“Spotlight” to return to Seminole

By:  Sam Holbrooks

Sunday, June 2, 2019

With a unanimous vote by the Board of Directors of the Seminole Economic Development Corp. (SEDC), a Lubbock media company will return to Seminole as a part of its “Our Town Spotlight” promotion, a sort of five-day media blitz by Ramar Communications, parent company of Lubbock’s Fox 34 television and other subsidiaries.

The SEDC entered into a similar agreement with Ramar Communications during the summer of 2018. The cost of the production will be shared between the EDC, the Seminole Memorial Hospital District, and the Seminole ISD.

The promotion serves a dual purpose of highlighting participating communites within Fox 34’s viewership, and promoting Ramar Communications programming to the public. At a cost of $5,000, the package is designed to reach Ramar’s viewership through six English and Spanish-speaking TVoutlets, promotions on eight English-speaking and Tejano radio stations, and digital marketing entities like Foxs34.com, Facebook, and Google Adwords.

The package includes, prior to Spotlight Week, productions of one 30-second TV Chamber commercial, one 15-second internet video, and five spotlight stories focused on local history, tourism, and business, as well as 160 branded TV and radio promotions.

Spotlight Week will feature five spotlight stories to run in conjunction with Fox 34’s nightly newscasts, five commerical airings on “Good Day Lubbock”, 25 commercial airings on the company’s English-speaking networks, 120 branded TV promos, 120 radio promos, and targeted display ads and email blasts.

After airing, the Chamber of Commerce will receive a digital “welcome” video for tourism and business development use, and digital stories will be available for six months on the “Our Town Spotlight” web page.

Air dates are yet to be announced.

In the only other single item of business at its meeting Monday, the Board made a change of course with regard to a recently purchased property at 105 S.W. 2nd Street. With no bid offers presented during a sealed bid process, the Board authorized City Administrator Tommy Phillips to proceed with demolition of the property.

During his Administrative report earlier in the meeting, he gave the Board updates on progress at the city-owned Singleton Building on Main, ongoing site preparations for the FTC company, and sales taxes. Sales tax receipts were up 27.95% for the month and 24.50% for the year.


Newly acquired EDC property to be sold through sealed bid

Sam Holbrooks

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

With an aim toward expanding the footprint of downtown Seminole businesses, the Seminole Economic Development Corp. recently acquired two properties on S.W. 2nd Street, one a commercial property and the other a vacated private home. The group plans to use part of the acquisition to provide additional parking for the benefit of Main Street business.

Under discussion on Monday, as the SEDC Board of Directors met at City Hall, was how the city might dispose of the house, located at 105 SW 2nd Street. A unanimous vote by the Board authorized City Administrator Tommy Phillips to submit the property for sale through a sealed bid process.

A date for such a bid is forthcoming after the property can be prepared for viewing. The Board did agree that a potential buyer should be prepared to move the building within 45 days of sale. If that period of time should expire, the house would be razed.

In his Administrative Report, Phillips said a planned parking lot for that portion of 2nd Street will be engineered for proper drainage.

He also said the sale of a seven-acre tract of land at the city-owned business park area has been finalized with International Fatum Technologies, LLC (IFT). An additional seven-acre tract, designated for IFT’s sister company, awaits completion of a survey.

Phillips reported that sales tax receipts for the month saw yet another increase by 29.71 percent over last month, with a 28.04 percent year-to-date increase in revenue.

After retiring to Closed Session to deliberate potential business prospects, the Board returned, with no actions taken.

SEDC Paves the Way for Additional Main Street Parking

Sam Holbrooks

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Seminole Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) met at City Hall on Monday with expectations of a presentation by representatives of Odessa College and its welding program as a cooperative curriculum agreement between OC and the Seminole ISD approaches its launch.

The officials were unable to appear for the sole item of business on the EDC agenda, however, and the Board instead focused on a number of items that had been prepared for City Administrator Tommy Phillips’ regular Administrative Report.

Most notably, Phillips reported that an agreement reached between the EDC and International Fatum Technologies, LLC (IFT) has progressed, and the company has dug a well and begun early groundwork on the seven-acre parcel of land east of the city that was provided to the New York City-based company as part of its agreement.

The firm specializes in the cleaning and decontamination of oil and gas equipment and piping for reuse. Their processes are

designed to remove radionuclides and other contaminations that accumulate on inner and outer surfaces during drilling and mining processes.

