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Recent growth worth $2.2 million, more on the way

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

Construction crews have been busy at various locations up and down Highway 183 in Lockhart this summer, as a wave of growth shows what many hope will be the first sign of an economic turnaround in Lockhart.

In the first six months of this year, several new businesses have opened, and others have either built or remodeled locations in

the community, to the tune of $2.2 million in construction projects, and untold sums contributed to the local economy.

“One of the things that it’s just so hard to judge is the ‘trickledown effect,’ or the secondary contribution to the local economy,” said City of Lockhart Economic Development Director Sandra Mauldin. “Obviously, when those workers are here, they are eating in our restaurants and shopping at our stores, so of course, there is an increase in sales tax revenue… but it’s very difficult to trace the source of those revenues.”

What’s more, Mauldin said, is the impact that the growth of the business community and the recent and upcoming construction projects will have in the grand scheme of things.

“If someone comes in and spends money at a local restaurant,  and tips their server, then that server will have money maybe to buy clothing at a local store,” she said. “That store owner will then have dinner at another restaurant, where the owner might make a car payment to a local dealership… In the end, every dollar that comes in locally reaches so much farther than just the first business it’s spent in.”

Within days, the new Austin Telco Federal Credit Union branch at the corner of Highway 183 and Hickory Street is slated to be open for business.

Permits filed with the city of Lockhart for the construction of the site call the building a 2,155 square foot facility, with an estimated construction cost of $800,000. It was unclear, at press time, whether the projected opening day of June 29 would be upheld, as construction was still underway at the facility.

Although the credit union is expected to have a direct local impact in job creation, Austin Telco did not immediately disclose how many job positions would be created,  and which of those were expected to be filled by existing employees.

Banking appears to be big business in Lockhart this summer. In addition to the construction of the Austin Telco facility, Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit union also broke ground on the long-awaited full-service location, which will replace the organization’s current location on Highway 183 South.

Construction on the Randolph-Brooks project, though announced nearly two years ago, began in April, and has been pressing forward at a rapid pace. The facility, when finished, is expected to be a full-service location including a drive-thru. The total construction cost on the project is expected to be near $1.1 million.

Again, it was unclear as to the number of new jobs expected to be created by the construction, versus the number of existing employees that would occupy those positions.

“It’s difficult to judge,” said City Manager Vance Rodgers in a conversation about a similar construction project. “If [companies] are pulling permits but not requesting other city assistance or subsidies, sometimes it’s hard to get them to share how many employees they are bringing, or how many jobs they are creating.”

That statement was made in regard to the long-awaited Super Wal-Mart project,  which is expected to break ground this summer. Rodgers announced last week that contractors  on the project would be meeting with Wal-Mart corporate officials and City of Lockhart representatives in a pre-bid conference on Thursday, June 23.

While new construction is beginning to boom, remodel projects are also taking flight across the community as new businesses come in to occupy old spaces.

Last month, Cellular Sales, the nation’s largest premium retailer of Verizon Wireless products, announced plans to renovate the space at 1721 S. Colorado formerly occupied by Jack in the Box.

Rumors flew as construction began that a new fast-food chain would be moving in to the building, as the $200,000 remodeling project pressed forward, Cellular Sales became more vocal about their intentions.

“Cellular sales is expanding because of our ultimate goal to achieve the best wireless customer experience in the industry,” said Ty Rankin, Regional Director of Cellular Sales. “This excellent experience is the product of intense sales representative training and a special emphasis on making and keeping our customers happy.”

Though the expansion will make life easier for local Verizon Wireless customers and generate sales and property taxes for the rolls, it may not translate into job creation – at least not immediately.

According to Blake Anders, the company’s regional recruiting director, all Cellular Sales employees rotate between the company’s regional locations. Therefore, existing employees are more likely to staff the store upon its opening, which was originally slated for late-June.

“But that certainly doesn’t mean that we won’t hire from the community,” he said. “It’s just not a guarantee that if we hire locally, those employees will be working locally. They may commute, because all of our employees work at all of our stores.”

Mauldin alluded to additional projects and businesses planning – or at least considering – opening their doors in Lockhart, but said many were so early in their considerations that confidentiality was still of the essence.

“I’m encouraged, though,” she said. “We’ve got a prime location here, and with the SH-130 construction, as well as the F-1 track coming in Austin, we’re going to see not only direct impact, but residual impact from those things as well.”

“Under Construction.”

It could be a sign of things to come in Lockhart.

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