Business Thrives in Central Texas
Brenham Economic Development Foundation
Located in the heart of Texas, the city of Brenham is scenic and historic, a beautiful place to live and work. Brenham is home to many thriving businesses. The city’s convenient location, skilled workforce, and commitment to local businesses make it a great place to invest.
Brenham, Texas, is a rural city where business flourishes. The area has experienced positive net job growth in eight out of the past ten years, even as the country struggled through the Great Recession, and continues to experience steady growth in population. In addition to sustaining many successful local businesses, the city has also welcomed multiple companies to establish new facilities in the area.
The Brenham Economic Development Foundation plays a central role in the area’s economic success. The EDF is an independent group of local business leaders committed to helping the community’s businesses grow and expand. The organization also partners with businesses looking to expand or relocate to Brenham, providing them with the information, resources, and financial incentives necessary to realize their development goals.
The foundation was formed in 1953 when a group of community leaders banded together to create business opportunities. Originally known as the Brenham Industrial Foundation, the organization has continued to grow and evolve over the years. The EDF has over 250 members comprised of local businesses and individuals. The group has achieved many successes in its mission to maintain a prosperous, thriving business community that creates jobs, opportunities, and tax revenues to enrich the lives of area citizens.
We spoke with Page Michel, President and CEO of the Brenham Economic Development Foundation, to learn more about what makes Brenham such an outstanding place to do business.
Michel shared three words often used to describe the city of Brenham: charm, character, and authenticity. With a population of approximately 35,000 people in the county, and over 55,000 within a 30-minute drive time radius, Brenham is a close-knit community. Offering a rich history, unique shopping and dining options, along with state of the art medical facilities and educational opportunities, Brenham is a hub of commerce for central Texas. The city is located in the heart of the Texas Triangle, just hours from Houston, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth and San Antonio. Residents enjoy a peaceful, rural location, away from the hectic pace of city life, yet close enough to enjoy the amenities of big cities.
Hailed as the Birthplace of Texas, the Washington County area was one of the first settled areas in the state. In 1836, delegates gathered there to draft the Declaration of Independence and Constitution for the Republic of Texas. Washington County was formally founded in 1837, and the city of Brenham was established in 1844, as pioneers flocked to the area.
Brenham also has a rich history of business success. The area’s largest private employer, Blue Bell Creameries, opened in 1907 and has been thriving in Brenham ever since. When a food safety crisis impacted the ice cream maker in 2015, Blue Bell acted quickly to correct the situation and re-train its workforce in new safety procedures. Brenham’s Hodde Tech Center played a pivotal role, providing space and resources for training the company’s employees. In the midst of the manufacturing crisis, Brenham seized the opportunity to qualify for a federal grant, which enabled an expansion of the workforce training center. Blue Bell is making a strong recovery from the crisis and continues to operate successfully. The company welcomes scores of visitors to its ice cream parlor and tour center in Brenham each year.
Today, Brenham is home to a diverse group of businesses in industries ranging from healthcare, to food service and hospitality, to manufacturing and more. In 2014, British manufacturing firm Precision Polymer Engineering (PPE) established its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Brenham. After reviewing proposals from multiple cities in Texas, PPE chose Brenham for its skilled workforce, competitive labor cost, low tax rates, and strategic location. “Brenham offers a stable and skilled labor pool and a lower cost of operations, while still providing great access to Texas’ major markets, and that is what attracted PPE to this site,” noted Michel. The EDF partnered with PPE to make the project a success; the result was a new $7 million dollar manufacturing facility situated on six acres in the Brenham Business Center.
Indeed, Brenham is known for its loyal, stable, and productive workforce. “Larger cities may have a bigger pool of employees, but they don’t have the same work ethic,” Michel explained. Brenham is home to an established workforce with deep roots in the community. What’s more, the area’s workforce has grown by 8.9 percent in the last 10 years.
The A.W. Hodde Jr. Technical Education Center, administered by Blinn College in Brenham, is a state of the art facility that offers training in a variety of fields, produces skilled workers who are ready to meet the needs of the area’s businesses, and also offers companies the opportunity to provide ongoing training and development for their employees. The workforce training center is currently undertaking a project that will double its size in 2017. Blinn College also offers associate’s degrees and an array of certification programs to prepare students for careers in many different fields and industries. As local businesses grow, Blinn College and the Hodde TEC center continue to meet the demand for well-trained, highly skilled employees.
The city’s location is optimal for business growth and success. Its spacious, rural setting offers lots of room to grow and expand; the cost of land is affordable, and the EDF offers incentives for businesses to buy land. Situated on US Highway 290 and State Highway 36, Brenham has excellent infrastructure for trucking. There are five major metropolitan areas located within 200 miles of Brenham: Bryan-College Station, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas/Fort Worth. Brenham has a municipal airport and there are three international airports located within 90 miles, offering convenient access to travel throughout the world.
As Brenham’s commercial landscape continues to grow and expand, the EDF provides vision and leadership for the community. Page Michel shared with us the foundational goals that guide the EDF’s strategy from year to year:
• Retention and expansion of local businesses: The EDF strives to help local businesses thrive, investing time and resources into learning about the successes and challenges these businesses experience. Recognizing that the majority of Brenham’s economic growth comes from existing businesses within the community, the foundation partners with local employers to ensure that they can succeed. “We treat our existing local employers like gold,” said Michel.
• Workforce Maximization: “Some people call it ‘workforce development’, but we are talking about maximizing,” Michel explained. The EDF partners with local schools, government agencies, and businesses to ensure that every young person receives the training they need to be a productive citizen and attain a successful career. The workforce training center also offers opportunities for workers to receive additional training and grow their technical skills. This investment in training and education has produced a skilled workforce that is ready to meet the needs of employers in a variety of industries.
• Attracting new businesses: The EDF actively recruits businesses to expand or relocate to the Brenham area through planning and site selection services, incentives, development partnerships, and more. These services are offered at no cost.
• Organizational excellence: The EDF strives for excellence in all that it undertakes. The foundation is focused on having the best-trained staff, technology and tools. The EDF works hand-in-hand with the business friendly leadership of the City of Brenham, the Brenham Community Development Corporation, Washington County, and Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative to achieve continuous progress.
With so much going for it, Brenham is the location of choice for many companies in a broad range of business sectors, from manufacturing and construction to financial services and retail trade. In fact, in 2011, Site Selection Magazine ranked it the #1 micropolitan area in Texas, and it is easy to see why. The city provides a vibrant and supportive environment for businesses to thrive, coupled with a high quality of life for all its residents.
The city of Brenham truly offers something for everyone, and its Economic Development Foundation works to ensure that business and individuals alike are supported and assisted in having all their needs met.