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.

Seminole EDC, City to be Featured in International Economic Development Webinar

The Seminole Economic Development Corp. and the City of Seminole will be a key feature of a presentation scheduled later this week in regard to economic development for communities.

A presentation, which according to a press release issued by an Austin-based firm participating as a presenter for a San Francisco-based planning company which has a reach of over 13,000 cities spread among 43 U.S. states.

According to the firm of Johnson & Associates, the SEDC and City of Seminole will be featured in the company’s upcoming Thursday webinar with GIS Planning, entitled “How to Engage Community Stakeholders.”

Johnson & Associates Senior Vice President, Melissa Woodall, will present the webinar to the company, which provides real estate, demographic, and industry data to help businesses and site selection professionals select optimal geographic locations through powerful online mapping analysis.

Woodall, who has over 23 years of economic development experience in communities in Texas and Arizona, worked with the SEDC, the City of Seminole and local business leaders in a May 2017 Sales Team Training session in Seminole.

“As I was preparing for this presentation, I looked back over the best examples of engaged and enthused community leadership and hands down, Seminole rose to the top of the list,” said Woodall in the press release obtained by the Seminole Sentinel.  “After spending a day with the EDC Board, the City Council, Gaines County Judge Keyes, the SISD, the Chamber of Commerce and business community I left Seminole with a unique sense of shared vision and commitment to success.   I contacted (SEDC Executive Director) Chris (Jones) and asked if he would be willing to provide me with a short video for use in the webinar and of course he was happy to do so.”

Jones, in a Thursday morning telephone interview with the Seminole Sentinel, said he was first taken back with the request to participate in the webinar, but quickly jumped on the opportunity.

“This is an international (webinar),” said Jones. “From a marketing standpoint, anytime you can get your name out there, it’s a huge deal. And, for us to be able to get Seminole’s name out there internationally to let folks know what’s going on here and the good things happening here and in West Texas, well that’s a good thing.”

The SEDC, under Jones’ term, is in the midst of the development and implementation of a strategic plan for the business retention and development municipality which is targeting four areas of industry for the Seminole community: Agriculture, Energy, Manufacturing, and Medical. Those represent four areasthat either have had a strong foothold in Seminole and Gaines County for decades, or show signs of emerging growth, according to Jones.

According to Jones’ outline, the goal of the strategic plan is “to outline development efforts in Seminole for the next 3-5 years. With an economic development strategic plan, the City of Seminole can bring together it’s entire community to support a vision, goals, and strategies which allow Seminole to grow and thrive.

However, economic development is not the responsibility of one individual or board, but rather the responsibility of a committed community. This plan will provide a vision, guiding principles, and simple goals for economic development in the City of Seminole.”

In Thursday’s presentation, Woodall is anticipated to speak to four specific areas related to economic development, citing examples of implementations and projects she’s been involved with over the years. Additionally, Woodall will address the importance of the “elevator pitch” for economic developers and community leaders, explaining the critical elements you’ll want to include and offering an example. “You never know if you are going to make a deal on the golf course, at a Rotary Club meeting or walking through the grocery store, so it is important that all community leaders need to know what to say when the opportunity presents itself,” she says.

According to the press release, GIS Planning is the world leader in online economic development solutions. Over 13,000 U.S. cities in 43 states are served by GIS Planning’s Geographic Information System (GIS) Software, which provides real estate, demographic, and industry data to help businesses and site selection professionals select optimal geographic locations through powerful online mapping analysis. GIS Planning’s software as a service helps local communities grow their economies through business investment.   Headquartered in San Francisco, GIS Planning has been included on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in the U.S. for the past five years.

Johnson & Associates is one of the most respected community and economic development consulting firms in the nation with over thirty years of experience in providing services to cities, economic development organizations and chambers of commerce.   Based in Austin, J&A has offices in Galveston, Oxford, Miss. and Bartlett, Tenn. and has worked with hundreds of clients.

GIS Planning hosts a regular series of informational and educational webinars throughout the year that are available to economic and community developers as well as business leaders not only in the United States but around the globe.  If you are interested in participating in this free webinar, you may visit the Johnson & Associates website www.jatoday.com and register.

