Business View interviews representatives of Seguin, Texas for our focus on Growth & Economic Development in U.S. Cities
One of the oldest cities in Texas, Seguin was founded in 1838 during the fight for independence and named after Colonel Juan N. Seguin, in recognition of his great leadership during the victory in San Jacinto. Situated on the beautiful Guadalupe River, known for its scenic views and clear waters, the historic community of Seguin is only 35 minutes from San Antonio and an hour south of Austin, in one of the fastest growing areas of the U.S.
Seguin is an attractive city with much to offer. As Mayor Donna Dodgen describes, “We have a lot of history, we are affordable, we have diversity, we have that small town feel, and we make people feel welcome. We are not pretentious at all. We are just real and true.” For those who appreciate a warm climate, Seguin has an average of 226 sunny days per year. “We have hot and less hot as seasons,” adds Mayor Dodgen, “We are not seasonal at all, but really, it’s lovely, and the springtime is beautiful.”
Reporting a population of approximately 30,000, Steve Parker, City Manager since January 2020 shares, “We’re seeing expansive growth here. The year before I started, we had 200 new residential building permits. The following year, we had about 500. Last year, we had 1,003. This year we could easily hit 1500 to 1800, which puts us up there with the fastest growing communities in our surrounding area.” Although the majority of these permits are for single family residential, Parker reports that there is growing interest in multi-family units. He explains, “We’ve had three or four rezonings here in the last six months, so we know more multifamily is coming. We’ve had an influx of duplexes as well.” A lower price point has been part of the attraction. A home built in nearby New Braunfels would cost approximately $60,000 more than the exact model in Seguin, although this is starting to change.
A surging population and an ideal location on the I-10 corridor create an ideal situation for new business attraction. As Josh Schneuker, Seguin’s Director of Economic Development, explains, “It really bodes well for business not only to have the logistical infrastructure to leverage and get the product in and out to the customer, but also to have access to that growing population. It gives them the ability to tap into a growing and expanding labor pool. One of the biggest things all businesses right now need is access to people. We’re fortunate to be located in the part of the U.S. where we are growing exponentially.”
As a small community, Seguin spent many decades avoiding growth. The opening of a Caterpillar manufacturing plant in 2010, was, what Parker describes as, “the first big economic win.” He recounts, “It was kind of the mark of ‘Hey, we are open for business, we do want to grow’ and then we started landing others. We added Niagara Bottling, Teijin Automotive Technologies and United Alloy came to town. We had several economic wins, one after another, and everybody started to wonder what is so special about Seguin. A lot of people just fall in love with Seguin after they get here.”
Quoting an economic development adage, “retail follows rooftop,” Schneuker relays that with so much housing development in the city, Seguin is getting noticed by commercial real estate developers and national retailers. “They’re finally taking notice of the opportunity that exists here in Seguin,” he shares, noting the recent purchase of a shopping center by a Houston developer will see millions of dollars in renovations. “They’ve got a lot of good prospects in the pipeline that are going to be looking to execute leases at that shopping center,” says Schneuker. “It has really helped to prove that there is a ton of interest in this market from retailers. More developers are now looking at other opportunities for brand-new development in the city, just because of the interest we are seeing from tenants that are trying to get into the Crossroads Shopping Center.”
The manufacturing industry is vital to the Seguin economy, making up approximately 30% of the workforce. As the city continues to recruit new companies, there is a focus on workforce development, starting in the Seguin school system, where manufacturing careers are promoted. “We want to provide industry exposure, making sure that the residents and the kids know the opportunities that are available in the companies that are well established here in Seguin, while also working to develop new partnerships and programs,” says Schneuker.
One program the city is working to establish is FAME (Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education), a two-year associate degree program sponsored by local manufacturing companies. That will serve as a talent pipeline for students that are looking to get into the manufacturing industry, specifically in careers associated with industrial maintenance positions. The goal is to get young people an education, and then give them a career in which they have opportunity to continue to grow and earn a good wage. Working with Texas State Technical College, the training provider for the FAME program, students spend two days a week in a classroom, and three days on site, training with the company who has sponsored them. Students receive a living wage during the program, with many companies also covering the additional costs of tuition and books.
Guadalupe Regional Medical Center (GRMC) is the only city/county owned hospital in the Southwestern United States, and is a major resource for the local Seguin community, employing more than 600 people. As a non-profit community hospital which does not depend on tax support, GRMC is continuously upgrading and increasing its service offerings. “We service a large range of very rural areas,” says Mayor Dodgen, adding that the goal is to provide the same quality of care that patients would receive in San Antonio or Houston. Currently the hospital is upgrading the cardiac area, and considering a new ICU to replace the 15-year-old one, which is in need of updating. During COVID the facility acted as a regional infusion center, adapting to fill a need for Seguin and the surrounding communities. “They’re very good about looking at what we need in our community and providing for that. We also have an indigent care program, and an indigent medicine program, so that those folks don’t have to go to the ER to get the care they need,” Dodgen asserts.
