Located in the heart of Texas, Waco has the building blocks required for long-term success. Advantages fueling the city’s growing population and recent economic development wins include relatively inexpensive land (with available sites along the bustling IH-35 corridor), access to multiple higher education institutions (a network encompassing Baylor University and the main campus of Texas State Technical College), and a strong sense of place (offering big city amenities with a small-town feel). Yet the city is not without its challenges. These include creating better alignment across Waco’s economic development partners, retaining and growing the talent needed to support current and future employers, and addressing tensions between new developments and the increasing displacement of existing residents and businesses.
To ensure that Waco continues to be well positioned for economic growth and opportunity, city leaders contracted with TIP Strategies to complete an economic development strategic plan. During the engagement, TIP examined existing plans and policy documents, conducted independent data analyses, spoke with stakeholders, and studied national best practices to develop a holistic response. Priorities that emerged from stakeholder conversations included proactively engaging in business development, strengthening the small business and entrepreneurship ecosystem, encouraging development in downtown Waco, creating placemaking strategies, and ensuring resource alignment related to economic development initiatives. These priorities are reflected in the plan’s three goals: creating a shared vision for business and entrepreneurial growth, aligning workforce development efforts with employer needs while engaging underserved groups, and supporting investments in place-based assets including housing. A catalyst project, defined as a high-impact initiative with the potential to have a transformative effect on the community, was identified under each goal. Plan implementation will be led by the city’s Economic Development department, supported by interorganizational working groups focused on each goal. The organizational alignment set forth in the plan, in coordination with other efforts by local government, community organizations, and residents, will help to ensure a vibrant, inclusive economy where everyone thrives.