News Archives - Waco Chamber

The Connection Between Property Tax and School Finance

By Jessica Attas

As published by the Waco Tribune-Herald.

 

2017-09-19_1543Few are the people who take delight in paying property taxes. Yet when we understand where our dollars go and have confidence they are being spent wisely on services and infrastructure of benefit to us all, the sting is lessened and, in fact, we may appreciate the quality of life and services they provide.

 

Nevertheless, when the growth of our tax burden outpaces the growth in our income, it can cause a strain that is more intimately felt. The same is true in the commercial sector. Businesses may be reluctant to make new hires (i.e., create jobs) or otherwise expand their business (which oftentimes includes a capital investment that boosts our tax rolls) if they face uncertainty on how their property taxes may increase from one year to the next.

 

In that vein, property-tax reform has been a battle cry of the last regular and special state legislative sessions. At the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, we stand with our members and businesses in calling for policy solutions that will offer true and meaningful property-tax relief and reform. Businesses experiencing a 200 percent increase in land valuations will not support the sustainable growth and development so many in our community have worked so long and so intentionally to foster. To discuss what those meaningful solutions could be — and what they are not — it may be helpful to widen the scope and provide a bit of context.

 

Our property-tax bill comes from the taxing entities in our jurisdiction: city, county, school districts and community colleges. Each entity determines its tax rate and may tax up to a maximum rate determined by the state government. If they want to increase over 8 percent from one year to the next, they must take this proposition to the voters for approval (this is called the roll-back rate).

 

Many taxing entities strive to lower their rates when possible. Our local county leadership has successfully done so the last two budget cycles. With that in mind, let’s consider the other piece of the property-tax system, which is the appraisal valuation.

 

Unlike the tax rate, which is set locally, the appraisal valuation is not fully within the local appraisal district’s control. State of Texas Government Code Section 403.302 requires the State Comptroller’s office (the Property Tax Assistance Division) to conduct a Property Value Study (PVS) to determine the total taxable value of all property in each school district every two years. For each study, the state selects a sample and determines what they feel are fair market values for each property.

 

For this year for Waco Independent School District, state officials looked at 400 of 26,000 properties, determined what they felt were their values and used those to set the range in which other properties in the district should fall. Interestingly, many of the properties selected were prime properties in areas of town experiencing increased development interest, such as within the Tax Increment Financing Zone, or two at Barron’s Crossing. We should remember those properties are not truly representative of all properties within WISD.

 

The state comptroller study is then used to determine appraisal district performance, with the performance metric being that the appraisal district must come within a range of 5 percent below/above the total value set by the state. Let that sink in a moment.

 

Let’s turn to another aspect. This might seem a change of topic, but read on to fully consider. On the floor of the Texas House of Representatives during the special session, a legislator asked Rep. Dan Huberty, chairman of the Public Education Committee who had proposed legislation (HB 21) to boost education funding to the tune of some $1.8 billion, if in fact the state weren’t spending more on education today than ever. While technically true, this does not recognize that the number of students we have in the system is growing at a rate that far outpaces student spending. The net effect is that the per-pupil amount of state funding is less every year, with current spending levels below pre-recession levels of 2008, before even taking into account inflation. Adjusted for inflation, in 2015 dollars, Texas was spending $10,260 per student in 2009-2010. Today we spend just $8,935.

 

Further, our demographic trends in Texas are such that our percentage of English language learners — a group more costly to prepare for success in our educational system and for post-secondary success in our workforce — is growing more rapidly than other student groups. So the need is greater now than ever, but the state dollars are slipping away from education. Texas, in fact, ranks 43rd in the nation in per-pupil spending (up from 49th in 2012). Our student outcomes reflect that. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Texas ranks 40th in percentage of fourth graders reading at grade-level (46th in the nation for Hispanic students alone) and 41st in the nation in post-secondary matriculation. While 46 percent of young adults ages 25-34 in the nation hold a certificate, associate’s degree or higher, in Texas just 38 percent of adults in that same age range do. For the Texas economy to remain competitive and grow, it is imperative we develop our talent and workforce to support the very businesses that will drive our economic growth.

 

Declining state funding

 

Historically, state support of education spending (per-pupil spending) was an even split, 45-45, between the state and local school districts (via those property taxes discussed above) with the remaining 10 percent coming from federal dollars. Over the last decade, the state’s share of per-pupil funding has been gradually declining, from about 45 percent for the last couple of decades, to around 36 percent in the upcoming budgetary biennium from the state. The balance, of course, must be made up by increased local share, which means increased local property taxes.