The company is expected to employ at least nine employees in Seminole, with salaries averaging approximately $60,000 per year. An IFT sister

company is expected to occupy an adjacent seven-acre property after the deal is finalized.

Phillips also provided an update on recent purchases of properties on SW 2nd St. that will serve as additional parking for several Main Street businesses. Phillips recommended that the city contract engineering work to set elevations for proper drainage of the parking lot during times of heavy rains. Also purchased was the 2nd Street building that had previously housed the Security Finance Company.

The Board discussed additional new businesses in Seminole that are close to their opening dates, primarily centered on Main Street, as well as Avenue G.

Phillips reported that sales tax collections for February are up 12.33%, bringing the year-to-date increase to 28%.

Budget Workshop, Corporation Guideline Review Addressed Monday

By:  Sam Holbrooks

Tuesday, July 24, 2018


Just in time to be introduced to the Seminole Economic Development Corporation's new proposed 2018-2019 budget, area businessmen Amy Bradley and Tim Neufeld took their seats on the Board of Directors for the SEDC as the group held its regularly scheduled meeting at City Hall on Monday afternoon. The new members were chosen to fill the seats recently vacated by Anna Friessen and now Mayor, John Belcher.

Unlike past members, Bradley and Neufeld received an orientation from City Administrator Tommy Phillips to help streamline the learning curve. Phillips familiarized them with the SEDC as a quasi-governmental group, answerable to the City of Seminole, with the same open meetings, open records requirements of other government entities. Phillips explained the purpose of the EDC, how it is funded, ethics guidelines, and other components.

Board members received copies of the proposed 2018-2019 budget for their consideration in coming weeks. The budget projection of $750,000 is based on revenues from a local half-cent sales tax that is committed to economic development. With steady increases in sales tax revenue -- up 17% for the month and 11.9% for the year -- this year's budget saw a $50,000 increase. The EDC receives an additional $25,000 in interest income.

Board members revisited an issue that was discussed at its June meeting, the possibility of a new relief route for truck traffic that would direct semi-trucks around town, rather than through the downtown area. Phillips and Mayor Belcher recently met with Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials at its Lubbock office. 

Phillips said that, while the idea was well-received, he and Belcher were encouraged to approach the state commission for funding support. He added that, if such state assistance could be secured, phase one of the project would likely include a bypass that would connect West Highway 180 to Highway 385.

Phillips noted that the benefits to Seminole, which has the intersection of two state highways downtown, would be greater than other communities like Lamesa and Brownfield, whose downtown areas are set off from any main artery.

The Board also discussed the disposition of a nine-acre tract of EDC-owned land in the 1900-2000 block of Hobbs Highway. Once held as a prime location for a possible supermarket, those plans went cold, and Board members were asked to consider whether the land should be held for future development, or put on the market for sale.

The group also discussed whether some Board members should plan to attend the Connected Tech Expo, scheduled for October 17-18 in Las Vegas. The event's primary focus is one "smart" technologies for buildings, homes, and cities. Attendees will include a cross section of IT specialists, Architects, Engineers, Lighting Designers, City Managers/Urban Planners, Energy Consultants, Facility Managers, Security Managers, and Systems Integrators.


Seminole EDC Discusses Traffic Portion of Strategic Plan May 25, 2018

May 25, 2018

The Board of Directors of the Seminole Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) came together in a regular meeting at City Hall last Tuesday to revisit the city’s strategic plan for the future. Of primary interest to the Board is a long-discussed issue of providing at least a partial bypass of the city of Seminole to alleviate a growing issue of traffic congestion in the city limits.

“I’d like to see a loop around Seminole,” President Board President Kevin Petty told the group. “We need to see if we can work with other people to get that done.”

There can be little question that a truck by-pass would be — in fact, has been, among Seminole residents’ top priorities. In a 2015 poll on the Seminole Sentinel website, 91.6 per cent of respondents answered the question, “Do you feel the City of Seminole, Gaines County and Texas Dept. of Transportation (TxDOT) officials need to revisit the current truck by-pass for the Seminole community,” in the affirmative.

It is a complex issues that would require a package that would include multiple agencies working in cooperation with the City of Seminole, including Gaines County government and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). It would likely involve the purchase of properties under Imminent Domain regulations, and the possible annexation of portions of land just outside the current city limits.

The prospect of building new roadways would also likely involve issues related to road construction over a network of pipelines that currently lace Seminole and central Gaines County.

