Georgetown Re-certified a Scenic City

Scenic City gold logo For the second time in five years, Georgetown was recently certified as a gold-level Scenic City by Scenic Texas. Georgetown was initially certified as a gold-level Scenic City in 2010 and was one of 20 cities to be certified or re-certified this summer.

Georgetown is one of 58 cities in Texas to be certified as a Scenic City. Georgetown was presented with its Gold Scenic City Certification on September 24 at the Texas Municipal League annual conference in San Antonio.

The Scenic City Certification Program incorporates a comprehensive set of model standards for design and development of public roadways and public spaces into a cohesive assessment program. The program draws a direct correlation between the success of a city’s economic development efforts and the visual appearance of its public spaces and recognizes municipalities that implement high-quality scenic standards.

The Scenic City program includes a variety of criteria such as parkland designation, landscaping, historic preservation, sign restrictions, litter prevention, and other standards for public places. Achieving the Scenic City certification recognizes regulations and programs that improve property values and help to attract new businesses. Cities that qualify earn a five-year certification.

“Georgetown’s Scenic City Certification demonstrates its commitment to high-quality standards for public roadways and public spaces,” said Anne Culver, executive director of the Scenic City Certification Program. “This enhances Georgetown’s image which in turn drives economic development.”

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City employees who contributed to the Scenic City certification effort are (pictured left to right): Laurie Brewer, Kimberly Garrett, Jackson Daly, Nat Waggoner, Julie Dominguez, Karen Frost, and Mike Stasny.

Scenic Texas, the sponsor of the certification program, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the visual character of Texas by promoting enhanced design standards for public projects, sign regulation, freeway landscaping, and scenic byway development. Find out more at www.scenictexas.org.

Census: Georgetown is Second-Fastest Growing City in U.S.

Nero 5k start-600Georgetown is the second-fastest growing city in the U.S., according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday. For cities of 50,000 residents or greater, Georgetown had the second-highest rate of population growth in the country.

The Census estimates that Georgetown grew from 54,934 to 59,102 in the period from July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014. That’s an increase of 4,168 residents and a growth rate of 7.6 percent for that year. The Census estimates are based on sampling data. The Census city growth rankings for 2013 to 2014 can be seen at http://www.census.gov/popest/data/cities/totals/2014/index.html.

Georgetown’s population growth shows no signs of slowing down. According to the City’s Planning Department, another 1,214 single-family homes have been platted in the city limits and another 1,116 apartment units have been recently completed or are near completion. Another 7,855 single-family homes in the city limits are in the planning stages, with an expected build out period of five to 20 years.

All of those residences currently in the development pipeline total 10,185 homes or apartments. With an average household size of 2.46 according to the Census, Georgetown can expect another 25,055 residents in the next decade or two.

Georgetown’s growth in recent years also is evident in key economic indicators. Since 2010, the total assessed value of property in the city has grown by more than 25 percent to exceed $5.2 billion in 2015. City sales tax revenue has increased by more than 55 percent since 2010. Yet the city’s property tax rate at 43.4 cents per $100 valuation remains one of the lowest in the region.

Georgetown Utility to Be Powered by Solar and Wind Energy by 2017

A 150-megawatt solar power agreement recently finalized, in addition to a 144 megawatt wind power agreement in 2014, will make the City of Georgetown one of the largest municipally-owned utilities in the U.S. to supply its customers with 100 percent solar and wind energy*. The long-term agreements also allow Georgetown to provide competitive electric rates and hedge against price volatility for energy produced by fossil-fuels.

The City of Georgetown signed a power purchase agreement with SunEdison to purchase 150-megawatts of solar power starting in 2016. SunEdison will provide electricity to Georgetown through 2041. The new renewable power contracts signed by Georgetown provide electricity at a lower overall cost than its previous wholesale power contracts.

“SunEdison is very excited to be working with Georgetown Utility Systems to provide their customers with 100 percent renewable, clean energy,” said Paul Gaynor, executive vice president of North America Utility and Global Wind. “Georgetown is an exceptional city, and by going 100 percent renewable they cut down on pollution, save water, and enjoy stable energy prices. They’re able to accomplish all of this without spending a penny up-front with the SunEdison power purchase agreement. Georgetown is a model for other cities that hope to become powered by clean renewable energy.”

