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Business group celebrates strong year in 2017

Erin Mansfield - Tyler Morning Telegraph

The Tyler Economic Development Council had its strongest year ever in 2017, according to the council’s president and CEO.

The council, which started in 1989 and shares staff members with the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, helps businesses start and expand operations in Tyler.

It was the strongest year in terms of new jobs coming to Tyler and Smith County and new projects announced for the area, according to the 2017 annual report.

 

The council worked on five new projects related to retaining and expanding companies, two new projects related to new and small businesses, and one new relocation project, according to the annual report.

Tom Mullins, the CEO of the council and the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, presented the report at an annual luncheon on Thursday at the Green Acres Baptist Church’s CrossWalk Conference Center.

“We target primary employers to diversify the local economy to create new job opportunities,” Mullins said. “And by primary we mean companies that trade outside the 14-county East Texas region.

“Last year, we worked on 17 new and continuing projects that created 449 primary jobs and retained 1,500, and resulted in an investment of almost $65 million in plant and equipment as of the end of the last calendar year,” he said.

Among the 17 companies the council has worked with is Sanderson Farms, which is planning an expansion in Smith County that will open in early 2019, and worked with the council to receive tax abatements. 

Additionally, Mullins said home sales increased 8.2 percent in 2017, the average sale price of a home increased $22,000, and property valuations increased by an average of 4.5 percent in Tyler and the rest of Smith County.

Ruth Hughs, the keynote speaker, represents business leaders on the Texas Workforce Commission, a three-person commission that has one commissioner each representing businesses, workers and the general public.

Hughs called the growth in the Tyler area “truly impressive” and cited a 3.8 percent unemployment rate in February, the most recent month the data is available, she said.

“Just over the month (from January to February), Tyler added 700 new jobs, so you’re continuing to grow and so many of you are really in charge of those great numbers that really keep Texas on top,” Hughs said.

 

“The main reason that we continue to succeed is we have a very simple approach,” she said. “We really focus as a state on low taxes, reasonable regulations and our quality talent pipeline.”

Hughs pointed to initiatives Gov. Greg Abbott, who appointed her to the position, has started to bring business and education leaders together to train young people to do the jobs that businesses have open.

Hughs also spoke about “Texas Operation Welcome Home,” a program that recognizes employers that have a workforce comprising at least 10 percent veterans.

“We want to make sure we make business smarter for Texas employers, not harder,” Hughs said.

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