 

I’ve burned the midnight oil looking over budgets of years past, digging through Legislative Budget Board reports, and running numbers and scenarios, but in the interest of brevity, and for some wonderful real-life projections of impact, I simply would refer you to the excellent Texas Tribune article by Ross Ramsey, “Analysis: The state’s declining support for public education in Texas” (December 2016). One standout fact from that read is this: Had state support of education remained at 44.9 percent over the last decade, the state would have spent $18.6 billion more and school district taxpayers would have spent $11.6 billion less. But as the state reduces its share, local districts must fill the gap — and the way to do that is by raising property taxes. Further, as our state experiences economic growth, property values may experience market-driven increases as well. The state has used these as an excuse to decrease its own education spending.

 

The crux is this: State aid in education declines — is able to decline — as local property values rise. And values are within a range set at state level, though not necessarily market-driven. This is codified statutorily for the Comptroller’s Office and again in the state’s budget (SB 1) crafted by state legislators and passed by the legislative conference committee. It’s an exhaustive 900-plus-page document and, in Article III of the 85th legislative session’s SB 1, relating to the Texas Education Agency, page 5, subsection 3 tells us clearly: Property values, and the estimates of local tax collections on which they are based, shall be increased by 7.04 percent for tax year 2017 and by 6.77 percent for tax year 2018.

 

We know it is inevitable that property values will continue to rise because the state is mandating it and has given that directive in the state budget. State officials have set the values to which our appraisal district must adhere.

 

When we consider all these components, it is curious then for the Texas Legislature to consider lowering the property-tax rollback rate from 8 percent to 4 percent or even 6 percent as the best solution for property-tax reform. The problem, as we can see, is not the rate but the rising values. And that range of values is artificially created and imposed by the state. Again, our appraisal district must adhere.

 

If we want meaningful property-tax relief — which we as the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce do — we must address the real problem, which is the broken way we fund our public schools, and stop shifting the cost from the state down to the locals. This is a shift we have seen already: cities being expected to maintain state/federal rights-of-way along our interstates and highways but not given funding to do so; counties being required to provide mental-health services for inmates (a worthy investment, though also one that perhaps should fall more squarely under the state mental-health umbrella) but not given money to provide them; and schools being mandated to give teacher raises or implement more rigorous high-quality early-childhood education programs but not given money to do so. The state is shifting more responsibility to local entities but not providing the funding, which means no choice remains but for local property-tax bills to increase.

 

Further, the state proposes to limit the amount local entities can raise to meet such responsibilities, all while setting the valuation ranges — a fact many voters don’t know — so that local appraisal districts bear the brunt of citizen outcry when property taxes rise when, in fact, the state has directed it to be so.

 

We applaud the work of the Texas House of Representatives, Speaker Joe Straus, Chairman Huberty, his Public Education Committee and its outstanding staff, who worked to craft some meaningful solutions to the property tax-school finance dilemma. We are grateful our representatives supported that bill. We applaud Chairman Larry Taylor and the Senate Education Committee for their call to study school finance during the interim and we appreciate our senator supporting that aspect of the bill.

 

Perhaps if we can talk and move toward repair of our method of school finance, then we can make more progress on broader educational reforms to improve the system. Advocates of public education are often wary of educational reforms. If we fix the system of cost-shifting down to the local government, we could then turn to such education reforms, all while also righting the burden of our rising property taxes. Conversations about what education reforms will improve student outcomes seem premature if the essentials of adequately funding Texas public schools isn’t first addressed.

 

It’s imperative to our future economic growth and vitality that we address our broken property-tax system. It is certainly true that, because Texas does not have a state income tax, our overall tax burden places us in the middle of the pack in a state-by-state ranking. Yet our property taxes are among the highest in the nation. The pro-business orientation of our elected leadership and a friendly regulatory environment have allowed us in Texas to be very successful in attracting and expanding business. Imagine how much stronger our hand would be in competing for new business — particularly those that are capital intensive and thus generate higher property taxes — if we were able to lower our property-tax bills. Property tax relief and reform is possible. It begins with fixing our method of funding Texas public schools.

 

Meaningful property-tax reform and relief is important to businesses and residential owners alike. Perhaps if we could set aside our ideas about what we’ve always known, and be willing to think outside the box about meaningful policy solutions, we could create a property-tax system that allows the certainty that businesses need to grow and thrive, while also improving school funding and student outcomes so that our schools are strengthened and can create a future workforce ready to meet the needs of a thriving state economy that supports enhanced quality of life for us all. The prosperity and economic strength of our state — and all her people — depends on it.