In addition, Georgetown has contracted with EDF for 144-megawatts out of a 194-megawatt capacity wind project—located 50 miles west of Amarillo—that will begin delivery of power next year. The Spinning Spur 3 project is currently under construction. A 20-year contract with EDF for wind power signed in 2014 will provide competitively-priced renewable energy to Georgetown customers through 2035.

The combination of solar and wind power allows the City to provide energy from complementary renewable sources in order to meet demand patterns. The solar power produced in West Texas will provide a daily afternoon supply peak that matches the daily energy demand peak in Georgetown, especially during the hot summer months. Wind power production in West Texas tends to be highest in the off-peak, evening or early-morning hours. This means that wind power can most often fill power demand when the sun isn’t shining.

The City of Georgetown municipally-owned electric utility started in 1911. The City closed its power plant in 1945 and began a long-term purchased-power contract to supply energy to its customers. Ending a long-term power contract in 2012 allowed the City to pursue new power suppliers.

“When Georgetown Utility Systems opted to seek new sources of power in 2012, we were charged with a mission to secure the most cost-effective energy that balanced risk and reward,” says Jim Briggs, interim city manager for the City and general manager for utilities. “Our team took advantage of a unique time in the market place and did just that. By securing these renewable contracts the utility can consider itself 100 percent ‘green,’ but it does so at extremely competitive costs for energy, and it hedges against future fuel and regulatory risks, fulfilling our initial goal.”

The use of solar and wind-produced energy also means that unlike natural gas, nuclear, or coal-fired power plants, energy production for Georgetown will not require water. A power plant that burns fossil fuels or uses nuclear fuel can use large amounts of water each day. The use of solar and wind power in Georgetown will eliminate these impacts on the water supply and the environment. Using electricity that does not consume water is effectively a further reduction in the overall per capita water use for Georgetown. Another key goal of the utility is to become more effective in its use of water resources.

The City’s renewable power sources also may lead to an economic development benefit. Many companies, especially those in the high-tech sector, have invested in green sources of power for their office and manufacturing facilities.  Georgetown’s 100 percent renewable power supply can help companies to achieve sustainability goals at a competitive price.

*Sources: Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partnership, www.epa.gov/greenpower/toplists; Go 100% Renewable Energy, www.go100percent.org

Sheraton Hotel at Rivery Breaks Ground Feb. 19

Construction kicks off Thursday for a 224-room Sheraton hotel and conference center in Georgetown. Novak Brothers and Hines host a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Starwood-operated hotel at 2 p.m. on February 19. The event is at Rivery Boulevard and Wolf Ranch Parkway at the Summit at the Rivery Park development.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts will operate the Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel and Conference Center that is expected to open in the summer of 2016.

The Summit at Rivery Park project includes multiple restaurants and shops also expected to open with the hotel. The development also includes 223 luxury rental units available next month and 114 single-family brownstone residences. Novak Brothers, the developer for the Summit at Rivery project, has already constructed 31 brownstone residences at the site. Hines, an international real estate development firm headquartered in Houston, is a partner in the hotel and conference center.

A new multi-level public parking garage will be constructed with the project and available for users of the hotel and conference center, Rivery Park, and the public. The Rivery Park Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, a partnership including the City of Georgetown and Williamson County, will reinvest revenue generated by the project to fund the parking garage, improvements in Rivery Park, public roads, and utility infrastructure.

The Summit at Rivery Park project on I-35 will serve as a northern gateway to the Austin metro area and an anchor for future retail, office, and residential development in the center of Georgetown.

Breakfast Bites on Feb. 11: Show Me the Money

The Breakfast Bites panel on February 11 will discuss crowd-funding strategies for small businesses. Breakfast Bites is a quarterly business development event by the Georgetown Main Street Program.

The February 11 panel will include three professionals, each with a unique perspective on crowd-funding for small businesses. Mark Thomas, economic development director for the City of Georgetown, will serve as moderator. Panelists include these business professionals:

Hall Martin is the founder and CEO of Texas Entrepreneur Networks, the largest crowd-funding portal in Texas. To date the TEN Funding Program has helped entrepreneurs raise more than $141 million for startup and growth companies. Martin also is the creator of WilcoFundingPortal.com, a local crowd-funding resource.

