Author: 
Rich Flowers | Athens Daily Review

If you list the things that will keep a city or area thriving, jobs just might be on top.

Athens Economic Development Executive Director Lisa Denton sees that as a task that requires bringing in new businesses and helping the ones already on hand to keep growing.

The AEDC has projects underway to achieve both goals.

Denton arrived in Athens from Kilgore in late 2014, just in time for a roller coaster ride.

“In 2015, we had our ups and downs, but things have worked out for the better,” Denton said.

During 2015, Biotech Manufacturing Center closed after a decade. The building that housed BMC became vacant, except for a portion occupied by West Pharmaceuticals.

The timing turned out to be just right for a business already in town and in need of space to expand into the space vacated by BMC.

FutureMatrix signed a 10-year lease for the facility.

Meanwhile, a long vacant building that had been the home of Cade's Building Supply proved to be a suitable location for a company making the move from California.

AEDC officials had traveled to California on multiple occasions and was able to attract HVAC Manufacturing of California, which develops and manufactures products used in the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning industry.

HVAC had set up offices in the Cade's location at 1010 W. Corsicana St. by the end of January, while the remainder of the building was being reworked for HVAC's needs. The company expects to add 25 jobs to the Athens economy over the next five years.

More than 20 years ago, Steritec went into business in what is now known as Athens Industrial Park.

Last year, AEDC helped with $42,000 for some major upgrades to the company. The work included $200,000 to renovate their facility in order to acquire and install a state-of-the-art sterilizer for $800,000.

In 2006, Athens applied for status as one of the first certified retirement communities under a newly implemented program under the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Rural Economic Development Division.

Today retirement and nursing home companies continue to favor Athens as a location for their facilities.

In 2015, AEDC, the city and Athens Municipal Water Authority worked together to bring a new skilled nursing facility to a property at State Highway 19 and Loop 7 south.

The property owner, PATDAV LTD, asked the city and the water authority to annex 30 acres of land, located south of East Texas Medical Center into the City of Athens.

The parties agreed to run sewer to the location and AEDC agreed to pay more than $50,000 for the project.

Denton said the developer plans to use about 10 acres of the land for a 120-bed retirement facility.

In the future, the other 20 acres might be used for a gasoline station-convenience store, restaurant and an office complex.

When a number of businesses closed on the W. Corsicana Street corridor and others were showing their age, AEDC began a program to make that end of the city more attractive to those driving into the city.

In 2014, AEDC began a grant program for businesses improving the “curb appeal” of their locations.

You can see the difference at Athens Army Navy Pawn, Moonshiner's, Athens Screen Printing and other locations.

Denton said the AEDC board put the grant program in the budget again this year.

Businesses can apply for up to $10,000 reimbursement for improvements to things like signage and parking lots.

“This is for the outside of the businesses,” Denton said. “What people see when they drive into town.”

Even as efforts are made to make the city more attractive to businesses, AEDC has been upgrading its website to make it more attractive to companies interested in a more suitable location.

They are also having three short videos produced to promote Athens.

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