Longview Development Success Gives Lufkin Goal To Shoot For

Welcome to the city of Longview. It's a city proud of its history, but even more proud of its growth.

"Our economy was heavily dependent on oil and gas and now we've diversified to manufacturing," said Longview City Manager Ricky Childers. "Our manufacturing department makes up about 18-20 percent of our employment."

The oil-based economy of Longview fell into a recession in the late 1980s and early 90's. With a dramatic drop in tax base and sales tax revenues, the city searched frantically for a way to diversify its economy. They found it in economic development sales tax plan.

"Once we got some economic development funds to go out in the market and compete for industries and businesses, it made all the difference in the world" said Jim Hurst, a local car dealership owner.

"Before that the only funds we had were what we could raise in the community through donations and contributions."

The tax plan allowed the city to build a 500-acre business park and added up to 1400 jobs to the economy and community leaders say that's just the beginning.

"The net jobs, the one's we've created minus the ones lost by attrition, comes out to about 8,000 jobs in the last ten years," said Hurst.

The tax plan hasn't just helped new business. City leaders say the impact of bringing jobs to the community seems to have a trickle-down effect.

"Oh I don't think there's any question when you create 900 more jobs as in DanaCorp and then a total of 900 during the flex season for Neiman [Marcus] that's a significant impact," said Bob Dyer, President of Texas Bank and Trust. "That translates to bank accounts, insurance agencies, realtors, gas stations, grocery stores and so on."

Longview's economic development came through a quarter-cent sales tax increase. That's double the proposed tax plan for Lufkin. The sales tax that the city of Lufkin charges is at the maximum level. The economic development plan would first roll back the sales tax by an eighth of a cent - then increase it by the same amount- Setting that money aside for economic development purposes.

Childers and other community leaders say they're not sure where Longview would be without the economic development plan- they're just glad they have it. Leaders like Dyer and Hurst say any potential risk is well worth what the city has gained.