Karen Soeffker is the owner of All Things Kids with locations in Georgetown and at The Domain in Austin. Karen and Christian Soeffker are in the process of expanding their business to new locations and are looking for investors and partners via non-traditional financing to help them grow rapidly.

Bradley Farrell is the creator of StitZii, a new product to absorb grease, fats, oils, and carbohydrates from prepared foods like pizza. Farrell has received crowd-funding for StitZii through WilcoFundingPortal.com.

The event on Wednesday, February 11 is from 8:30 to 9:50 a.m. in the Hewlett Room at the Georgetown Public Library, 402 W. Eighth Street. Breakfast snacks, coffee, and drinks will be provided. Networking starts at 8 a.m.

Attendees should pre-register by contacting Shelly Hargrove, Main Street manager, by 5 p.m. on Monday, February 9 at shelly.hargrove@georgetown.org or (512) 930-2027. Main Street is a program of the City of Georgetown Downtown and Community Services Department.

TLCC Federal Grant to Attract Foreign Companies

The Texas Life-sciences Collaboration Center recently announced a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to assist in the recruitment of foreign companies to Georgetown. The $300,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration, a bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce, will assist TLCC in recruitment of companies from South Korea.

2 TLCC leaders 2b-1000The grant will support a center within the Texas Life-sciences Collaboration Center to facilitate relocation of foreign life science manufacturing companies seeking to expand to Texas, with particular focus on Korean companies.

Services for Korean life sciences companies at the center could include embassy relations, foreign relocation specialists, workforce development assistance, training programs at Texas State Technology College, research assistance, and contract manufacturing organizations.

According to Michael Douglas, executive director of TLCC, the grant is part of a $600,000 project that will create an estimated 500 jobs in the next several years.

Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross, Michael Douglas, and Congressman John Carter (pictured above) spoke at the grant announcement event on October 9.

TLCC new building-b-1000The announcement was held in the new TLCC building that is currently under construction. When completed, the new facility will include clean-room manufacturing space for the production of biotech materials, implant devices, pharmaceuticals, and other products.

DisperSol is one TLCC company that plans to expand into the new building. DisperSol has developed technology that allows for the more ready absorption of new drug compounds.

Business Outreach Effort Teams City and Chamber

Georgetown’s economy is growing with new residential and commercial developments, increasing population, and new businesses. Another factor in Georgetown’s growth that may be less visible, but no less important, is the success of existing businesses. The growth of existing businesses boosts the local economy as they hire more employees, add locations, or invest in facilities.

Understanding the opportunities, issues, and concerns of these businesses is the focus of the City of Georgetown and the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce as they partner to reach out to local businesses. The City’s Economic Development Department and Chamber leaders are initiating a new outreach effort by contacting and meeting with business leaders from a variety of sectors. Outreach teams include City Economic Development Department staff and volunteers from the business community who have served as past chairs or vice chairs of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Volunteers have completed training in order to participate in the program.

In meeting with local businesses, the teams from the Chamber and Economic Development will be learning about company backgrounds, the impact of workforce availability, market influences, supplier proximity, and local services such as transportation, safety, and utilities. The teams will be using a survey to gather information.

Conchita Gusman, program manager for the City Economic Development Department, says, “The purpose of the effort is not just to complete a survey, but to establish and continue a face-to-face relationship. We want members of our business community to know we appreciate their choice to continue doing business in Georgetown and when they have questions about growing their business, they have access to their business retention team member.”

There are ten teams with two members each slated to conduct one visit per month. The outreach effort is starting this month with the first contacts to businesses and initial meetings.

Inner Visions Corporate Center Breaks Ground

It was a groundbreaking that reached for higher ground in Georgetown yesterday as officials and project partners shoveled earth to start the Inner Visions Corporate Center. The 60,500 square foot office complex will provide flex office space for biotech companies and other firms.