Blossom Estate Launches Gaines County Wine Production

June 1, 2017

Local LLC Inks Loan Agreement with SEDC

Compared to the ancient winemaking traditions of Western Europe, or even those more contemporary and well established wineries of California’s Central Valley, Texas’ wine industry might be thought to be in its relative infancy. The fact is, Texas winemaking dates back to the 1650’s, to Franciscan priests who planted vineyards around what is now El Paso, more than 100 years before the first vines were planted on the West Coast.

While the actual acreage devoted to planted vineyards for the production of wine grapes in the Lone Star State, 3,500, is dwarfed by California’s 427,000 acres, the Texas High Plains includes an 8 million-acre stretch of sun-drenched land that makes up the second largest viticultural (grape-friendly) region of the world. Texas is home to over 36 members of the Vitis grape vine family, with 15 of those native to the state, more than any other region on earth. The soil and the sunny and semi-arid climate of the wine making regions in the state have drawn comparisons to those produced in Portugal.

With the initiatives of, and a sizable investment by, local businessman Henry Neufeld, along with an incentive package provided by the Seminole Economic Development Corporation, Texas newest boutique winery, Blossom Estate Vineyard, will have a home in Gaines County, with a nearly 37-acre plot of land ultimately dedicated to the production of grapes. 12 of those will yield this year’s crop of Sangiovese and Pinot Noir grapes, due to be harvested by hand later this month.

Later, Neufeld will offer a Sauvignon Blanc, produced from 7,500 of the white grape plants that were seeded last winter. By 2019, he plans to produce a Merlot from an additional 1,500 plants that produce the wine’s rich, almost black coloring.

Neufeld is a 22-year resident of Seminole since his immigration from Mexico. A native of Fresno, Calif., his wife Maria came to the area in 1977.

The Neufeld’s had long wanted to begin work on a vineyard, and after a purchase of land in 2014, that dream expanded into a desire to produce wine.

“This is really nothing new to this area. It started way before our time” Neufeld explains. “If you go to Brownfield, you can see some old vineyards. What happened — well I get stories — one of them is that a drought killed them off, and another says that it was pestilence. I was raised in cotton, but when grapes came back, it gave us this opportunity.”

The Neufelds’ goal for the near term is to produce pesticide-free grapes for organic wine, to label it and market it to retail stores, hotels, and restaurants within a small radius of Seminole, then expand from there. Primary regional competition will come from more established vintners at Lubbock’s Llano Estacado, Caprock, and Pheasant Ridge wineries. Because he will not be registered to sell retail, Neufeld eventually hopes to open a wine-tasting facility on property he owns on the Hobbs Highway after the production facility is approved by the state.

Neufeld also hopes to start a trend that will bring other grape producers in, along with jobs via the greater number of man hours per acre that the crop generates, as compared to cotton, peanuts, and other crops. Neufeld will have the capability to bottle wine for other brands as well. Those vineyards would provide the grapes.

According to Neufeld, the West Texas climate is favorable to an organic product because of the abundance of sunshine, and a drier climate helps to prevent certain types of fungi which can form inside of grape clusters, common in more humid environments. Grapes require considerably less irrigation than other crops common to the area, such as peanuts, and far less acreage to become profitable.

While SEDC Executive Director Chris Jones wears a number of hats in his position, and other efforts are in the works, the Blossom Estate agreement represents his first completed contract with a new business since taking the position.

“One reason I think this type of business has promise, is the state has put out a list of needed crops for the state, and on that list were the specific grapes that they grow,” Jones explained. “With a Young Farmer Grant, the Texas Department of Agriculture will partner with anyone growing a crop on that list.”

The Young Farmer program also assists members in the marketing of their products.

“And if you look at my Strategic Plan, we need to settle on a strong third crop rotation,” Jones added. “More importantly, we need to bring the markets here, instead of just shipping most of our stuff to larger markets.”

“And from a fiduciary perspective, I think the SEDC is being very responsible with the taxpayer’s money.”

With Neufeld’s initial capital investment of well over a half-million dollars and a commitment to hire from the local labor force whenever possible, his obligations to the SEDC include a commitment for at least five seasonal jobs, paying $9.00-$13.00 per hour. Jones expects the actual number of employees to exceed that minimum requirement, based on examples of similar operations in Brownfield. Currently, the Brownfield area accounts for up to 80-percent of the wine bottled in the state.

