Thriving through Smart and Substantial Growth
City of Kyle, TX
The City of Kyle, seventeen miles south of downtown Austin in Central Texas, has been experiencing tremendous growth for over twenty years. “You hear about significant growth in Central Texas, but in Kyle, in particular, it’s been kind of an anomaly. In 2000, our population was 5,000, and today, we are a little bit over 49,500. We’ll be over 50,000 by the end of the year,” explains Director of Economic Development Diana Torres.
The city is conveniently positioned on the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio, the fastest-growing corridor in the United States. The thriving city is close to the University of Texas and Texas State University, which has led to its rapid growth and its low average age of twenty-nine. Graduates are interested in the combination of Kyle’s peaceful quality of life and easy access to nearby cities.
Most residents currently commute to Austin or San Antonio for work. The primary goal of the economic development department is to strategically recruit companies that can create high wage employment to allow its residents to work within the community.
In 1999, the 2,200-acre master-planned community named Plum Creek opened in anticipation of the city’s massive increase in population. The first phase of the project included mostly residential construction, and approximately half of the space remains to be filled with commercial, mixed-use, higher-density housing, and additional residential development. The building is picking up momentum, and the Plum Creek community is undergoing a major expansion.
There has been $248 million invested in the past 18 months that are either under construction or soon to begin construction. The city is working on another potential $110 million in projects, and this will total $258 million.
“Within Plum Creek, there’s a 535,000-square-foot business park under construction. There is a 1.1-million-square-foot business park being planned. There is a variety of housing that’s being planned, and we’re starting, we hope, in January or February, the construction of the first phase of a multi-phased urban center, total value is probably in the $500 million range,” says Terry Mitchell, President of Momark Development, a real estate development firm that oversees projects in the area.
The year 2020 will be no exception to Kyle’s growth trend. The $500 million multi-phase urban center project called Uptown in Plum Creek will begin construction of its first phase early next year. The mixed-use building will combine residential, retail, restaurant, light industrial, and office space to create one dynamic community where people do not have to travel far from home for work or entertainment.
The Uptown development “is creating a live, work, and play center of the city where there will be employment, services, retail, and people will live there. It will give people the opportunity to walk to work and walk to services,” says Terry Mitchell.
Mayor Travis Mitchell described his excitement about collaborating with Plum Creek, Momark, and the community on the development of Uptown. “The city is trying to take a proactive role in planning the future growth of Kyle in such a way that our quality of life increases with every new project that we take on.”
One sizeable, private business that will be using this space in February 2020 is the SmileDirectClub, a company based in Nashville, Tennessee that makes clear teeth aligners as an alternative to traditional braces. It is expected to bring 850 jobs, ranging from production workers to three-dimensional (3D) printing technicians and engineers.
The economic development department puts tremendous effort into workforce development to ensure that new businesses entering the region will have a talented labor pool and has established a partnership with the school district to help guide the curriculum in the direction that will serve the needs of the growing community located within the innovation corridor.
The school district currently has an incredible career and technical education (CTE) program. “College is not for everybody, and so we have to do something to prepare those other students for the world and make them productive citizens for themselves and the community,” says Torres.
A few years ago, the CTE program saw several hundred graduates with certificates, and this year, that number has grown to several thousand. Certificates are available in fields like automotive repair and 3D printing, and this year, programs like engineering and aerospace joined the list.
“They are building their rockets, and they’re going to go out to New Mexico to launch them at the end of the school year. Where was this stuff when I was in high school?” asks Torres. “It’s blowing my mind what they are coming up with in our school district.”
To engage the school district with the local business community even further, internships are offered to students, and externships are offered to teachers. During the summer months, teachers can apply for an externship with local businesses to help them fully grasp the requirements of a field first hand. This, in turn, will enable teachers to provide the most comprehensive level of education to prepare their students for the real world.
Austin Community College, the fastest-growing college in Texas, has a campus in Kyle and is quite open to working with the community. It welcomes the City of Kyle and economic development department’s input on what type of curriculum will benefit local businesses most.
The college has over forty thousand students in the metropolitan area. Roughly four years ago, it built the first phase of a student campus in Plum Creek that gives college credits to high school students. It is also the largest job training organization in the area and will tailor job training programs to a business’s specific needs.
For example, South Korea-based company ENF Technology announced last year that it would build its headquarters in Plum Creek so its employees could live close to the factory. The college then offered specialized training courses related to semiconductor science and technology.
The City of Kyle has partnered with other organizations to improve the lives of its residents. The Make-A-Wish Foundation chose to grant the wish of Ash Crane, a boy with a congenital heart defect, to build a hockey rink. The foundation did not have enough funding for the project and reached out to the city for help. Ash had moved to Kyle from Colorado and, hoping to make him feel at home, the city helped to raise funds for a public pavilion that could be used to play roller hockey. In the end, almost all of the Ash Pavilion funding came from private donations, and the project is nearly completed.
The location between Austin and San Antonio, on the Texas Innovation Corridor, fuels the opportunity for business growth in Kyle. “It’s less expensive. You’ll probably spend half of what it costs in urban Austin to rent a space here. You can be ten minutes away from the office and never have to get on a freeway, and you have good school districts to take advantage of, so it’s the quality of life that’s become desirable for a lot of people,” says Mayor Mitchell.
While Austin has many employment opportunities, as it grows, it becomes more expensive and more congested, and the cost of living and traffic stress are important factors affecting the quality of life. The median home price in the core of Austin is over $600,000, whereas the home price in Kyle is roughly S240,000, which more people can afford.
But only seventeen miles south, the City of Kyle is the ideal alternative for people looking to have all the features of a small town while maintaining access to nearby bigger cities.
“There are about 156 net new people to the Austin region a day, so we actually ran our own numbers and figured out for Kyle, we estimate that there are about ten new people moving to Kyle every day,” says Torres.