Leaders discuss economic future for Pineywoods

Leaders discuss economic future for Pineywoods

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The future of the East Texas economy was on the mind of politicians and officials at the 2015 Economic Development Summit in Lufkin Wednesday morning.

The summit was sponsored by the Texas Forest Country Partnership. The group looks at ways to improve the economy for businesses in 12 counties. Wedmesday's summit was highlighted by the need to continue education growth.

"Where the rubber meets the road is at the local level," Texas Workforce Solutions Coordinator of Employer Initiatives Aaron Demerson said. "We have a great system here with Angelina College."

The college was praised for having multiple campuses and a small business development office in Lufkin.

"It speaks to our commitment to have an ongoing and continuing role in economic development," President Michael Simon said. "It is great that we can be a part of building the future."

The same feeling of community college involvement was echoed by the keynote speaker, economist Dr. Ray Perryman.

"If we want to have an economy, we can't say in 20 years that's all we have to do; not educate our kids," Perryman said.

For state leaders, water rights and transportation were the main focal points. Former Polk County Judge John Thompson spent two years overseeing the future Interstate 69 project in East Texas. Thompson said the project is needed if the region wants to see growth.

"Without a good transportation system, you don't get an opportunity to participate in the growth," Thompson said.

State representative Trent Ashby said the region sets up nicely with multiple lakes and rivers. To Ashby the water sources in the Pineywoods can shape the future.

"Recruiting business to any region in the state is insuring you have an ample supply of water, both to meet the business need and employee needs," Ashby said. "It's my goal to make sure we can keep those water rights here."

Perryman also addressed the future of the region and oil production. Perryman believed the recent oil hits because of OPEC and the state should rebound when the price of oil goes back up.

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