While it represents a small portion of Neufeld’s overall investment in company infrastructure and equipment, the SEDC will provide to Blossom Estate Vineyard, LLC, a three percent (3%) per annum loan in the amount of $30,000.00, covering a considerable portion of the company’s first-year operating costs. The loan is to be paid backwithin three years. The company will report the number of employees required by the agreement at the end of every quarter and agrees to provide adequate collateral and keep all locally imposed taxes up-to-date.

While California accounts for 90-percent of the wine consumed in the U.S., produced from more than 1,200 wineries, the number of small boutique wineries throughout the country continues to grow as demand increases. According to documentation provided by Neufeld, consumption of wine has increased from 2.01 gallons per person, per annum, in 2000, to 3.14 gallons per person in 2014. By 2016, U.S. wine sales were a $60 billion dollar industry.

Jones Unveils Strategic Plan for Seminole EDC

May 26, 2017

In a meeting of the Board of Directors for the Seminole Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) in City Council chambers last week, SEDC Executive Director Chris Jones unveiled an initial draft of his strategic plan for the city. Subject to the approval of the SEDC Board of Directors, the plan, a roadmap of sorts, represents Jones’ vision of the business future of Seminole, capitalizing on its resources in a variety of areas, and the strengths of its current business climate.

Jones’ plan focuses primarily on four individual areas: Agriculture, Energy, Manufacturing, and Medical. Those represent four areas that either have had a strong foothold in Seminole and Gaines County for decades, or show signs of emerging growth.

According to Jones’ outline, the goal of the strategic plan is “to outline development efforts in Seminole for the next 3-5 years. With an economic development strategic plan, the City of Seminole can bring together it’s entire community to support a vision, goals, and strategies which allow Seminole to grow and thrive. However, economic development is not the responsibility of one individual or board, but rather the responsibility of a committed community. This plan will provide a vision, guiding principles, and simple goals for economic development in the City of Seminole.”

The vision, simply stated, is to “work to promote economic development…by attracting new business and industry, while retaining, supporting, and expanding existing business. The continued effort will result in an expansion of the local tax base and ratepayers, keeping Seminole an affordable, vibrant place to live, work, and play.” Jones’ primary guiding principles advance that vision through “innovation, people-centered activity, and community engaging.

Working in concert with those three principles, Jones’ plan includes stimulating business by challenging existing businesses to expand customer bases by utilizing innovative marketing techniques, expanding “commerce territories” and controlling “leakage” (local dollars being exported to other markets) through “shop local” campaigns. To serve that customer base, much of Jones’ focus in recent months have focused on another goal, greater workforce retention through recruitment and training of skilled workers, primarily building on a local education base with an array of community colleges, technical colleges, and research institutions throughout the region.

As the local workforce becomes increasingly skilled, the intent is to meet yet another goal, the “retooling and cultivating of an environment for new business,” or to enhance that concept, to “redevelop our current workforce to take advantage of future opportunities, while developing a culture of entrepreneurship”.

The primary focus of those strategic goals would include the energy sector, where the region remains a mainstay in meeting the energy needs of the nation and the world. However, Jones’ plan points out that the support sector of the oil and gas industry has not fully met its potential as a local presence. The industry “depends heavily on Texas Tech and Odessa College to produce the needed skill sets”, and there exists a lack of mentorship and career transition into such skills as welding, mechanical engineering, and chemical engineering.

The energy-based aspects of Jones’ draft include possibilities in wind energy and biodiesel. The plan also notes that Xcel Energy currently has a pending application to build a gasoline plant in Gaines County, currently under review by the Public Utility Commission. Other options include advanced photovoltaics technology, a more adaptable and less intrusive alternative to solar panels.

The specifics of Jones’ roadmap toward pursuing such ambitious goals would include continued development of the proposed Seminole Business Park, with an emphasis on the relocation of energy-related businesses from the Houston market, and the main players in an emerging photovoltaic market. Other suggestions are to identify landowners open to providing land for wind farms, and working with an area gin to acquire a biodiesel plant, with possible expansion into ethanol. Jones’ draft cites successful biodiesel ventures in Eastern Europe, where the process has been more economically feasible.

Jones’ plan hopes to capitalize, to a greater degree, on a cooperative effort in workforce dynamics that is already under way with the city’s new partnership with Odessa College. To increase mentorship, the plan suggests the creation of a local chapter of SCORE, which would tap into knowledge gained by retired executives in the oil and gas industry.

