EDC brings job training to area

By Alexandria Randolph

The Highlander

The Marble Falls Economic Development Corporation joined forces with two area workforce agencies on Wednesday with the goal of providing job training to Marble Falls citizens. 

Earlier this spring, Marble Falls EDC officials submitted an application for a grant from the Texas Workforce Commission to fund a job training program. The EDC board voted unanimously to sign the agreement for grant funding in a meeting Wednesday. 

This is a great program for the EDC,” said Christian Fletcher, EDC executive director. “It helps us spread our influence to things that aren’t necessarily hotel or conference center and business part.”

I fully support this. I know people who have gone through the program and they’ve worked on my job sites, said EDC Board President Steve Reitz. “It’s a program the EDC needs to be involved in, for sure. A whole lot of our young people take advantage of this to be a part of the construction trade.”

The grant program, which will provide $9,500 to be matched by $11,500 provided by the EDC, will provide tuition and textbooks to 12 students seeking their Plumbing 1 and Plumbing 2 credits. The board participated in a similar grant last fiscal year which funded two trade programs.

We do have some funds left over from the previous grant,” said Fletcher, “so the idea was to submit a new application for that balance of funds and focus specifically on the plumbing trade.”

The goal of the training is to mitigate a “workforce that is diminishing” in the Highland Lakes, said Mark Mayfield, EDC board vice president. 

Students will take the course through the Central Texas College, with some class hours held at the Marble Falls High School workshop, leased from Marble Falls ISD. Classes begin on Sept. 4 for Residential Plumbing 1 and Jan. 8, 2019 for Residential Plumbing 2.

In a memorandum of agreement also signed at the meeting, the Workforce Network, Inc., a nonprofit, agreed to promote the program to area plumbing and construction contractors, assess candidates, and manage fees and expenses to be paid by the EDC.

Fletcher said the goal is to create regular courses in multiple high demand trades.

In working with Workforce Network, our goal is to get it to where it’s a pipeline that we’ve backfilled and there cohorts can rely on a certain start date for the plumbing program, and a date for an electrical program and CMA and CNA,” he said.

Directors also unanimously approved a performance agreement between the EDC and an undisclosed company currently referred to as “Project Bell” which creates a tax rebate for the company as it establishes a headquarters and production facility in the Marble Falls Business and Technology Park. 

Project Bell currently is headquartered in another city and is under contract with Marble Falls EDC for the purchase of a 16.1 acre lot in the park.

He wanted some protection against some potential property tax increases,” Fletcher said of the owner of Project Bell. “This is land value only, so if he builds and the (value) goes up, we won’t have to worry about covering that.”

The contract is a rebate for roughly five percent of the taxation amount for land value, including city, county and school district taxation, Fletcher said. It also includes requirements for job creation and wages. 

We obviously want it to be meaningful, but not punitive,” Fletcher said. 

The directors discussed how changes in property value might affect taxation.

It’s actually a grant, and taxes are the basis for the calculation of a grant,” said City Attorney Monte Akers. 

The property owner will still pay taxes up to a predetermined limit defined in the contract, Fletcher said.

We’re going to cover the difference between what we’ve said is the cap and what it might end up being eventually,” he said.

Directors approved the agreement, outlining Project Bell’s obligation to provide at least 25 new jobs at a minimum of $30,000 in wage by the close of 2019.

In other discussion at the meeting, directors evaluated the possibility of budgeting for the creation of a Downtown Coordinator position. 

The coordinator would manage and facilitate activities and festivals that occurred on Main Street and in the downtown district and serve as the city’s liaison in the Texas Downtown Association.

They’ll also have the ability to network with other Main Street coordinators” in other towns,” said City Manager Mark Hodge. 

How much overlap will there be with the Chamber and the Visitor’s Center?” said Director Lindsay Plante. 

Hodge and Fletcher assured the board that the position serves a different purpose, as the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce is focused on serving their members, and currently there is no “go-to person” for Downtown District activities. 

When we talked about it before, there was a concern about why we should focus on downtown,” Fletcher said, “but that’s our greatest concentration of small businesses anywhere in town.” 

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