Which way to prosperity, Houston County?

Greg’s Corner

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

Editor’s note: Greg’s Corner is an editorial (opinion) section where Messenger Reporter Greg Ritchie shares odds and ends from the job and unusual or interesting facts from across the world and across time.

MESSENGER OFFICE –   With all the goings-on at CEIDC, it’s easy to lose track of the bigger (and much more important) picture. We need more jobs in this county: good-paying, career-building opportunities so our kids don’t have to leave and locals don’t have to drive two hours to make a good living. 

I was worried to hear Crockett Printing closed down last week. The circumstances are more than purely economic, but paired with the recent closing of the Hilltop Cafe, Tata’s, Spring-Mar Grocery and others, I am beginning to worry. 

There are other businesses, too, that survived the summer but are still not quite making ends meet. As much as many people complain about the politics of that national coffee brand that came to town, I did see it as a sign to the outside world that this is an area that can support a variety of businesses. 

Many of us were glad to see some big investments giving our local Walmart® some much needed sprucing up, but the question remains, what is the best way to get our poor, rural county a little further up the economic food chain?

I hear there is to be some good news very soon about some new businesses coming to our area that should generate some local jobs. And thank heavens for it! As much as people comment online about getting a “chicken place,” – and Lord knows I can put a dent in some fried chicken – the few jobs it might create won’t exactly turn the economic ship around. 

We recently reported on a group of a couple dozen tourists from Germany who came through town, almost completely unannounced, just to hear a little about our local history of blues music. I spoke with “Pip” Gillette, who pointed out how badly Texas needs to get on the world  music map since this state has produced some of the finest musicians in any music genre you can name. 

I guess it always comes back to the chicken or the egg – do we build it so they will come, or do we get them here and they can help us build it? There are enough people and projects working on it, success seems assured, but the economy is not great, the housing market is looking a little wobbly and we need to make sure our plans are secure. 

The Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce, Grapeland Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Crockett Association, a revamped CEIDC, city of Crockett officials working on the Main Street Project, we just officially became a “film friendly” community – all steps in the right direction, to be sure. I sometimes wonder if there are not too many cooks and too many recipes we might trip over each other and ruin the soup, altogether. 

Is there (or should there be) an overall plan guiding these separate efforts? Should there be a super committee making the strategy and these groups divide up the tasks? What should “economic development” look like? Do we want any business at any cost? Should we become Austin? I guess I could dye my hair blue and try to be more “weird…”

How do we try and improve our prospects here without losing what we love about this place? Are we willing to open businesses that might contaminate the area? Businesses that might attract a rougher crowd of workers or customers? 

How do we balance what makes us, “us”? We have such great people, clean air, beautiful country, thriving churches, good schools, low traffic – what, if any of that would we have to sacrifice or want to sacrifice for more economic development? This overall question is the most crucial. Once we figure out where we want to go, we can target opportunities to attract what we want to live with and not be happy for whatever we can get. 

Yes, I know, nothing but questions this time and no answers. I don’t have the answers, but maybe it’s time we get together and start figuring them out. 

Not that I would complain about a good “chicken place” in the meantime…we could meet there and make a plan for economic development. Wings are on me…

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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