On Dec. 12, members of the Kyle Chamber of Commerce gathered at the Inn Above Onion Creek, but the day’s agenda did not include the typical bed and breakfast fare. Executive Director Ray Hernandez and the attendees spent the day looking back on 2012 and ahead to the organization’s work in 2013, which includes preparing for the opening of Austin Community College’s Kyle Campus in 2014.
“We passed a resolution [supporting ACC’s entry into Kyle] through the board of directors back in 2010,” Hernandez said. “We were the first organization to publicly do that. We worked hand in hand with community members and the Buda chamber on making this happen.”
ACC’s 96-acre Hays campus is expected to bring general education as well as workforce and skills training that could provide an economic boon to the area, Hernandez said.
“It’s going to be another one of our flagship economic development priorities,” Hernandez said. “Obviously a few years back, the development of [FM] 1626 was one, and more recently was Seton Medical Center Hays, and now ACC is the next piece of that puzzle to help drive economic development so we have expansive health care offerings in our area.”
Between 2000 and 2010, the City of Kyle experienced a growth rate of 427 percent, said Diana Blank, Economic Development director.
This growth led to a buildup of retail space along the I-35 corridor in the city, including the Village at Kyle and Kyle Crossing. The vacancy rate of the city’s retail locations in 2011 was 4 percent, which outpaced Austin’s rate of 10 percent.
Despite the low vacancy rate, many of the spaces on the shopping center’s marquees remain empty. The Village at Kyle had a tumultuous 2012 that culminated with the center’s developer filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September.
Hernandez said the move was most likely part of a reorganization on the part of the developer, and retail is actually stronger in 2012 than it was in 2011.
“You know retail has come back very strong,” he said. “I believe in October we had already surpassed what we had done the previous year. So our numbers are higher than they’ve been in the past.”
Hernandez said he credits Blank’s work with Kyle Economic Development and Catalyst, a market research group that partnered with the city to conduct a retail study in 2011.
The study concluded that Kyle was experiencing $533,678,304 of annual “retail leakage.” The term refers to the amount of money a community loses to a competing market. The entry of stores such as Home Depot, Rack Room Shoes, Applebee's and IHOP has helped curb this trend, and Hernandez said when Walmart opens its doors at the Village at Kyle in 2013, that leakage will continue to decrease.
“Being here in Central Texas, you know about what’s happening in the communities, but there are so many other developers out there that are sitting in an office in Atlanta or Chicago that don’t realize what’s happening in Central Texas,” Hernandez said. “They’re just looking at Dallas and Houston. Or they know what’s happening in Dallas and Houston, but they don’t believe what’s happening here between Austin and San Antonio. There’s a lot of opportunity here.”