While FM 1788 (Telephone Road) came up in the SEDC discussion as a possible link to a potential bypass, Seminole’s 11th Street, as well as SW Ave. G, have long been the primary focus of any efforts to alleviate traffic moving through Seminole. 11th street ties together two lesser arteries, the Frankel City Highway and the Denver City Highway, but more importantly, provides some relief for truck traffic between the Andrews and Hobbs Highways. The greatest amount of traffic, however, enters Seminole from its north side.

In February 2014, TxDOT and City of Seminole officials implemented the use of the current truck reliever route, which sees eastbound U.S. 62/180 traffic turning southbound onto U.S. 385 diverted southbound onto N.W./S.W. 11th St. from the US 62/180-N.W. 11th St. intersection. From that turning point, tractor-trucks travel south along 11th St. to the intersection of S.W. Ave. G, where trucks turn eastbound onto S.W. Ave. G and travel to the US 385 red-light intersection, where they turn southbound onto U.S. 385.

While presenting an inconvenience to some residents living on or near 11th Street, Implementation of the new route proved to play a valuable role in siphoning off truck traffic that had previously congested the downtown area by attempting a difficult right turn at Ave. A and Main Street.

Following a period of extensive growth in Gaines County, 2016 figures from TxDOT show that 12,362 vehicles will approach the North Main Street and Ave. A intersection on an average day, while an average 14,359 will approach the traffic light on South Main Street. Another 6,754 vehicles will approach the Main Street intersection from the east, and 12,111 from the west.

Also included on the TxDOT map of Seminole traffic patterns, 2,218 cars will enter/exit Seminole on Farm-to-Market 1788 (Telephone Road), 3,290 on Farm-to-Market Road 181 (Frankel City Hwy.), and 4,881 on State Highway 214 (Denver City Hwy).

Also briefly discussed during the SEDC session was the need for a plan for city-owned property east of Seminole that has been designated as the site of a proposed business park.


The Best 100 Towns in Texas for Starting a Small Business

February 6, 2018 Posted by: Mike Brown       Category: Small Business Loans  

In more ways than one, Texas is big.

y both area and population, Texas is the second largest state in the United States. The Lone Star State has the second most electoral votes in the country. There are three cities in Texas with a population above one million: Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas. Two more cities, Austin and Fort Worth, are pushing the million-person mark.

Since 2002, Texas has led the U.S. in export revenue and has had the second highest gross-state product. Were it a country, Texas would have the 10th largest economy in the world. 

While everything in Texas seems to be super-sized, one can still appreciate the smaller, finer things in the state. 

That is especially true when it comes to small businesses in the Lone Star State. Bigger isn't always better, and small businesses in Texas can attest to that motto. Every American can appreciate a small business that puts a little extra tender, lovin' care into their products, as opposed to Walmart goods that are made on a conveyor belt.

Despite all of its grandiosity, Texas is still home to many towns and cities that offer some of the best small businesses around. LendEDU has recognized the 100 towns and cities in the Lone Star State that have become the very best for starting small business. 

Using licensed data, we analyzed over 1,000 Texas communities based on their conduciveness to small businesses. The following three parameters were used to judge each town and city:

  1. opulation Score (20%, listed in table as Pop.)
  2. Income Score (40%, listed in table as Income)
  3. Expenses Score (40%, listed in table as Expenses)

Each parameter featured a few sub-metrics that were used to calculate the total score for each parameter. Afterwords, every Texas community's three parameter scores were summed together to get the final score. The entire process is explained further in the methodology at the bottom of this page.

Below, you will be able to see the 100 towns and cities in Texas that LendEDU has recognized as the very best for starting a small business.

Complete Rankings & Interactive Map of the Best 100 Towns in Texas for Small Businesses



