Talk about town to the contrary, Cleburne officials have not abandoned their focus on recruiting and retaining industrial-based jobs and former Cleburne Economic Development Director Jerry Cash has not been forced out of his job.
So said Cash, Cleburne City Manager Rick Holden and Mayor Scott Cain on Wednesday.
“Jerry’s one of the best at industry,” Holden said. “He’s been doing that for years and will continue to do that. I’ve known Jerry for years and my respect for him is so that as city manager I refused to do anything that’s not in the best interest of Jerry or the city.
“Show me someone in Texas who’s done a better job than Jerry at [industrial recruitment] and dadgum, I’ll buy you a dinner.”
Although no longer employed by the city, Cash continues on with the Cleburne Economic Development Foundation in the role of executive vice president.
CEDF, originally named the Cleburne Industrial Foundation, was founded in 1963 to recruit business and industry to Cleburne.
Throughout the years, CEDF has proved instrumental in bringing more than 45 industries to town and creating more than 5,000 jobs, Cash said during the group’s annual meeting in 2012.
Cash, through his role with CEDF, will continue to focus on industrial recruitment, and recently signed a 12-month contract to work with the city. Cash, Cain and Holden said they expect that contract to extend well past 12 months.
“It’s political season,” Cash said of talk that he was forced out of the city. “It doesn’t matter what you tell some people; they’re going to make hay out of it.
“The foundation and board members wanted to first make sure the city wanted to maintain this relationship with CEDF, the purpose of which is to improve the quality of life in Cleburne by attracting new industry, retaining the industry we already have and creating more jobs, better jobs and building the tax base. Twelve months is the starting point. If things work out, it will be renewed.”
The change relieves Cash of several duties, such as overseeing operation of the Cleburne Conference Center and other city facilities, and the responsibility of retail recruitment.
In a related development, the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce continues their search for a new tourism director. Former Tourism Director Carl Watson took a job in Florida last year.
Chamber President Cathy Marchel said the new tourism director’s duties will compliment the promotional aspects of the retail recruiter the city plans to hire.
Cash will continue to oversee those duties in the interim, all three said. The plan, however, is for the city to hire a person to focus on retail and promotion opportunities.
“Someone to aggressively pursue retail and to market our existing city facilities,” Holden said, “which we feel could sustain a lot more use than they’ve been getting. Get more golfers out there, more tournaments, more things at the conference center, things like that.
“Jerry’s one of the best and he’s working his tail off on industrial, but there’s only so much you can put on someone.”
The city is advertising for the retail and promotion position and has received several applicants, Cain and Holden said. Both anticipate a seamless transition between Cash handling those duties for now and the hiring of a new person.
“Nothing’s going to change really,” Cain said. “It’s going to be business as usual and Jerry will continue to be involved in recruiting industry. This council and administration see the value in Jerry and know it would be a huge loss to lose him.”
Hitting all the bases
Holden cited Holt Caterpillar’s recent decision to set up shop in Cleburne soon and stressed that Cleburne is “in no way curtailing” efforts to recruit new industry.
It is a sentiment Cain seconds.
“I don’t see this as a change in direction so much as an increase in focus,” Cain said. “We going to ensure what we do well we continue to do well but also bring in expertise in some of the areas we need help in.
“We’ve done industry well in the past, but we’ve not done as well with retail and housing. It’s just that industry is Jerry’s strong suit and interest and I don’t know anybody in the state who does it better, and this lets him focus on what he does best.”
Cain once again voiced disagreement with rumors the he and/or city staff hope to re-imagine Cleburne in the image of Frisco, Plano or any other city that underwent rapid growth.
“The idea I want to transform Cleburne in the image of another city couldn’t be further from the truth,” Cain said. “But, we have taken a look at other cities that went through a growth boom to see how they dealt with it and learn from any mistakes they made. The idea is for Cleburne to be Cleburne but to avoid mistakes other cities made. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but we’re always trying to perfect and make it better.”
Changes underway or soon to come are for the betterment of Cleburne, all three said, and more is to come.
“Cleburne and downtown Cleburne is going to be something people all across North Texas are going to be talking about soon, a place people want to go,” Cain said. “The dust is already beginning to fly a bit, but it’s about to get really exciting.”