Young Professionals get down to business at Lil Tex Restaurant
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Young Professionals of Copperas Cove held their first official meeting with a guest speaker from the Economic Development Department, discussing the future growth of Cove at Lil Tex Restaurant Friday morning.
Marc Farmer, director of the Copperas Cove Economic Development Department, was the guest speaker and facilitated discussion surrounding businesses and answered questions about the future of business development in Copperas Cove.
Among the 12 who attended were group founders Ashley Whitworth, Rachel Kase and Marsha Siler. Other attendees included Don Nicholas, field representative for 25th District U.S. Representative Roger Williams, and Kevin Marsh, director of the Copperas Cove Public Library.
Farmer answered questions about advantages and disadvantages Copperas Cove may have in terms of bringing businesses to the area. Farmer said he hadn’t yet heard from business owners or companies about any disadvantages that would prevent businesses from coming to the city.
Whitworth asked about the impact of the I-14 highway designation on Copperas Cove, by bringing in new development. Farmer said that anytime there is an interstate designation, business follows.
Siler asked whether the EDD would be bringing back the incubator space for small businesses that helped homebased businesses. Farmer didn’t say they would definitely be coming back, but he agreed with the need for a space. Library director Kevin Marsh added that the library is doing some of the stuff that the business incubator program used to do, that small business owners use the library for its wi-fi, air conditioning, computers, and printing at 10 cents a page.
Siler also asked about whether Cove would be focused on bringing in big stores, like Target or K-Mart, or staying focused on drawing in smaller businesses. Farmer said bigger businesses would be coming, no matter what. He mentioned that Jacksonville has a yearly event when their downtown stores open up and the whole community enjoys the area.
In Copperas Cove, Farmer said has trouble finding the downtown equivalent. He asked if there was a true designation of Downtown Copperas Cove, to which Siler replied that the city council said there is and are trying to revitalize it.
She additionally said she was concerned over rising costs of living in Cove with nothing substantial to show for it.
Josh Welch, another attendee, who works for W.B. Development, explained that compared to Killeen and Harker Heights, cities which have grown exponentially over the past 15 years, Cove has stayed small, because that’s what citizens wanted. Because of that, the city’s expenses and costs kept rising over the years but the city didn’t try to increase their tax base to bring in new revenues and profits, Welch added. It isn’t until the past four or five years that the city council has members interested in growing Cove, he said.
The group also discussed the impact of Fort Hood and the military on businesses, such as the possibilities of businesses to serve soldiers and their families, and they discussed the need to keep soldiers and families in the area after leaving the service or while soldiers are deployed.
This was the first official meeting of the group with a guest speaker. The Young Professionals previously had a mixer in February and had a difficult time kicking off the group, according to Whitworth. It wasn’t until this month that they were able to really start, which they did with a social at Bella Sera earlier this month and then Friday’s breakfast meeting. The Chamber of Commerce covered the attendees’ meals.
Whitworth, who works at the First Texas Bank branch in Copperas Cove, said she grew up in Cove before moving to Killeen and starting her career there. While in Killeen, she was a member of the Greater Killeen Young Professionals group.
“I had a lot of my personal success in the Killeen community attributed to some of the connections that I made with the Killeen Young Professionals so when we got the new president, Greg [Solomon], at the Copperas Cove Chamber, I approached him regarding how I could get involved with the Chamber, what could be done,” Whitworth said. “I explained my experience in Killeen and he was enthused to find out it was mainly Young Professionals. Then he expressed that he wanted a Young Professionals group here in Copperas Cove and asked me to do it.”
Whitworth also spoke of the struggle of traditional business mixers for young professionals.
“it’s really hard for someone in their early 20s and 30s to break into those social groups so this a good way to join together and figure what we want this community to be, through networking, through being a voice for what the younger generation wants to see in this town and just making a difference,” Whitworth said.
The next Sip and Social is July 13 at Bella Sera at 6 p.m. and the next Business Breakfast is July 28 at Lil Tex Restaurant at 7:45 a.m. with Ira Brand as the guest speaker. The group also has a Facebook page called Copperas Cove Young Professionals where they post information about their events.