pull up in the morning on cold days I just see dollar bills going out the roof of the building," said Berry.

He plans to install new LED lighting since the current lights are expensive to maintain and emit a lot of heat. He’s hoping these changes will cut down on his bills. Right now he can pay $700 a month for gas, and $500 for electricity.

It's projects like this that the county commissioners hope the new Property-Assessed Clean Energy program, or PACE project, will help with.

"This is going to be a great opportunity for local businesses to do those really energy efficient improvements that are going to help save energy, that are going to help save water, and it promotes jobs in the local area because they're going to be using local contractors to do the work," said Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long.

The PACE authority helps find contractors and lenders for property owners. Then, the business owner repays the loan through annual payments on their property taxes. The payment plan stays with the property, not the person.

Long said the plan is a win for businesses.

"Which again makes it attractive for these businesses to do because they don't know three or four years from now 'Am I going to sell, am I not going to sell,' so it allows some stability in the loan program both for the lender and the business owner," she said.

The Simon Property Group, which owns the Round Rock Premium Outlets and Lakeline Mall, requested the program.

They plan to make improvements to lighting, heating and air and water. A spokesman said it would normally take them 10-15 years to make these kinds of improvements, but with this program they could do it within a year.

Long hopes it can be an economic development engine.

"These businesses that are going to do these improvements are going to use local contractors they’re going to provide jobs, and its' going to be a cost savings for those businesses,” said Long.

She also thinks it will help with providing energy.

"Perhaps when we're dealing with those 100-degree days in the summer those businesses are putting less demand on the electrical system," said Long.

While it is too late for Berry to apply, he wishes he could have used the program.

"Had I been able to participate in the PACE program, I think it would have gone a long way in reducing our expense and reduce the loan I'm taking out," said Berry.

He said it is especially something that could help a small business.

"We do operate under a pretty tight budget, you know we're trying to save money wherever we can," said Berry.

If you're a business, and want enroll in the program you can contact the PACE authority or the county.

You can find more on this story in Community Impact, a KVUE partner. Go here for their website.