In agriculture, the plan articulates the need for greater vigilance in identifying and addressing the volatility of agricultural markets, often subject to shifting priorities in federal farm policy, and the manipulation of markets by investors and day traders. The plan’s efforts would include defining a “sustainable third crop rotation.” It calls for the SEDC to work with the Department of Agriculture to try “to bring innovative, drought resistant ideas to Gaines County, which reinvest nutrients into the soil”, while providing an additional, profitable commodity.

Possible strategies would include the development of a working group of farmers and agricultural specialists, developing stronger ties with the Department of Agriculture, and advancing the idea of creating a local peanut pasting plant and a cotton spinning mill.

In the area of manufacturing, Jones’ draft notes that “Seminole is hone to a strong fabrication workforce”, and that manufacturing in Seminole must be a reflection of these diverse talents. The SEDC’s aim would be to seek out manufacturing companies that produce components relative to the agricultural and oil and gas industries, as well as medical device technology.

Strategies that might be in place to support such goals might be to identify and recruit the top producers of automated technology in the oil and gas industry, as well as the producers of automated farm equipment and medical devices. Jones feels that a market might be created for the refurbishment of wind turbines, and that a strong workforce, skilled in fabrication, might be utilized by defense contractors.

Noting that Texas is a national leader in cancer research, Jones’ draft suggests that opportunities might be available in a small town environment, both in research and treatment. He notes the considerable endowments at the University of Texas and Texas Tech which are targeted toward cancer research. The plan encourages relationships with the two universities’ Health Sciences Centers, as well as seeking out companies engaged in cancer research, and identifying federal grants that are awarded to public-private research partnerships.

Additionally, Jones’ plan would work with the local Hospital Board to help identify the needs for a conventional treatment facility, identify local providers who might be able to provide supportive therapies, and to find ways to provide Business Park facilities in support of these goals.

With their drafts of Jones’ Strategic Plan in hand, some members of the SEDC Board of Directors suggested that the plan might benefit from a series of public roundtables that would allow area residents and business and community leaders to weigh in on the plan’s vision.


SEDC Adopts Local Loan Programs

May 23, 2017

In a regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Directors for the Seminole Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) Monday night at City Hall, the Board unanimously approved a package of loan agreements designed to address a variety of small business finance issues. The adoption of the new measures followed a second public hearing that the Board offered. No one from the public addressed the Board.

Among the four new measures that were adopted, the Seminole Expansion and Development Loan Guarantee Incentive Program, according to a summary laid out by SEDC Executive Director Chris Jones, “seeks to provide loan guarantees of up to 50% of a loan amount not to exceed $100,000, providing the applicant has established creditworthiness with a local lending institution. The applicant, at the recommendation of the lending institution, would apply for this guarantee using the established SEDC incentive process.”

Businesses that are eligible for consideration must reside within the 79360 zip code. Those located outside the city limits must establish, in written form, their benefit to the community by way of job creation and/or expansion in property/sales tax collection.

An applicant may be deemed ineligible if he or she has operated a prior business that has caused the government of any local government entity to have incurred a loss related to a prior business debt. “Ownership” includes those holding at least a 20% stake in a business. An applicant with a prior criminal history may also be ruled out.

The business would also be subject to a minimum equity requirement of 15% to 20%. Special considerations may be given to some businesses such as some franchises, certain recreational facilities, or privately owned medical facilities.

Those same requirements apply to the other three other adopted programs, including the Seminole Business Retention Microloan Incentive Program, which “seeks to provide Microloans to established businesses which may experience temporary interruptions in revenue generation which necessitate relief in the form of a short-term loan. These loans are not to exceed $10,000 per business and shall be amortized at a 3% minimum over a period not to exceed three years. Additionally, all applicants must submit an incentive application, which will be approved or denied by the board of directors.”

Microloans can be used for working capital, inventory or supplies, furniture or fixtures, and machinery or equipment. Proceeds from a microloan can be used to pay existing debts only with special approval from the SEDC Board.

The Seminole New Business Interest Loan Rebate Incentive Program is “designed to recruit new businesses by providing a rebate on interest paid for loans related to creation of location of a new business to the City of Seminole. The purpose of this program is to incentivize those businesses which, by securing a loan with a local private lender, have demonstrated a commitment to bringing jobs to Seminole. This is a performance based incentive, requiring the applicant to deliver on their promise of jobs to the community before receiving payment from the SEDC”.

