If there’s anything positive to come out of the coronavirus pandemic is that Kerrville and Kerr County could be better positioned for a faster recovery than many parts of the state and nation.
That’s the theory that Kerr Economic Development Director Gil Salinas holds to as he continues to assess the state of development in the community.
Salinas says that projects that were on hold due to the pandemic, are starting to move forward again or at least putting plans together to do so, including the Skymaster project, a tech-focused business that the city of Kerrville and Salinas have kept a close lid on. That project could bring a major manufacturer to the region.
During a conversation on Tuesday on KDT Live, a daily Facebook Live webcast, Salinas said that the region could bounce back, but that also featured some caution.
“I’m not going to say we’re going to be OK,” Salinas said during the 24-minute interview. “This is a disruption like no other. What I can say is disruption creates opportunity.”
Salinas said Kerrville’s strength has been in medical device manufacturers and those businesses are ramping up production. Kerrville-based All Plastics, which makes component plastic parts for a number of industries, including the medical sector, has been one of those companies that have been on a hiring spree.
“This virus will continue to reshape our cities and communities, and how we do business,” Salinas said. “We are looking at everything in that (context).”
That disruption, in part, may be playing out thanks to the pandemic, where some companies are pushing back against government-led lockdowns, including Tesla’s Elon Musk, who has bristled at the notion of shutting down his California-based facilities.
Tesla has already put in motion plans to build a new factory in either Tulsa, Okla. or in Austin, but Musk has also suggested he may relocate entirely to Texas. For his part, Salinas is paying close attention to the Tesla drama, especially if the company does build a factory in Austin.
“I think Austin, Central Texas, would be in a great position to land that project,” Salinas said. “Should that happen that puts us in a great position to really start looking at their supply chain.”
Salinas said Kerrville would be within a two-hour drive to a place for one of those suppliers to land if Tesla moves to Texas, and while it’s speculative, Salinas believes Kerrville is positioned to be competitive.
“We are geographically in a great position, because of the assets that we have,” said Salinas, adding that Kerrville’s connection to Interstate 10 is a major plus.
ON THE FUTURE OF WORK
Salinas said another area that the pandemic could have a deep impact is on the future of the workplace, especially with social distancing being a key component for any employer.
“Shared office space was very popular, now that might not be the case,” Salinas said. “People coming back into the regular office — guess what? Cubicles now become popular again. So, we’re preparing to see what that’s going to look like in the near future.
ON MOONEY AIRCRAFT COMING BACK
The shuttered aircraft manufacturer, which has called Kerrville home since the 1950s, has been quiet about it plans to reopen since the first of the year, and Salinas was cautious about addressing the famed company’s future.
“I’m hopeful they will be able to rebound,” Salinas said. “They still have an operation in Kerrville. We have fielded calls from interested parties in investing. Mooney is a powerful brand.”