Instead of a keynote speaker several Pinnacle Club 50 members shared thoughts and information during Friday’s monthly breakfast gathering.
The morning offered members a chance to catch up following the busy holiday season, Pinnacle Bank Vice President Guy James said.
Vance Castles with the Cleburne Education Foundation made note of the flipping of the calendar page bringing with it a new year, and decade.
“Welcome to the Roaring 20s,” Castles said. “I wasn’t around in the 1920s, but I was close.”
Castles reminded attendees of a Feb. 6 forum to be held at Cleburne ISD Administrative offices. Candidates competing in the state senator and representative races will discuss financing, safety and other matters as they relate to public education.
Castles also mentioned this year’s annual Prayer Breakfast, scheduled March 2 at Cleburne Bible Church. This year’s scheduled keynote speaker will discuss prison ministry, Castles said.
Cleburne Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Jerry Cash discussed the county’s economic outlook. It’s good, Cash said.
“The key indicators are positive,” Cash said. “Unemployment is low to the point of being an issue. The latest numbers show it at 3.3 percent in Cleburne and 3.2 percent in the county.”
Sales tax revenues are robust.
“Those collections, which are indicators of how local business is doing, were up last year,” Cash said. “Total dollars on the 2 percent the city gets from [the 8.25 cents per dollar sales tax rate] was a little over $12 million, right at about $1 million each month. Overall those revenues for Cleburne were up about 8 percent and that’s the first time Cleburne’s numbers have been that high.”
Home construction continues to boom throughout Cleburne and the county. As of November, the latest available numbers, the number of new residential structure permitted in Cleburne for 2019 totalled 248.
Good news, Cash said, for attracting new retail.
“Companies have told us for years that they need to see at least 200 new homes per year before they can get commercial and retail interest,” Cash said. “Internet sales have thrown a damper on that somewhat but there are still things the buying public wants to put their hands on, look at, try it out or whatever. Either way, having the 248 is certainly going to help with our commercial and retail development going forward.”
Cash said he’s not sure, when asked where plans to build and Aldi Grocery in Cleburne stand. The company purchased property in 2017 but have yet to build. That said, plans appear still on for a Cleburne store sometime in the near future.
Plans for the long hoped for Chick-fil-A also appear ongoing, Cash said, though no firm dates have been set.
For now residents can enjoy the return of Kentucky Fried Chicken, which recently returned to West Henderson Street. Be prepared to wait, Cash said, the restaurant has been popular since reopening about a month ago.
“But I will attest to the fact that it’s still good,” Cash said.
James thanked Cash for the update
“All the way down to the chicken report,” James said. “Jerry is very thorough.”
County Judge Roger Harmon echoed Cash’s sentiments.
“Johnson County is strong financially,” Harmon said. “We have a good fund balance in our general fund and things are looking good overall.”
The county is undertaking and/or planning several capital projects including renovation of the Burleson Sub Courthouse to take advantage of the building’s vacant second story in order to relieve overcrowding. Improvements are also planned for the sheriff’s office and the county’s ag extension office.
“We have the cash to pay for all those projects so we won’t have to go to the bond market,” Harmon said.
The county is growing, Harmon said.
“I don’t know if you’ve taken a drive around the county lately,” Harmon said. “Godley has 11 subdivisions. They say Godley may be the next Aledo. Joshua is growing. Alvarado has over 300 new homes coming. There are a bunch of high-dollar homes being built in that part of Mansfield that’s in Johnson County. Grandview just approved 350 new houses in their city limit and we’ve all seen the building on Nolan River Road and other parts of Cleburne.
“This county’s going to go over 200,000 probably in the next three years or so. I never thought I’d live to see that.”
Renovation of the existing sheriff’s office should extend that facility’s lifespan by 10 to 15 years, Sheriff Adam King said.
King thanked the county for funding a major project last year, one King said makes a true difference.
“We have [automatic electronic defibrillators] in all of our patrol vehicles,” King said. “I don’t know of any other department our size that can say that. That’s important because some areas of the county are far away from an ambulance. A lot of times the deputy is the first one to get there and the only one there for about 10 minutes before the ambulance arrives. That we have those AEDs now and that our deputies have training on how to use them is a huge deal.”
CISD School Board President John Finnell said the district remains strong financially too.
Voters in 2016 approved $130 in bonds to fund construction of a new high school and other projects. The previous high school is being renovated into a technology facility. Construction of that facility is running slightly behind but still on track, Finnell said.
Timing of the bond issuance played in CISD’s favor, he said.
“The Brexit vote in the UK occurred the week before we intended to issue the bonds,” Finnell said. “Soon as that happened the market tanked.”
Because of the timing the district saved about $25 million for the taxpayer over the life of the bond, Finnell said.
Finnell described the new high school as phenomenal and encouraged all those who have not yet toured it to do so.
Pinnacle Regional President Tim Whitlock commended students throughout the county who participated in this weeks Johnson County Livestock Show and Youth Fair for all their hard work and dedication.
“And it always amazes me how much this community supports the kids and the sale,” Whitlock said. “It’s incredible.”
Pinnacle 50 consists of area officials and business leaders who gather monthly to discuss current issues and fellowship.