The SEDC Board will evaluate each application based on certain job criteria: number of jobs, wages, number of new jobs for which local residents may apply, and the possible impact of related industry jobs. The length of this rebate shall not exceed two years and $25,000 per year for one applicant. The total earmark within the incentive line item of the SEDC budget is not to exceed $100,000.

The Seminole New Business Low-Interest Loan Incentive Program “provides businesses with financial assistance to support the creation of jobs for the City of Seminole. This program provides long-term, fixed-rate financing at interest rates lower than conventional financing, at a minimum interest rate of 3%. The fund is intended to fill a financing gap beyond the amount of private participation and equity investment that can be raised. Loans can be written from a minimum of $10,000 to a maximum of $250,000, up to 50% of the total project cost.”

Under this program, businesses are required to create one new full-time and permanent job for every $35,000 loaned within three years of loan closing. Businesses must provide a minimum of 10% equity. The business owner must provide a personal guarantee for the loan amount. Terms are for up to seven years on equipment and up to ten years on land and buildings. Loans may not be used to refinance debt, purchase inventory, or pay other non-capital costs or on speculative projects.
Those interested in these loans should contact the SEDC for additional terms and conditions.

Also during Monday’s meeting, Jones led a discussion with the Board concerning the implementation of Multi-view Marketing, according to Jones, a new more measurable way of tracking the effects of online advertising. Using more comprehensive computer analytics, a Multi-vew company team is able to provide information on what companies have visited the SEDC website, for evaluation and possible follow-up.

While no vote was taken on the Multi-view plan, Jones recommended it’s adoption by the Board. Jones told the Board, “this program is aligned with our vision and purpose”.

Jones also unveiled a strategic plan for the city, with a primary focus on four individual areas: Agriculture, Energy, Manufacturing, and Medical. Those will be detailed in the next issue of the Seminole Sentinel.

In his earlier Executive Director’s Report, Jones told the Board that plans for a new Business Park have advanced from the surveying phase into a design phase. He has inquired of engineers as to whether a road to the facility can be built by the end of July. Jones also reported that the SEDC website has been moved to a new address, and efforts are underway to upgrade the site to make it more user-friendly for regular site updates.

SEDC, Seminole Community Leaders Learn to ‘Sell Seminole’

By Sam Holbrooks
Seminole Sentinel

April 25, 2017

With several community leaders from the SISD, hospital district, and the general public at City Hall on Monday, both the Seminole City Council and the Seminole Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) received special presentations from Melissa Woodall, Senior Vice President at Austin-based Johnson and Associates.

In two separate presentations, the SEDC received specifics on how to create and maintain a more effective Board of Directors, and the City Council got a more generalized pep talk on how community leaders can play an important role in marketing Seminole as a commodity to the outside world.

Woodall’s more comprehensive SEDC presentation began with the purposes, goals, and administrative duties of municipal Economic Development Boards. Woodall focused in on four basic arenas of development in the Seminole area in the fields of energy, agriculture, manufacturing, and medical, and how they fit into the SEDC mission statement.

Woodall went on to emphasize the policy-making role of ED boards, the importance of implementing rules and procedures, and fully supporting the Executive Director in following those.

Melissa Woodall, of EDC consulting firm Johnson and Associates, delivers a presentation to the Board of the Seminole EDC Monday night at City Hall. (Sentinel Photo/Sam Holbrooks)

Further instruction followed that concerned the utilization of resources, liabilities, and the responsibilities of individual board members, culled from diverse backgrounds in their service as ambassadors to the community.

“As an example (of diversity),” Woodall told the board, “you wouldn’t want four insurance salesmen on your Board.”

One of Woodall’s recommendations that drew the most inquiries from board members was the suggestion that, in the interests of integrity and accountability to the public, the services of an independent auditor should be contracted.

The auditor would focus solely on the SEDC, which essentially serves as a city department and as such, is normally a separate part of the wider annual citywide audit.

The board received instruction on how to recruit new board members from different backgrounds through the normal succession process. The presentation ended with the “Seven Principles of Sustainable Leadership”, including personal responsibility, vision purpose, being a catalyst, seeing potential opportunities, collaboration with the community, and balance (facing political realities), with a breakdown of how each fits into a broader picture.

A second part of the presentation focused on becoming an “exceptional” board, or one that follows all the basic organizational and procedural guidelines and takes them to a higher level of programs that are “cutting edge, in-demand, and modern”.