 

-Jessica Attas is director of public policy for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. Our mission is to “prepare and market the Greater Waco region for the businesses and jobs of the future and an outstanding quality of life.”

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WACO, Texas – The Greater Waco Chamber’s Leadership Waco Class XXXIII, as a community service project, spent several Saturdays designing, shopping and decorating a special safe haven for homeless female teens located within The Cove Heart of Texas, Inc. The Greater Waco Chamber’s ribbon cutting for the space will take place on August 17, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. at 2226 Washington Avenue.
 
With the help of design expert, Christi Proctor, who starred on TLC’s Trading Spaces the class created a warm, inviting and safe room for the teens to hangout in after school. “I was so honored and excited to be included in this project for the young ladies at The Cove,” said Christi Proctor. “The girls have been through so much and they deserve a special place to call their own. It was a fun experience and I hope the girls are over the moon with their space.”
 
Through monetary and product support from Alliance Bank, Central National Bank, Extraco Events Center, First National Bank of Central Texas and the Leadership Waco Class XXXIII, the room was fully-stocked with everything a young lady would need. Items in the space, included: school supplies, personal journals, clothing, feminine products and more.
 
“The design process was a fun experience,” said Emily McElreath, Leadership Waco Class XXXIII Community Project Leader. “To work with Christi Proctor and watch her process of transforming a room, based on a single pillow, into a space that female teens would be excited about was an eye-opening experience. The things Christi can do with a glue gun and fabric really blew my mind!”
 
Each year the Leadership Waco Class selects a community group project that will benefit a local non-profit. For more information about Leadership Waco, please visit: http://wacochamber.com/community/education-leadership/leadership-waco/
 


 

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About the Greater Waco Chamber:
Greater Waco is located in McLennan County, Texas along the Interstate 35 corridor and is home to more than 14,000 companies, 234,906 people and a regional workforce of approximately 320,000. To prepare and market the Greater Waco region for the businesses and jobs of the future, Greater Waco is strategically positioned with centralized access to Dallas and Austin (90 miles) and Houston and San Antonio (185 miles).
 
Since 2006, Greater Waco has seen more than $1.02 billion in new capital investments and $596 million in riverfront and downtown development, making it an attractive place to live, work and play. Greater Waco is landscaped with top-rated higher educational institutions, including Baylor University, McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College Waco.
 
The Greater Waco Chamber leads economic development efforts for the area, targeting five key industries for growth, including: Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace and Defense, Health Care, Professional and Financial Services and Supply Chain Management. For more information, visit WacoChamber.com.

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Cypress Creek Renewables

 

  
McLENNAN COUNTY, Texas – Cypress Creek Renewables announces, in partnership with McLennan County and the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, a $13,000,000 solar farm project in McLennan County near Bruceville-Eddy.
 
The 88-acre, 13 megawatt solar farm will generate enough power to support the energy needs of 1,000 homes annually, further supporting Central Texas’ growth and additional electricity demands. Construction is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2017, completing within a six-month timeline. While under construction, the project is expected to support 100 related jobs. Cypress Creek is expected to utilize a significant number of local contractors to establish the site.
 
“Cypress Creek is thrilled to be making an important investment in the local economy of McLennan County, Texas. Our company is committed to helping grow the economies of local communities by providing affordable renewable energy for homes and businesses. We greatly appreciate the cooperation of our partnering utilities and the local leaders who helped make this project possible.” -Cypress Creek Renewables, CEO, Matthew McGovern
 
“The investment that Cypress Creek has chosen to make in McLennan County further reveals that our county appeals to a variety of businesses. Diversity in our tax base is important in that we have less risk if segments of our local economy take economic downturns. Additionally, Cypress Creek provides diversity in power generation sources. It’s a perfect fit for us.” – McLennan County, Judge Scott Felton
 
The investment by Cypress Creek marks McLennan County’s first solar farm. The County supported the project with a five-year real property tax abatement. The typical life span of a solar farm is 30 years. Cypress Creek is evaluating other properties in the County for additional investment to support the growing population of Greater Waco and Central Texas in a sustainable way.
 