RankCityCountyPop.IncomeExpensesTotal Score



3La VerniaWilson9.3926.2430.3966.02



6Carrizo SpringsDimmit14.5422.2027.6664.40



























33La GrangeFayette7.6716.9629.5954.22







40Colorado CityMitchell6.6521.5825.0653.29




44RichmondFort Bend10.6019.5622.4052.56







51Sugar LandFort Bend9.8921.6019.5050.99






57Rio Grande CityStarr11.5116.7622.2450.51

58New BraunfelsGuadalupe14.4421.6014.0050.04




62La PorteHarris11.0016.5421.5949.13


64Fort StocktonPecos7.8720.7820.3849.03

65League CityGalveston9.9924.8413.5148.34

66InglesideSan Patricio9.9921.6016.6648.25




70PortlandSan Patricio7.6622.0018.0447.70


72Dripping SpringsHays10.4922.8013.3546.64



75Pipe CreekBandera0.6021.4024.1046.10



78College StationBrazos18.0712.3015.6145.98


80The ColonyDenton9.8920.3815.2945.56







87New CaneyMontgomery8.289.8826.6744.83














Showing 1 to 100 of 100 entries


All data that was used in this report was licensed by LendEDU from Onboard Informatics. Onboard Informatics' dataset includes many stand alone statistics that were used for this report, including population figures, tax data, and income projection figures. In total, over 1,000 Texas towns and cities were evaluated for this study. An arbitrary population cutoff was established at 7,500, and any community with a population below that number was eliminated from further analysis. 

The following three parameters and their respective sub-metrics were used to evaluate each and every Texas town and city based on their conduciveness towards small businesses.

1. Population Score (Weight - 20%, Maximum Point Total - 20 points)

  • Daytime Population Score - The difference in the normal population and the population that is present during standard working day hours (Weight - 10%, Maximum Point Total - 10 points)
  • Population Growth Score - Forecasted population growth over the next five years (Weight - 10%, Maximum Point Total - 10 points)

2. Income Score (Weight - 40%, Maximum Point Total - 40 points)

  • Disposable Income Score - The average disposable income available to residents (Weight - 20%, Maximum Point Total - 20 points) (note: this helps reduce the need for small business loans)
  • Income Growth Score - Forecasted income growth over the next five years (Weight - 20%, Maximum Point Total - 20 points)

3. Expenses Score (Weight - 40%, Maximum Point Total - 40 points)

  • Property Tax Score - Property tax rates (Weight - 8%, Maximum Point Total - 8 points)
  • Sales Tax Score - Sales tax rate (Weight - 8%, Maximum Point Total - 8 points)
  • Utilities Score - Average cost of utilities (Weight - 8%, Maximum Point Total - 8 points)
  • Burglary Score - Rate of burglaries compared to the national average (Weight- 8%, Maximum Point Total - 8 points)
  • Property Crime Score - Rate of property crimes compared to the national average (Weight - 8%, Maximum Point Total - 8 points)

Each town and city's respective sub-metric score for a specific sub-category was ranked against all the other respective town's sub-metric scores in the same sub-category on a percent scale from 0 to 100. This was done for each sub-metric. Later, each individual percent rank was multiplied by its weight to produce the point total. All of a given community's sub-metric scores in a specific parameter were added together to get the total parameter score. All three total parameter scores were then summed together to get the final score. Towns and cities in Texas with a greater final score were ranked higher on the list and vice-versa. 



NEW Seminole ISD Welding Program Focuses on Workforce

Through the cooperative efforts of the Seminole Independent School District, the Seminole Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), and Odessa College, the new year will bring  a newer and more advanced welding program to the Seminole High School and the SISD Adult Education program.

The program part of a larger effort that is intended to help students who may be considering options other than a post-secondary education, who may choose to enter the workforce after high school. The curriculum will also extend to adult members of the community who are interested in learning welding as a trade. The school is on track for a similar program for nurse training (CNA) at the end of this month.

While Seminole High School has long had a welding program as an elective component of its Industrial Arts curricula, the new initiative will provide more advanced training on updated equipment, with the possibility of full certification as part of a dual credit program with Odessa College. The training will provide welding processes more in line with those in a real work environment.

In a letter to the James F. Lincoln Foundation, the charitable arm of Euclid, Ohio-based Lincoln Electric, former SEDC Executive Director Chris Jones made inquiries as to the possibility of the company providing welding machines for student use. Jones explained that Seminole is a prime industrial location situated at the northern end of the oil-rich Permian Basin, and the southern end of the largely agricultural South Plains. Jones cited a recent study by a regional workforce group that indicated a growing need for welders in the region over the next 12 years.

In response, the company forwarded the information to one of its regional offices in the Midland-Odessa area and sent two company representatives to look over the SHS facility. A suitable arrangement was chosen at the 2700 sq. ft. Seminole High School Industrial Arts facilities, and the company offered the donation of ten welding machines and a full ventilation system.

Last month, the Board voted to approve funds for the fabrication of 10 individual welding booths for student use. The booths are necessary to protect students from both eye damage from flash burns, and small debris that results from grinding metal.