Woodall asked each member “why do you serve on this board”, and received a wide range of answers, many of them concerning quality of life issues, growth, and opportunity, and even specific projects. Each board member was asked to describe personal attributes that they bring to the table, and what in the SEDC Mission Statement motivates them.

Woodall ended her presentation by defining and describing the emerging new concept of “Servant Leadership.”
After a very brief recess, the SEDC Board left and was replaced by City Council members. Prior to the evening’s regular city business, Woodall took a different path and focused on “selling Seminole” in a variety of ways.

Returning to the city’s four main areas of interest: medical, manufacturing, agriculture, and energy, Woodall told attendees, “you have to define what you’re selling”.

Woodall adapted the “Twelve Sales Habits of Successful People” to the function of city leaders as ambassadors for the city. Her presentation to the Council ended with a six-point “game plan”, both for attracting new businesses, and for working with established businesses in the area.

SEDC Appreciation Banquet Honors Local Business Ventures

By Sam Holbrooks
Seminole Sentinel

March 24, 2017

Under the auspices of the Seminole Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), the Seminole small business community celebrated itself with the first Seminole Business Appreciation Banquet at a gleaming new Seminole Community Center Thursday evening. More than 200 business and community leaders and guests attended a night of awards, food, music, and fundraising.

The affair served dual purposes, to raise money for the Seminole ISD Education Foundation, and to recognize those who achieved “Best of Seminole” status in a variety of ways, using the results of recent polling within the community. SEDC Executive Director Chris Jones served as Master of Ceremonies.

Those entering the cavernous main ballroom were greeted by an array of gambling tables, where imaginary money provided at the door could be traded in for chips. Attendees were also able to enter sealed bids on a variety of donated items.

A night of lodging and a round of golf at San Antonio’s Texas Hill Country Resort was auctioned off to the highest bidder for $750 in a live auction, as well as a full year of weekly Big Mac sandwiches, courtesy of the Seminole McDonald’s franchise. Those went for $750 and $700 toward the Education Foundation. Auctioneer and School Board President Ben Royston served as auctioneer.

In keeping with the evening’s theme of moving Seminole “from Good to Great”, John Fehr, CEO of Fehr’s Manufacturing, delivered the keynote address with a theme of building a “we” oriented community that serves one another, and one that applies Biblical principles to business relationships. Fehr attributed his success to applying the same concept to his workforce, and surrounding himself with dedicated, optimistic people.

Fehr and wife Susie have owned a number of businesses in the Seminole area since 2000. Fehr’s Manufacturing currently employs more than 200 area residents.

“It’s amazing to see all these people here and to see what it takes to run this town,” Fehr said. “Everyone here has a purpose. Each one of you has something to bring to the table as we climb that ladder from good to great. I want each one of us to take that first step tonight toward making this a great town.”

Emphasizing a recurring theme of compassion, “there are a lot of people hurting in this town,” Fehr said. “We need to mourn with them when they’re in mourning, and rejoice with them when they are rejoicing.”

Earlier, Gary Dugger, President of the Seminole ISD Education Foundation, explained the mission of the recently formed non-profit and made an appeal for the support of the local business community. It’s mission is to “provide resources to enrich teaching, inspire learning, and enhance opportunities for all students enrolled in the SISD.”

The Foundation hopes to further those goals through the funding of teaching grants, technology, economic/special needs, school and community partnership programs, student/teacher recognition programs, scholarships, and the establishment of a permanent endowment fund. Dugger explained a host of funding vehicles, from both private and business sources.

“Our students today are tomorrow’s leaders,” Dugger told the crowd. “So we want to give them the best education we can. We’ve always done that in Seminole, and that’s what we want to continue doing.”

Other Board members include co-Vice Presidents Nadine Kantar and Mike Carter, and Treasurer Dave Davis.

The awards that were placed in the hands of area business owners ranged from whimsical odes to great hamburgers, to the more serious issues of health care, legal representation, and customer service. The “big one”, as Jones called it, was Seminole’s “Best Business”, an all-encompassing award that went to Brown’s Ace Hardware. First runner-up was Anna’s Day Spa, and the Just-a-Bite Restaurant took second runner-up.