Sample Development of Project
SAMPLE Development of Project
 

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About the Cypress Creek Renewables:
Cypress Creek Renewables (CCR) is one the biggest solar developers in the US. Founded in 2014, CCR’s integrated platform develops, builds, finances and operates local solar farms, spreading clean, affordable energy across the country. To do this, we work in close partnership with landowners, local communities, regulators, lenders and consumers (utilities, businesses and individuals) to bring the highest-quality solar assets online. We have operating facilities in 8 states and are actively developing in more than a dozen. For more information about Cypress Creek Renewables, visit https://ccrenew.com
 

About the Greater Waco Chamber:
Greater Waco, located in McLennan County, Texas, along the Interstate 35 corridor is home to more than 14,000 companies, 241,505 people and a regional workforce of approximately 320,000. Greater Waco’s centralized location, with access to Dallas and Austin (90 miles) and Houston and San Antonio (185 miles), makes it a regional center of economic activity and an ideal community for businesses and individuals.
 
Since 2006, Greater Waco has seen more than $1.3 billion in new industrial capital investments and $596 million in riverfront and downtown development, making it an attractive place to live, work and play. Greater Waco is landscaped with top-rated higher educational institutions, including Baylor University, McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College -Waco, Tarleton State University and Texas Tech University.
 
The Greater Waco Chamber leads economic development efforts for the area focusing on talent development and targeting five key industries for growth: Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace and Defense, Health Care, Professional and Financial Services and Supply Chain Management.
 
For more information, visit WacoChamber.com.

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WACO, Texas — The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce announces its Leadership Waco Class XXXIV participants. The Leadership Waco program identifies potential community leaders and provides them a platform to learn about various facets of the Greater Waco area.
 
The Leadership Waco program, starting in August each year, is a 10-month leadership development experience where participants gain crucial knowledge around the Greater Waco topics of: History Day, Serving Others, We the People, Economic Development, Tools for Leaders, Healthcare, Education, Tourism and Visions for the Future. Leadership Waco offers structured learning opportunities in an atmosphere that stimulates creative thinking and encourages participants to work together to utilize both new and proven tools to meet the challenges of today and to prepare for tomorrow.
 
Upon the successful completion of the Leadership Waco program, graduates are informed and able to impact community needs through volunteer involvement.
 
The Greater Waco Chamber is proud to introduce the Leadership Waco Class XXXIV (2017/2018), including:
• Tony Acosta – Douglass Nissan
• John Calaway – Mission Waco
• Lynsey Castillo – La Fiesta Restaurant & Cantina
• Jacob Cates – Community Bank & Trust
• Jill Clements – Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest
• Sydney Cox – Texas Tech University – Waco
• Christopher Dahman – Avila Apartments
• Nick Deaver – American Bank
• Clinton Dennard – Tarleton State University – Waco
• Rene’ Duffy – Lamar Advertising
• Eva Gergely – Veterans Affairs
• Keith Kusler – Greater Waco Chamber
• Domingo Lopez – Englander dZignPak
• Keith Maynard – Andrews CPA, PLLC
• Cody Messerall – The Behringer Group, LLC
• Becca McCormack – Refine31
• Clark McCormack – Baylor IMG
• Ashley Norris – Providence Foundation
• Timothy Payne – American-Amicable Life Insurance Company of Texas
• Angela Ragan – Jaynes, Reitmeier, Boyd & Therrell, P.C.
• Joe Rivera – Naman Howell Smith & Lee, PLLC
• Clint Savage – Extraco Banks
• Joel Shields – Scanes & Routh, L.L.P.
• Greg Shropshire – Pattillo Brown & Hill, L.L.P.
• Lori Young – TFNB
 
Sponsors of the Leadership Waco Class XXXIV, include: Pattillo, Brown & Hill, LLP, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest, Baylor University and Providence Healthcare Network.
 
Applications for Leadership Waco Class XXXV become available in March 2018.
 
For more information about Leadership Waco, please visit: http://wacochamber.com/community/education-leadership/leadership-waco/
 
LWXXXIVad_SM
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About the Greater Waco Chamber:
Greater Waco, located in McLennan County, Texas, along the Interstate 35 corridor is home to more than 14,000 companies, 241,505 people and a regional workforce of approximately 320,000. Greater Waco’s centralized location with access, to Dallas and Austin (90 miles) and Houston and San Antonio (185 miles), make it a regional center of economic activity and an ideal community for businesses and individuals.
 
Since 2006, Greater Waco has seen more than $1.3 billion in new industrial capital investments and $596 million in riverfront and downtown development, making it an attractive place to live, work and play. Greater Waco is landscaped with top-rated higher educational institutions, including Baylor University, McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College -Waco, Tarleton State University and Texas Tech University.
 
