Economic development is all about making communities stronger and better, and stronger and better is what Lance LaCour is all about.
A former national racquetball champion and triathlon participant, Granbury Economic Development Director LaCour is always working harder where his own personal best is concerned.
Since arriving in Granbury last June, he has been focused on attracting businesses and industries that will bring good-paying jobs to Granbury and Hood County, which a few years ago was ranked the ninth fastest-growing county in the country by the United States Census Bureau.
Six months into his new gig, LaCour thus far has been low key, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy. He has been laying groundwork for future projects that will include, but will certainly not be limited to, businesses at and around the expanded Granbury Regional Airport.
LaCour has more than 30 years’ experience in economic development and has a master’s degree in that field of study. He earned that degree as well as a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Southern Mississippi.
The city hired LaCour after City Manager Chris Coffman, with approval from the City Council, created an economic development department.
Since previous partnerships involving the city, county, and chamber of commerce ultimately failed, Coffman felt that an economic development department controlled and funded by the city would have greater sustainability. He indicated that partnerships are still welcome, though.
LaCour was living in Humble and was president and CEO of Partnership Lake Houston, which he described as a combination chamber/economic development organization, when he drew the city of Granbury’s attention.
By the time he joined Partnership Lake Houston, LaCour was a seasoned economic development expert. He had spent 15 years with the Katy Area Economic Development Council and before that, he worked in economic development roles in both Alabama and Mississippi.
After four years of college, LaCour was still unsure of what career path he would take. He thought of maybe going to law school.
LaCour had just completed his undergraduate work and was mulling what to do next when one of his cycling friends invited him to participate in a sailboat race across the Gulf of Mexico.
Upon returning, LaCour returned to USM to retrieve some materials and encountered a student who asked if he would like to go with him to check out the economic development department.
That chance encounter set LaCour’s career path. He found that he liked the field of study and felt that it incorporated his political science degree because economic development involves policy.
LaCour’s master’s thesis involved a methodology he created for how communities can best decide on what industries to recruit.
“We’re looking at our target industries right now, here,” LaCour said of Granbury.
The economic development director said the city is currently updating a study done seven or eight years ago by Wadley-Donovan-Gutshaw Consulting, one of the top site selections firms in the world.
The city is also looking at site readiness and is conducting a labor market evaluation of the region.
LaCour said that all three components should be completed by late February. Findings will be presented to the City Council and the city’s strategic plan is expected to be revised accordingly.
In his day-to-day work, LaCour spends a considerable amount of time on the computer. He keeps abreast of the many data sources that are important for economic development work and maintains a database of about 120 local properties.
It’s all “a challenge to keep up with,” he stated.
Luckily, LaCour is a self-professed “data geek” and he has been given help since starting his new job on June 13. Sharon Bridges was hired for the role of economic development coordinator.
When an organization or company requests information on the local labor force, incentives, transportation, and other business-related topics, LaCour and Bridges compile a packet for them.
WHAT ABOUT THE BAN?
Although the development moratorium caused by a delay in building a second wastewater treatment plant has slowed down economic development, both LaCour and City of Granbury Communications Manager Jeff Newpher said there are ways for projects to move forward.
For instance, with approval from the City Council, a developer can temporarily construct an on-site wastewater system with the intention of eventually connecting to the city’s wastewater treatment system once a second plant is built.
Since projects take time to get off the ground anyway, LaCour and Newpher encourage developers to contact city staff to see how groundwork can be laid in the meantime. (Opponents to the WWTP’s planned location on Old Granbury Road have appealed the decision made by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to issue the permit. If the appeal is denied, a lawsuit is possible.)
Newpher said he wants people to know that Granbury “is open for business.”
He stated, “Although there's a moratorium, what we are encouraging people to do, whether it's an individual, or a business, local business, Fortune 500 company, Amazon, any of them that say, you know, we think Granbury is where we ought to be, but we've heard about this moratorium.’ Come in or call or email the Community Development department and say, ‘This is what I want to do, and this is where I want to do it. Is it allowed?’”
GOING THE DISTANCE
LaCour and his wife Michelle have two grown kids, a son and a daughter. Son Emory, 22, is an electrical designer for an engineering firm in Houston. He’s working on a degree in electrical engineering.
Daughter Alexa, 24, is working for a veterinarian while taking courses at Tarleton State University. She is considering medical school.
A native of Chalmette, Louisiana, near New Orleans, LaCour has enjoyed hunting, fishing, and sports all his life.
He began playing racquetball at age 12. He was 15 when, at Louisiana State, he won the first tournament he ever played in.
Despite 40 knee surgeries caused by years of playing racquetball, LaCour still conquers the court. He can be seen playing the sport at the Hood County YMCA two or three times a week.
The sportsman also typically cycles three times a week, covering 25-30 miles with each excursion.
LaCour is accustomed to going the distance, which might make him the right person to lead Granbury’s economic development efforts at such an important time in the growing city’s history.
“I’ll say this, and Chris (Coffman), my boss, understands this: It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint,” LaCour said of economic development. “And fortunately, I’m a distance athlete.”