There were a number of other award winners in a variety of subcategories, including “Best Customer Service”, also taken by Brown’s Ace Hardware. First runner-up was United Supermarkets and second runner-up was Just-a-Bite Restaurant. The “Best Lunch Special Award” went to Slim’s Barbecue, followed by the Jalisco Taqueria Restaurant and Just-a-Bite.

The “Tribe Pride Award” went to the biggest supporters of area High School sports and academics. Sam Kantar of Seminole McDonald’s accepted, followed by first runner-up, Design Shop and second runner-up, First United Bank. Kantar returned to accept the “Community Service Award” on behalf of his franchise, followed in the polling by Powers Diesel Service and Ship n’ More.

Recognizing the prominence of a Texas culinary staple, the Southern Rose Restaurant earned the “Best Chicken Fried Steak Award”, followed by Charlie’s Restaurant and Cheryl’s Diner. Mireya’s Restaurant was deemed the purveyor of the “Best Breakfast Burrito”, followed by Mr. Taco and Grandma’s and Grandpa’s. Also according to the poll, the Grub Shack provides the best burgers, trailed by the Southern Rose Restaurant and Cheryl’s Diner.

The “Pampering Service Award” went to Anna’s Day Spa, with Na’ Tue Spa and D&J Nail Salon taking runner-up and second runner-up honors. Let’s Celebrate by Allie won in the “Best Baked Goods” category, followed in the runner-up positions by Grandma’s Bakery and Five Star Doughnuts and Deli. “Best Food” is a more general category that was won by Southern Rose, followed by Cheryl’s Diner and Just-a-Bite.

Achieving top honors in the business of health care was Dr. Lance Martin, followed by Dr. Jean Pierre Letellier and Dr. Wendell Parkey. Joe Nagy was voted “Best Attorney”, with Monty Pearson and Jeanie Morrow the runners-up.

The “Best Sandwich Award” opened up an opportunity for Jones to express the support of an entire community to two area businesses. While Slim’s Barbecue took runner up honors, special presentations had been prepared for two others in that category, second runner-up Perika’s Terrace and owner Mike Diaz, who is recovering from a tragic shooting incident outside his Main Street business, and winner Cheryl Hicks of Cheryl’s Diner, who lost a friend in the same incident that killed two and wounded two others, including Diaz.

Diaz received a vase of pennies, each coin representing an expression of goodwill from other area businesses. Diaz and Hicks also received bouquets of yellow roses, representing friendship.

“I wanted these people to throw their hearts at this business,” Jones explained. “Like Mr. Fehr said, we are in this together. I want Perika’s to know that the Seminole community is behind you, and wants you to be successful. We’re here for you.”

A brief musical interlude was provided by Seminole-based band, Boomtown.

SEDC Board Signs Off on OC Partnership

By Sam Holbrooks

February 28, 2017

Before calling a very brief meeting to order Monday at Seminole City Hall, the Board of Directors of the Seminole Economic Development Corporation met with representatives from Odessa College and made official a new partnership between the two entities. After a short presentation, Board President Kevin Petty signed off on a new agreement that will allow a new workforce development program centered at City Hall on a weekly basis.

Speaking on behalf of OC, Jonathan Fuentes told the Board that he will be present in Seminole weekly to advise local businesses on financial services and workforce related matters. “We’re listening to the folks who will be hiring your graduates,” Fuentes said. “You can keep them here, train them up, and get them ready to work.”

Having met with area School Superintendent Gary Laramore, the group will work closely with school and hospital officials on workforce related issues, including the consideration and development of new dual credit programs and technical training. “Mr. Laramore has been a great partner in helping us get some of these programs off he ground,” SEDC Executive Director Chris Jones told the Board.

Fuentes told the Board that a similar partnership between OC and the city of Pecos has yielded positive results in the development of the local workforce. 

After convening the scheduled meeting, the Board offered for public hearings four new SEDC sponsored loan programs individually: the Seminole Expansion and Development Loan Guarantee Incentive Program, the Seminole New Business Interest Loan Rebate Incentive Program, the Seminole Business Retention Microloan Incentive Program, and the Seminole New Business Low-Interest Interest Loan Incentive Program. The Board will conduct one additional hearing before these programs become official policy.

In his Director’s Report, Jones related details of his recent trip to Austin to receive new training in small business financing. On his way back, Jones was able to stop in San Angelo, where local SkillsUSA students were engaged in regional competitions. Jones also reported that on Tuesday, he would be travelling to San Diego for a convention of those involved in the wind turbine industry.