Seguin is working with internet providers such as GVEC to increase fiber access throughout the community and ensure access for all homes and businesses. In other infrastructure projects, Seguin has implemented a stormwater drainage utility fee, which will help to address drainage issues throughout the city. Partnering with Guadalupe County, Seguin has secured federal funding for two road expansion projects, through the Metropolitan Planning Organization in San Antonio. These include expanding Rudeloff Road, a connection between Highway 46 and Highway 123, to 5 lanes, keeping up with the major residential development in the city. Cordova Road, another area with major growth anticipated, will also see expansion.
According to Parker, “That’s almost $40 million from the federal government to help us fund those projects ahead of the growth. We are going to have some great access points that will help with a lot of congestion. That’s what we hear most about our community, that they are okay with growing, they just want to grow smart.” A $180 million wastewater treatment plant is also in the works, combining two plants into one. This project will take care of the city’s present and future wastewater needs. On the water side, Seguin is set up for the long term, drawing water from the Guadalupe River, as well as having a 20-year partnership with the city of Schertz to secure a supply from two local aquifers. “We are very fortunate that we have water. We’re continuing to expand that and expand our network,” Dodgen conveys.
As far as what comes next for the City of Seguin, Mayor Dodgen shares, “I want us to grow in all areas, and I want us to go to the next level. I want us to have things for people to do, places to eat, places to shop, a variety of homes for all different levels of income. I want things for the kids to do, I want our schools to be robust and full.” Parker adds, “We have interviewed 1000s of people about what they want to see out of their community. A lot of them love the history, and the hometown feeling, and our tagline: ‘It’s Real’. They love all of that, but at the end of the day they want places to shop, they want places to go out for date night, and so forth.”
As Seguin continues to move towards a future filled with possibility, it offers the genuine charm of a city that is proud of its history and eager to welcome newcomers.
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AT A GLANCE
What: A community of 30,000, experiencing rapid growth.
Where: Guadalupe County, Texas
VA Electrical Contractors LLC – www.vaelectric.net
VA Electrical Contractors LLC is a company that was started from a group of people that were all working together at a company that was closing its doors. The company was statewide in Texas and there were some awesome employees at that company. Four of the people that were working there had worked together for over fifteen years and had developed a great friendship and trust. With the adversity and stress of having to look for a new job, they got together and discussed the possibility of starting their own business. The idea was that this company had the one asset that is the hardest to find: Good People.
With that idea we began discussing the opportunity with others and the responses were overwhelmingly positive. Even the local suppliers, distributors and retailers were giving us positive feedback. So, with an idea, a group of likeminded, hard-working people, we started the business in August of 2013. The business opened with 2 employees, and we hit the pavement and began talking to all of our potential customers.
Our future Vice President, George Green, was able to sell a $4 million plus job to get us started, along with a few smaller projects.
A funny side note to that is that we didn’t have a payroll system, HR Department or any clue of how to get this done. We started interviewing payroll companies and they would inevitably ask: “How many employees do you have?” our response would be 2 but we will have 100 or more by November of 2013. They would smile and say something like “Bless your heart”, (A Texas way of saying “You’re full of bologna”). We finally did have one company take us seriously and we ended up with over 100 employees before the end of November of 2013. The representative called me the day we hit 100 and said he never believed we would get there but he was amazed to see it happen.
The reason we were able to go from 2 to over 100 employees so quickly is specifically because of the quality of people we had in our company and at our homes. When we were looking at this undertaking, we asked what would make us equal to or potentially better than some of those other great companies out there. It came down to Quality. We decided we would focus on quality in a number of areas. First, we would give our customers the best quality we could. Second, we would focus on the quality of the employees we focused on. Finally, we wanted to focus on the quality of the support at home we could give our employees.
A lot has happened since those opening months. A lot of great opportunities, a lot of great customers, a lot of incredible buildings have been built, a lot education through experience. VA Electric still to this day tries to maintain a “Small Business” feel so that every employee knows they are part of the whole team. We have been blessed to grow to over 500 employees, we have moved from only South-Central Texas to doing work across the country.
Guadalupe Regional Medical Center (GRMC) – grmedcenter.com
GRMC’s simple four-word tagline of “advanced medicine, personal touch” may be short, but it is packed with meaning. We are constantly acquiring the newest medical technology and upgrading our scope of services, making GRMC a health care center of choice for our region. We have been strategically mapping our journey of serving Seguin and the surrounding region for decades. The resulting first-class facility, exceptional physicians and staff, cutting-edge technology, and culture of caring have all been intentional destinations on that map.
More than 100 board-certified physicians, which span specialties from critical care, orthopedics to obstetrics and gynecology comprise the medical staff, providing a wide range of services to over 100,000 regional residents. The high caliber of physicians who choose to practice at GRMC helps attract equally excellent new specialists on an ongoing basis. State of the art medical equipment is essential to diagnostic and therapeutic care, and we have it. GRMC has a remarkable level of pioneering technology normally seen at big-city or university facilities.
GRMC remains deeply committed to always providing high quality, personal, compassionate and safe care. We never lose sight of the fact that listening to and caring about each patient and their family is the cornerstone of effective healing, and the foundation of our culture.
CMC Steel Texas – cmc.com
At Commercial Metals Company, we remain focused on what we do best – making the steel that builds our world and staying true to our roots as a sustainable steelmaker, naturally. With a history that spans more than a century, CMC is at the forefront of the steel industry.