“We’re trying to find the resources to bulk up our current technology program,” SISD Superintendent Gary Laramore told the Sentinel. “We want to help our kids who are preparing for the workforce, and preparing for life after high school.”

“Seminole is an incredible place, no matter what your kids are interested in, and it’s an incredible school district. We have so many offerings from an extracurricular standpoint,” Laramore continued.

“But we have another group of kids who, while they might love to be a part of that — theater, football, band, they can’t spend two-and-a-half hours a day practicing those things. They’ve got to get out of high school and get employed. Some of them need to help their parents. We’re trying to take care of that group of children also.”

Laramore agreed with SEDC Executive Director Chris Jones’ characterization of the welding program, as well as a nurse training curriculum that is also planned, as the “low hanging fruit — programs that could get off the ground faster with the least disruption in the near term. Having the existing facilities and the philanthropic help from Lincoln Electric, and additional help with equipment for the CNA program from the Seminole Memorial Hospital District,  saved considerable time and expense.

“The reason for that is the funding aspect of it — everything we’re trying to do in technology education, we’re trying to accomplish without harming anything else we’re doing,” Laramore explained. “The SEDC has been great by helping us with the college partnership to help not only our children, but our adult community also. That’s where Chris has been so important, is the partnerships between the school, and the EDC, Anderson Welding — we meet with the County Judge once a month, to see what we can do to work together. We’re going to miss him greatly.”

“And I do want to add that the hospital district donated all of the equipment for the CNA classes.”

Stacie Laramore, the district’s Crew Technology Education Specialist (CTE), adds, “With this partnership, our high school teachers will be able to work with the professors at Odessa, whether it’s welding or CNA. They’ll help support our teachers with curriculum, and on the high school side, they’ll be able to help with the dual credit part.”

“For the (adult) community,  It’s called Community Education, and they’ll also be able to help our community members get what they need to be employable. So they just work with us to make sure we’re on the right track. We’re looking at night classes for that. We don’t have a time frame yet, just because the equipment isn’t in place yet. As soon as it’s in place, we’ll start working with Odessa College on the welding side of it. ”

“With the CNA, we hope to start classes on January 29th,” Stacie Laramore adds. “We have about seven applications for the program from the Success Center, and about ten from the high school. I’ll have to narrow that down to ten through an interview process.”

With the school anticipating the arrival of new welding equipment, Anderson Welding of Seminole recently picked up much of the welding shop’s existing equipment and got it in good working order.

By offering dual credit courses, SHS is able to graduate students who have already been introduced to the skills needed to become employable. Additionally, it helps local students to have a greater chance of staying in the area, if they so choose, and if they’ve learned skills that can be applied locally.

“The beauty of what we’ve done here through our district innovation plan is, we don’t have to have certified teachers. We can have welders teaching welding, or even law enforcement offers teaching law. We did that to help our current technology program expand.” Gary Laramore said.  

“We hear from our local employers, who tell us that most of the skills needed are learned on the job. We’re telling them to come on in to our school and teach them, and when they graduate, you don’t have to train them. They’re ready to go — and our local product stays here. And with the challenge of coming from somewhere else and finding a place to live here, well if they’re already here, that helps a ton. They live here. They like it here, so let’s get them into the workforce.”

“With the CNA classes, it’s a great start in the profession,” Laramore adds. “It allows students to go try it on the ground floor level. It may be a calling for them, and they can find out if that’s where they need to be.”

CNA Instructors must be at least an RN or LVN, and must have worked in a long term care facility for at least a year.

Laramore hopes to continue to expand upon the vocational training at SHS, including a return of the building trades that were once taught here, within the next few years. Local builders, Fehr’s Construction, has expressed an interest in participating in training, and even employing locally educated work crews after graduates complete the program.

“They had a great program — they even built several houses here,” Laramore said. “We want our kids to invest their time and efforts and energy into something that’s going to make a difference here in Seminole for a long time.”

By Sam Holbrooks
Seminole Sentinel

SEDC Has Experienced Some Growth Since 2002 Inception

Once thought to be strictly within the purview of national governments in the industrialized world, the concept of government-assisted economic development has, in modern times, become increasingly downsized to include not only mid-size to large cities across America, but even smaller communities like Seminole. In a competitive business environment, the creation of economic development entities throughout the country was inevitable.

