Athens Review, Athens, Texas

January 17, 2013

AEDC chief touts economic boom

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — Athens Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Brian Malone told the Athens Kiwanis Club Tuesday that signs are plentiful that the city is enjoying a period of commercial growth.

“So what’s new? Is there change in Athens?” Malone asked. “If you drive around town, you see it.”

Malone mentioned the Oakwood Place Assisted Living expansion and the beginnings of work on the Aarabella Senior Living on Gibson road as examples. On South Palestine Street, MooYah burgers and J.D. Tenders are starting to take shape.

Malone said TIP Strategies study, commissioned by AEDC, showed a the strengths of the Athens and Henderson County area as well as few weaknesses. According to the Austin-based economic consulting firm, one of the best draws for bringing new business to the city is that the cost of living at only 88.8 percent of the national average. Inexpensive housing, at only 71 percent of the national average, pulls down the a cost.

“That’s an important situation that we utilize when talking to companies about the cost of doing business in Athens,” Malone said.

An area where Athens falls behind the national average is in education. About 26 percent of the city’s population has not completed high school. The state average is 21 percent.

“That’s the kind of statistic you have to be concerned with,” Malone said.

The early college education program implemented in Athens a few years ago could go a long way toward improving the city’s high school graduation rate,” Malone said.

The TIPS study reported that Athens most plentiful jobs are in retail, construction, health care, education and agriculture.

“Those are essentially what drives our community,” Malone said.

The AEDC has been selling Athens assets to businesses in other parts of the country, Malone said. California is particularly inviting.

“If you don’t know about what’s happening in California, a lot of the business are just irate,” Malone said. “Their state continues to add additional taxes, not only to businesses, but to the citizens.”