The idling of Alcoa’s aluminum production facility in Rockdale, Texas—announced at the height of the Great Recession—would ultimately put more than 1,200 employees out of work and shutter nearly two dozen local businesses that were reliant on the plant or its employees. The crisis brought together representatives from the three workforce boards and councils of governments that serve the region, as well as local officials, business owners, and education and economic development professionals to prepare a revitalization strategy for the impacted area.
The leadership group engaged TIP Strategies to facilitate the planning process under a US Department of Labor Regional Innovation Grant. The initiative began with a comprehensive assessment of the regional economy (defined as the seven surrounding counties with 25 or more displaced Alcoa workers) and an inventory of assets. Findings were used to structure advisory committees around three areas—talent recruitment and development, economic stabilization and transformation, and infrastructure improvements—with additional insights gained through four public workshops. The plan identified potential “catalyst projects” that could be pursued in connection with the Alcoa site redevelopment. However, the region’s single greatest opportunity lies inwas its central location in the Texas Triangle, the “megaregion” containing 70 percent of the state’s population and five of the nation’s largest cities. The ability to link regional assets (rich agricultural land, access to multiple population centers, and underutilized tourism assets) with surrounding metropolitan assets (university research, fast growth, and a diversified economic base) was identified as the key to successful implementation. The planning process demonstrated the ability of member communities to work together on an ongoing basis and is credited with strengthening regional relationships.