Consider that sports arenas, once largely held by private investment groups, are now often partially or wholly owned by local governments, and the construction of a new stadium is, on average, 65-percent subsidized by taxpayers. Just since 1997, 19 new NFL stadiums have been built, all but two under such arrangements that include approximately $7 billion in taxpayer funding on the federal, state, and local levels.

To a small town, a new manufacturing facility is as crucial to the community as a sports complex in a large metropolitan area with an NFL franchise. The jobs created by a new fried chicken franchise or a shoe store are not inconsequential in a community with a population of 6,000-plus.

While some may lament the co-mingling of public and private funds, the benefits of this melding of municipal governments and business is clear and is, for the most part, quantifiable. Local taxpayers generally understand that, provided that all dealmaking is kept transparent and the benefits to the community are tangible.

The reality in the modern world is that those who manage a community’s purse strings and property have the leverage to provide the incentives to attract new businesses to an area, or to retain existing ones. Thus the competition between small communities can be much more intense than what meets the eye.

Incentives may include investment capital, low interest loans, tax incentives, donated land, utility rate discounts, and many others. Such incentives are based on a criteria which consists primarily of the number of new jobs created or retained, annual payroll, and the amount of capital investment.

The City of Seminole entered that arena in 2002 with a ballot initiative that created the Seminole Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), using a local half-cent sales tax to fund its operations.  The Texas legislature’s Development Corporation Act of 1979 allowed municipalities broad latitude in determining how economic development would be defined.

With such latitude, under past Executive Directors, the SEDC has assisted in the acquisition of affordable housing and even secured a federal grant to conduct a feasibility study for the extension of a railway into Seminole.

In addition to the aforementioned incentives, the SEDC budget includes a facade program that provides up to $5,000 for improvements to downtown storefronts. Two $5,000 grants in 2017 helped to deliver $69,815 in capital investments in the downtown area, according to departing SEDC Executive Director Chris Jones.

“In a weak job market, the focus is on job creation and workforce development,” Jones explained to the Sentinel. “When your unemployment is down to 2-percent, you have to change the matrix a bit, more toward capital investment.”

Other relatively small “quality of life” budget items are intended to make the city more attractive to potential investors. Under this program, the SEDC made an investment in the City Park Splashpad to supplement a private grant, and a colorful new lighting system will enhance the downtown area, beginning in January. While the benefits remain more intangible, it is a type of “Dress for Success” approach to making a town more attractive for investment.

Among the SEDC’s most obvious successes is the Beall’s Department store on Avenue A, which provides an anchor for commerce in the downtown area. Beall’s retention in Seminole, and the subsequent expansion of Beall’s Shoes into the adjacent space, was the culmination of a complex array of incentives that included, among other things, roof repairs and donated property, including part of the parking area behind the store.

Likewise, Wingate by Wyndham brought an independently owned but nationally recognized brand to town with its presence in west Seminole. A deal was hammered out with its Midland owners that included a $750,000 grant, paid out over a five-year period, on the owners’ initial $4 million capital investment. The Wingate turns in periodic reports related to room occupancy.

According to Jones, however, the group’s biggest success is the JNL Steel Components business on the Hobbs Highway. Created with an initial capital investment of $1.2 million, the SEDC’s contribution was a five-year $100,000 loan at 3.25-percent interest. JNL’s agreement was based on 46 jobs created, which it surpassed in a short time.

In the last six years, a period of time during which the most accurate records could be had, the SEDC provided loan guarantees of $1,258,600 toward $10,558,000 in capital investments between 13 currently operating businesses in Seminole. According to Jones, 12 are in compliance with their original agreements, and efforts are under way to bring one into full compliance. Negotiations with the 13 businesses included guarantees of the creation of at least 134 new jobs.

Those businesses include, in addition to JNL and the Wingate, the recently negotiated Blossom Estates Vineyard, BYOP Pizza, Elite Sports Center, Tex-Star Windows, and the Workplace Testing Center, all of whom received short term low interest loans. Receiving a package that includes a combination of low interest loans and grants are Dickey’s Barbecue and the Kingdom Kids Academy.

Grants were issued to Mochachino’s Coffee Shop and Let’s Celebrate Bakery for facade improvements as part of the SEDC’s Downtown Revitalization program. Additional grants were provided to the new owners of properties at 216 and 218 South Main Street. The Seminole Dunes Apartments were built with an initial capital investment of $3.2 million, with a $60,000 pass-through loan from the SEDC, reimbursable through a federal grant for subsidized housing.