Inner Visions rendering-1000Construction on the complex was to begin today according to Ken Horak, the architect and one of three partners on the project. The 8.4-acre site is on SE Inner Loop Road at the intersection with Snead Drive. Horak says construction should take about six months to complete. A later phase with 22,000 square feet of additional space is planned.

The corporate center will fill a need in the area for high quality office space according to Michael Novick, another partner on the complex. The center also will provide room for more firms seeking to join the biotechnology cluster at the Texas Life-sciences Collaboration Center, which is less than 1,000 feet down the street from the Inner Visions site.

Union State Bank in Georgetown is providing financing for the project and Randy Mongold with San Gabriel Project Management in Georgetown is the construction contractor. “We try to do things locally,” said Novick.

The name of the project, Inner Visions, “seems to be a combination of a Stevie Wonder album and Inner Loop Road,” joked Mark Thomas, economic development director for the City. In a more serious note, Thomas said that with the completion of this office project, more than 100,000 square feet of biotechnology office and production space will have been built in the south Georgetown cluster.

Inner Visions ground 1b-1000

Pictured in the photo (left to right) are project partners Ken Horak, Michael Novick, and Al Lowy, Mayor Dale Ross, Brad Curlee (senior vice president with Union State Bank), City Manager Paul Brandenburg, Economic Development Director Mark Thomas, Randy Mongold (owner of San Gabriel Project Management), and Karen Sheldon, president of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.

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Officials donned hard hats to officially break ground on the project.

Jet Supplier Sees High-Flying Handiwork

Gulfstream front shot 2-1000Employees of a Georgetown aerospace parts manufacturer got a rare tour of a luxury corporate jet on Monday where they saw the components they make installed inside a $65 million aircraft.

Employees with Gulfstream flew a G650 business jet from the Gulfstream manufacturing facility in Savannah, Georgia to the Georgetown Municipal Airport. On a taxiway at the Airport, several employees with Enflite in Georgetown got a brief tour inside the jet. (Click on photos to see a larger version.)

Enflite makes subassembly components for sliding doors, tables, and televisions in the plane, as well as equipment in the galley such as ovens and coffee-makers. Enflite supplies interior components to a number of aerospace manufacturers.

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In the photo above (left to right) are Gulfstream pilot John Salamankas, Donny Vance with Enflite, and Interim Airport Manager Curtis Benkendorfer.

The G650 flies at nearly the speed of sound and can cruise at 51,000 feet. It can fly up to 18 passengers from New York to Beijing without stopping for gas.

So who owns one of these planes that retails for $65 million? According to a Bloomberg News article earlier this year, corporate owners of a G650 include Exxon Mobil, Honeywell, Walmart, and Qualcomm.

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Enflite makes the subassembly components that allow a passenger to press a button to have a table fold into a side pocket.

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Here the folded table is lowering into the side pocket.

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Enflite also makes devices that allow a television to lower into a storage cabinet.

Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute Opens

building front-2-640Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute officially opened their doors on Thursday with a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by tours of the new facility. The 118-bed behavioral health hospital at 3101 S. Austin Avenue offers outpatient and inpatient services to provide care to people with a range of mental health conditions. They are currently serving adults, but have plans to expand services in the coming year. (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)

The hospital has outpatient group therapy rooms, patient rooms, visitation areas, a pharmacy, a fitness room, a cafeteria, and a gym. Physicians, psychiatrists, nurses, counselors, social workers, and other health professionals staff the facility to help patients return to healthy living practices. The hospital began admitting patients in July.

Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute is one of ten behavioral health acute care hospitals owned by Signature Healthcare Services.

Georgetown Behavioral ribbon 3-640

Officials who helped to cut the ribbon at the new facility include (left to right) Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute officials Dylan Peeples, clinical liaison, CEO Patrick Moallemian, and Blair Stam, executive vice president for Signature Health, joined by Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross, Williamson County Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey, and Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis. (Click photo to see larger version.)

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Dr. Michael Nacol, contracting physician for internal medicine, and Dr. Keith Caramelli, chief medical officer, also attended the opening. (Click photo to see larger version.)

Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute currently has a staff of 50, but plans to grow to 200 employees in the coming years.

For more information on Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute, visit www.georgetownbehavioral.com.