Ray Watson has worked in economic development for 20 years, helping cities and consulting businesses. (Samantha Van Dyke / Community Impact Journal)
Ray Watson was announced as the new Director of Economic Development for the Town of Flower Mound in July and took up his new role at the end of August. He has worked in economic development for 20 years, both with other cities and municipalities and with companies as a consultant. Watson explained how he plans to help the city grow as he takes on this new role. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Tell me a bit about your background and your experience in economic development.
I spent 10 years doing economic development for different cities and regional development groups. And then, for the last 10 years, I’ve been a private sector consultant for the business side.
What does a director of economic development do?
I am really responsible for promoting the [townâs] economic growth and stability. So I work with companies that exist to do business retention and expansion. … It’s a way to help businesses develop, grow or just stay healthy in the community. The other part of [the role] attracts new businesses to the community that are not currently in the community. The main goal is to understand what is available, in terms of ownership, and then match it with the appropriate companies.
How to stay true to Flower Mound’s spirit of proximity while creating economic opportunities?
[I stay true to that by] basically just understanding what the community wants as a whole and what fits the community. We have lived here for 10 years and understand the community and what makes it special.
What kind of businesses are you looking to bring to town?
The main [types of businesses] that we are looking at are hotels and offices, and [we are] looking at the moves of the company’s head office in the region. One of the things that we have to face is that Flower Mound has become a very expensive place to live. So therefore, if you want companies to come here, then you will need to have head office facilities so that they actually have employees living here. That’s kind of the direction we’re looking at right now. [Weâre] also looking at the high end retail, restaurants, hotels and things like that that really fits the area and makes it a better place to be.
Are you actively looking for businesses to bring to Flower Mound or are they often approaching town?
The two. There are companies that come here on their own and want to be in the area, and then we are also actively looking for companies.
How do you determine which businesses the city needs and how to attract them?
This is done largely by chatting with the public at different events and meetings. The key is to be an ambassador for the city in the business world and to make sure that businesses understand that there is an opportunity here for them to get involved in a great community. [The goal is also] to put Flower Mound in front of these companies.
Are there areas of the city that you are actively working to develop further?
Yes, [I am looking to develop] the edge of the lake [Parkway]/[FM] Corridor 2499 between Gerault [Road] and [the] Development by the lake, then also the western edge of the [town] where the [Flower Mound] The development of a ranch is proposed as well as [I-]35. The aim is to identify both businesses and retailers [businesses] that match the nature of that area out there that can be sustainable, both for the developers and for the community.
What does Flower Mound have to offer that surrounding cities don’t have in terms of economic development opportunities?
I think for what we have left of developable land, we’re growing at the rate we’re supposed to grow. When you look at what Flower Mound has to offer a company or business, it really is high end net wealth per family unit and a really great place.