The Bush’s Chicken franchise arrangement involved the donation of city-owned land. Since land is a finite resource, contingencies are made that allow the city to place a lien on a parcel of land, and any improvements, if the recipient is not in compliance or defaults on its contract with the SEDC.

Currently in a holding pattern, awaiting the finalization of all details of their individual business plans are the Sunland Retirement Center, which will open with a $2 million capital investment and plans the creation of approximately 20 jobs, Border States, a lawn company specializing in commercial lots, which plans 15 jobs and a $250,000 capital investment, and a new installation planned by the Angelina Tank Company, which is on hold pending talks between its investors. Jones hopes that the Angelina Tanks project will represent an establishment of Gaines County’s first manufacturing facility in 20 years.

“Since most of this $1.2 million is in the form of loans, that’s money that we recoup, with interest” Jones told the Sentinel. “Only a small portion of that is the form of grants. And for a loan to become a grant, the company has to meet certain performance criteria. Since I got here, we’ve addressed the compliance issues and got everybody up-to-date on their contracts.”

Taking the position of Executive Director of the SEDC during the summer of 2016, Jones was a Seminole native who was recruited from his Defense Department post in Utah. Near the end of his first year at the SEDC, the 34-year-old Director released the centerpiece of his approach to the office, a five-year Strategic Plan from which most of his efforts would spring. His plan focused primarily on Gaines County’s Agriculture, Energy, Manufacturing, and Medical industries.

The multiple facets of each would ultimately broaden the scope of his office’s functions considerably more than his predecessors. From the outset, Jones took a more hands-on approach to Seminole business. Regular visits to area businesses to acquire feedback became a staple of his office, with assistance from Workforce Coordinator Kristi Duncan.

Jones also redirected most of his office’s marketing efforts from magazine advertising to the digital realm, resulting in more than 130 new business contacts and requests for business packets since its institution last summer. The effort was supplemented by travel to two recent business conferences related to fabrication and business aviation.

“These are all people looking to expand or relocate their companies,” Jones explained. “We’re generating about four leads per week, and we mail packets to them.”
Jones also established a Real Estate advisory committee to help facilitate the connection between new businesses and available property, and with the SEDC Board and the City council, introduced five separate loan programs aimed at the capitalization of new and existing businesses.

Under Jones’ advisement, the SEDC and the Seminole City Council got the Freeport Tax Exemption passed to help facilitate businesses who manufacture goods from components that are shipped in from elsewhere, then reshipped out of Seminole.

Along with performing the usual business recruitment and retention functions of his office, Jones also addressed a second component of the job creation aspect of that office, the training and availability of a competent local workforce.  

In that vein, Jones has focused on the schools, establishing a relationship between his office and students and faculty participating in the SkillsUSA program. He has spoken to SHS students and distributed information concerning workforce retention.

Forming a formal partnership with Odessa College and the Seminole Independent School District, Jones laid the groundwork for a welding program at Seminole High School that will ultimately lead to full certification in a dual-credit arrangement with OC. Similar plans are in the works for a nurse training program.

“For now, we were going for the low-hanging fruit,” Jones told the Sentinel. “With what the school has in place now, these were the programs that would be easiest to get off the ground in a shorter period of time.”

The welding program at SHS will receive assistance from Lincoln Electric of Euclid, Ohio, which will donate at least six welding machines and exhaust equipment to replace the existing antiquated shop equipment. Representatives of the company recently toured the SHS facility and its 2700 sq. ft. space devoted to the Industrial Arts.

The relationship with Odessa College also facilitated a series of advisory sessions that provided office space for the Odessa-based Small Business Development Council (SBDC) to consult with local business people. A series of SEDC-sponsored “Eggs and Issues” breakfasts allowed local business leaders and office holders to address District 83 Representative Dustin Burrows and other elected officials. A Small Business Appreciation banquet last March was another part of the overall business outreach package.

For his efforts,  Jones was recognized by the Texas Economic Development Council with a special Merit Achievement Award at the annual TEDC conference.
Jones left his SEDC post at the end of December to take a similar position for the City of Andrews, but not before explaining his perceptions of some of the pitfalls of the office’s duties as they are currently configured.

“This office can only function as a normal EDC with greater autonomy,” Jones told the Sentinel. “The city has a responsibility of upholding the law and doing all these mandatory type things like code enforcement. But in order for us to sit in that sweet spot and advocate on behalf of businesses, and make the processes so seamless for businesses that they don’t even notice, we can’t be tied down to what people perceive to be difficult. That autonomy has to be there, from a budget perspective, and from a daily operations perspective.”

