County EDC has more funds to aid businesses

By Larry Tucker
Posted 9/10/20

The Wood County Economic Development Commission (WCEDC) voted unanimously to continue with the current officers last Thursday. Tom Keenan will remain the chairman while Vic Savelli will continue as …

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County EDC has more funds to aid businesses


The Wood County Economic Development Commission (WCEDC) voted unanimously to continue with the current officers last Thursday. Tom Keenan will remain the chairman while Vic Savelli will continue as vice chair and Executive Director Roger Johnson will serve as the secretary.

Keenan reported on the status of the Wood County Business Relief Program. The WCEDC originally had asked for $100,000, but county commissioners approved $200,000 of the Unclaimed Capital Credit (UCC) funds for the program. 

According to Kennan there is still $96,650 available.

“We met last week and we had one application from Hawkins, seven from Mineola, three from Quitman, one from Winnsboro, four in the county and no application from Alba or Yantis,” Keenan reported. “We really did not get a whole lot more than we thought we might get. The six chambers all submitted and they are getting money. All the checks are cut for Phase I and Phase II and we still have $96,650 left in the UCC program from the $200,000.”

He added, “The federal government has the same issue we have. They put $3 trillion in the federal relief program and they have hundreds of millions left they haven’t spent. It’s kind of a microcosm, but it seems like some of the businesses were not that interested. We gave it a shot, that’s for sure.”

New board member Lee Smith gave a report on the Transportation and Infrastructure (TI) committee which he chairs.

“The last three weeks I have gone around and reached out to various folks around the community to talk about what I understand is the role of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,” Smith said. “I’m seeking stakeholders, that’s municipal leaders, business leaders, or other leaders like SRA (Sabine River Authority), the airport as well as chambers of commerce. I’m looking for suggestions from the stakeholders I’m meeting with, looking for folks with a passion and share a passion I have for what we are trying to accomplish.” 

He said, “I moved here 20 years ago from Collin County, Allen, Texas. Collin County in the mid-80s they embarked on what they called the comprehensive plan. Today, the comprehensive plan is still in effect, it’s still on their website, it’s a living document, it has evolved. It is a comprehensive plan that is responsible for the nature of that community. I have meetings throughout the next few weeks with various stakeholders.”

Savelli spoke to the commission concerning the marketing committee.

“We are going to assemble diverse and qualified members of the marketing committee that’s beginning meeting this month. We will conduct strategic planning sessions. We will determine the group’s goals and objectives and finalize sub-committees. We will aim to include Wood County community leadership as well as businesses throughout the county. A major portion will be conducting research taking a closer look at the hotel-motel tax sources and determine why tourists are visiting Wood County. There is an assumption that the majority of visitors here come to fish at Lake Fork. There are a substantial number of people that do that. I also know that there are a substantial number of people, perhaps more, that come here for antiquing, to the outdoors, for golfing and a variety of other recreations.”

Savelli said there is another group of people coming to the county. “Literally there are people coming here who we think are tourists, but they are actually here to look for property, they are going to look for houses and land,” Savelli noted. “Why are these people choosing Wood County? These are future residents, why are they selecting Wood County? We are learning more about that particular target audience of individuals who look to be residents and move here. Our role should be as the local business advocate and how we should be helping to market our local businesses as well. I fully expect we will consult with an ad agency or ad agencies and look to create a professional advertising campaign for Wood County which I believe is overdue.”

In his report, Johnson said he had a lunch meeting with Tom Mullins from the Tyler Economic Development Council; Scott Gonzales, new president and CEO EDC director for Smith County; Senator Bryan Hughes; and State Representative Cole Hefner.

“We discussed what we could do to make Wood County flourish with economic development to bring in retail business as well as new residents moving into the county area,” Johnson said. “Working with these individuals will help us with the type of professionals to work with who can help Wood County develop into a prosperous county.”

Johnson said he had been in contact with Deb Luttrell of Stitchin’ Heaven in Quitman concerning a plan for a Quilting Festival for September 2021.

“Hopefully, the pandemic will be over by then. This festival will bring a significant amount of revenue for Wood County,” Johnson added.

The next meeting for the WCEDC will be Oct. 1.