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Situated along Interstate 35 near the center of the Eagle Ford shale deposits, the community of Cotulla in LaSalle County has a plan to handle the impact of its new boom town status. This is mostly due to the foresight of community leaders who sought out assistance in managing its unrivaled growth.

A key step toward ensuring Cotulla’s growth is positive and sustainable is an Economic and Competitive Assessment Study of the community recently conducted by the Economic Development Program at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX). The findings and recommendations of the independent, third-party assessment were presented Nov.15 at the South Texas Forum in Cotulla.

“TEEX conducted the competitive assessment over a period of several months, looking at the town’s ability to attract business investments and helping to formulate parts of a master plan for the town by focusing on sustainability, growth and resilience,” said John Adams, an economic development expert with TEEX Knowledge Engineering and one of the authors of the study.

Some key features of the community, according to the study, include its strategic location along I-35 in the center of the Eagle Ford oil boom. The state has already begun improvements to I-35 and the highway access roads to Cotulla. Substantial corporate investments are being made and will continue as the oil and gas activities increase and new suppliers expand to provide goods and services to the industry. Newly constructed hotels provide opportunities to attract meetings and conferences to the area.

Another advantage Cotulla has is its forward-thinking leaders, and their focus on long-term sustainability and diversification of the local economy, Adams said. “By developing a master plan for Cotulla and LaSalle County, community leaders will have a blueprint for managing its explosive growth in a strategic, sustainable, step-wise fashion,” he added. “Branding Cotulla and LaSalle County as a growing, diverse community and hub of commercial trade will enhance the area’s sustainability.”

In addition, Adams said that the community will benefit from regional growth in the Gardendale industrial area, growth at Anadarko, expansion of oil and gas handling operations, and increased electricity production.

Among the immediate needs identified in the report are expanded fire protection, infrastructure enhancements, and housing for the influx of workers to the region. A key recommendation from the study the expansion of the Cotulla Airport, which held a groundbreaking earlier this month. The expansion of operations and infrastructure at the Cotulla Airport will help to establish the community as the supply-distribution and services hub of the region, Adams said, adding that a county-wide Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) should also be considered. Another recommendation calls for revitalizing downtown and preserving and promoting historical assets. Already in the works is a sports complex, which is expected to draw regional tournaments and other sports events.

“The TEEX Impact Study is a great tool to promote Cotulla and LaSalle County,” said Larry Dovalina, Cotulla City Administrator. “Our dynamic growth is a hallmark of the region’s attractiveness for investment, new business and jobs.”

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