At its first meeting of 2018, the Seminole City Council, addressing a recent proposal by Mayor Wayne Mixon, will discuss whether to defund the SEDC office and place it on a ballot for public vote in May.

By Sam Holbrooks, Seminole Sentinel

SEDC: Workforce Training Courses Being Eyed in Seminole Through OC

In an effort to further develop the available workforce within the Seminole and Gaines County, the Seminole Economic Development Corp. has reached a “memo of understanding” with Odessa College for the possible offering of specialized training and workforce development education training.

If minimal enrollment requirements are met, courses could be held in the Seminole community as early as January 2018, according to SEDC officials in an announcement issued last week.
According to SEDC officials, the following college-level courses are being eyed for the Seminole community include: Introduction to General Office Skills, Workplace Communications, Keyboarding Skills, Introduction to Computers: Computer Applications I, Introduction to Customer Service, and E-mailing.

“All of the courses are designed for non-traditional students who are looking to improve their basic work skills through these potential offerings, said Chris Jones, Executive Director of the SEDC, who added SEDC and Odessa College officials had been in discussions on the proposed venture for “the last seven-to-eight months.”

“We’re hoping this partnership will help better develop our local workforce for our current businesses and those potentially looking to come to Seminole to develop,” said Jones. “As we prepare for changes, which comes as a result of an advanced dynamic economy, preparing and building our workforce by offering training is how we stay ahead.”

For more details related to the venture, contact the Seminole EDC offices at (432) 758-8803, by visiting the SEDC offices inside Seminole City Hall, 302 S. Main St., or by emailing SEDC Workforce Coordinator Kristi Duncan at kduncan@seminoleedc.org.

The Seminole Sentinel attempted to reach out to Odessa College officials in relation to the proposed venture, but had yet to hear from institution officials as of Monday afternoon.

EDC To Tweak Seminole's Marketing Approach

With the exception of one actionable item, Monday’s scheduled meeting of the Seminole Economic Development Corporation Board of Trustees was more of a roundtable discussion of matters that are pending before the group. The lone exception, however, will influence, to some degree, how the city markets itself.

A two-year-old marketing relationship with the World Economic Development Alliance (WEDA), one that was forged by a previous SEDC Executive Director, is one that involves primarily e-mail marketing campaigns that are designed to connect communities with companies that are considering expansion or relocation. It is a system that, in current Director Chris Jones’ opinion, has been largely ineffectual for Seminole.

Jones recently unveiled a slightly different approach that has the same desired effect, but uses more advanced digital publishing technologies to match communities with company prospects. With the company’s guarantees of an amendment to its contract that will allow the SEDC greater access to data gathered, the Board approved a new relationship with the Irving office ofMultiview Marketing. The vote also effectively dissolved the relationship with WEDA.

Jones also gave the Board a rundown of planned Economic Development oriented trade shows and conferences thathe plans to attend, that he feels could have a potentially positive impact on Seminole Business prospects and fit in with the manufacturing elements of his recently developed Strategic Plan.

Those include an October 10-12 Business Aviation Conference in Las Vegas, with a focus on the manufacturing of airplane components, and the annual conference of the Texas Economic Development Council (TEDC) in Houston on October 18-20.

Other events on Jones’ schedule include the FABTech conference in Chicago on November 6-8. Jones’ target is the metal fabrication industry and the potential creation of welding “clusters”, or the development of a skilled pool of welders in the workforce. He will also attend the ICSC Texas Conference in Dallas on November 8-10.  The purpose of the conference is to unite property owners, developers, retailers, real estate brokers, lenders, property asset managers and product/service providers with municipalities.

In his effort to forge a stronger business alliance with Gaines County government, Jones’ Executive Director’s report included Monday morning’sappearance before the Gaines County Commissioner’s Court. Jones hopes to build an alliance between County and City government and business interests in order to facilitate an economic development arrangement with Angelina Tank Company, which plans an expansion to Gaines County.

In her first Workforce Coordinator update, Kristi Duncan reported a recent visit to Odessa College, with whom the SEDC has established a workforce development relationship. Duncan also has plans to begin a series of visits to area businesses.

Board member Michel Powers conducted the meeting in the absence of Board President Kevin Petty.