As your Mayor, I get the privilege of attending meetings and being involved in discussions about the future of our community. While doing some research, I came across a report done in 2009 for a mobility study that projects Commerce to have a population of close to 16,000 by the year 2030. An increase of over 6000 residents in 20 years! Too many that may sound like a long way off, but as I get older, I realize that twenty years will be here in the blink of an eye.
To some in our city, the potential for 6000 new residents is frightening. They want to keep Commerce just like it is; growth and change are dirty words. For others, growth and change is embraced. For those citizens, that embrace growth and change, you are my kind of people.
But if you are for growth and change, I can guarantee you this, if we fail to PLAN AND ACT, it will not happen. One only needs to look at a study commissioned by the City in the mid 1960s. Projected population of the City of Commerce in 1988: 23,638. Projected enrollment at the University: 25,000.
There is probably not one clear answer to that question. If one looks at the reports, a road map was laid out in front of our leaders on how to plan for that growth and what steps needed to be taken. Unfortunatly, like many reports it probably was used for a year or two and then put back on a shelf to collect dust.
What is clear today, just as clear as it was in 1966, is “it would be difficult to overstate the degree to which the economic prosperity and consequent growth of the City of Commerce is tied to the growth of East Texas State University (Texas A&M-Commerce).” Did the leaders of Commerce do all they could to work with the University to ensure its growth and success? I don’t know, I was not here at the time. I can say this, going forward if we want “economic prosperity” the city must work to make Commerce a community in which students want come to get an education, faculty and staff wants to live and businesses want to locate.
Let’s make Commerce that place. Let’s make Commerce a University Town.
The report also indicated the need to be a University town. We are not a university town; we are a town with a University in it. I challenge you to go to other communities with Universities and see how the people and businesses in the community are proud of the University. They display the colors of the University, they attend events on campus and they play an active roll in the success of their University. What are you doing? And better yet, what are our leaders in the community doing? Often times it is said that change starts with looking at the person in the mirror. So change will start with me and I will practice what I preach.
I will take a more active role in our community and the success and growth of the University. I will promote the University in any way I can. I will attend University events when possible. I will be a proud alumni.
This is a simple step, but yet if we all do our part we can become a University Town and we can grow.
I will close with this other part from the report. “Population growth is dependent on economic growth.” The University is our largest employer. Its students, faculty and staff live in and support our local businesses. It is the economic engine that keeps Commerce moving. If we help their population grow, the City will experience economic growth.