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Local economy and real estate trends among topics discussed at Brownwood Economic Summit

By Betty Nguyen, bnguyen@ktxs.com
Published On: Feb 13 2014 07:11:39 PM CST

More than 100 people gathered at Howard Payne University Thursday morning for Brownwood's Economic Summit to hear about the present and future of Brownwood's population.

Keynote speaker and a research director from San Antonio's University of Texas, Dr. Thomas Tunstall, said Brownwood has a lot to offer to future residents.

"There are large manufacturers based here like Kohler and 3M. There's the fact that there's a lake nearby which provides recreational opportunities, and it's a good sized city. It's big enough to where it can be expected to sort of grow," said Dr. Tunstall.

As great as Brownwood may be, local realtor Mark Campbell said there are some challenges to retain the population for long-term.

"We need some more development. We need some new homes and apartments to be built in Brownwood," said Campbell. "We have people who come to town and leave because they can't find adequate housing."

Brownwood Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) executive director Emily Crawford said Brown County's current population is around 38,000 people. It will likely increase to more than 40,000 people by 2050.

She also said oil and gas, manufacturing and construction are good industries to find jobs in Brown County. For example, new hires in oil and gas earn a monthly average of about $4,500. Another example--the total annual wages paid in Brown County for the manufacturing industry comes out to more than $34 million.

According to Crawford's presentation, there is a low percentage of females in the workforce but a high percentage of veterans. "That's good because they're highly skilled."

Campbell said he is concerned about losing workers to the oil field. "It's scary that people could be leaving Brownwood to get jobs out west. We need to capitalize on our assets and figure out a way to pay them as much as they'd get paid somewhere else."

Dr. Tunstall said job growth, quality of life, environmental stewardship, development of a skilled local workforce and development of high-quality infrastructure are good foundations for long-term sustainability.