The Greater Waco Chamber leads economic development efforts for the area focusing on talent development and targeting five key industries for growth: Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace and Defense, Health Care, Professional and Financial Services and Supply Chain Management.
 
For more information, visit WacoChamber.com.

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tcce-logoLEAGUE CITY, Texas — The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce won a first-place Texas Chambers of Commerce Executives (TCCE) media award in the newsletter category at the TCCE Annual Conference in League City, Texas.
 
Local Chambers from across the state of Texas convened on June 21, 2017 for the TCCE Annual Excellence Awards, where awards honor organizations for exceptional efforts in marketing, communications and media outreach. Awards are judged in seven separate categories: Brochures; Directories/Magazines; Maps; Marketing Campaign; Newsletters; Social Media Campaign; and Websites.
 
In the Newsletter category, the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce was honored as the best in Texas, winning first place for its Waco Chamber & Business Quarterly magazine. The Greater Waco Chamber also placed first in this category in 2014 and 2015. Additionally, the Greater Waco Chamber placed second in the Directories category for the 2017 Waco Community & Referral Guide.
 
Awards “I’m truly honored to have these communication pieces recognized by the TCCE,” said Julina Macy, director of communications at the Greater Waco Chamber. “These prestigious awards reflect the Chamber and the work our entire team does to continue to promote the Greater Waco region, our members and the community as a great place to live, work and play.”
 
The overall competition had more than 200 entries from which the best were judged by panels of experts in the specific field around the state.
 
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The Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives (TCCE) is the professional society of chamber of commerce executives and professional staff in the state of Texas. Established in 1908, TCCE remains a strong, viable organization and the longest standing association of chamber of commerce professionals in the nation.
 
As a private not-for-profit 501 (c)(6) TCCE operates with the primary goal of serving its membership by providing excellence in professional development, networking, resource and idea exchange opportunities and grassroots advocacy information and coordination. Through its publications and other resources TCCE provides operational guidance and leadership to chambers across the state.
 

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WACO, Texas – The 19th Annual Starburst Junior Golf Classic, one of the largest junior golf tournaments in the world, returns to the Greater Waco area June 12-14, 2017. Managed by the Greater Waco Chamber, the Starburst Junior Golf Classic will host up to 600 players from ages of 7 to 18, across area golf courses.
 
Over the span of three days, girls ages 7-10 and boys ages 7-9 will play nine holes and girls 11-Championship and boys 10-Championship will play 18 holes. The Starburst Junior Golf Classic is also part of the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), enabling Championship and 12 to 17 age division top finishers to receive AJGA performance stars.
 
“The Starburst Junior Golf Classic is a premier junior golf tournament designed for both the novice and expert junior golfer. We are proud to host participants from throughout the U.S. and are excited to have this opportunity to showcase our community once again,” said Amanda Haygood, director of sports and special events for the Greater Waco Chamber. “We are constantly looking to improve our professional standards even further and offer junior players an opportunity that will challenge and build their golf tournament experiences.”
 
The Starburst Junior Golf Classic will kick off with activities and vendors at the Cottonwood Creek Golf Course on Sunday, June 11. Players will be able to pick up their player swag bag, tournament pairings and all caddie apparel, participate in a College Coach Q&A session, enjoy dinner, practice their swings and watch 1,300 golf balls fall from the sky.
 
“The popular Helicopter Ball Drop is a unique aspect of our tournament that really engages all of our players and their families,” added Haygood. “Players – and now anyone in the community – can purchase a $5 raffle ticket to match a golf ball. It’s an impressive sight, watching up to 1,300 golf balls dropped from a helicopter. And the owner of the ball that lands in, or nearest, to the golf hole will win $2,000!”
 
Courses for the 19th Starburst Junior Golf Classic:

  • Cottonwood Creek Golf Club
  • Lake Waco Golf Club
  • Ridgewood Country Club
  • Stonetree Golf Club

Complete tournament information can be found at StarburstGolf.com or contact Amanda Haygood at (254) 757-5611. Raffle tickets for the Helicopter Ball Drop can also be purchased at the Greater Waco Chamber building, located at 101 S. Third Street, now through June 9. You do not need to be present to win.
 
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About the Greater Waco Chamber:
The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce is a business leadership organization that advances a progressive and visionary agenda for economic growth and quality of life. The Chamber prepares and markets Greater Waco for the businesses and jobs of the future and enhances the quality of life of the community by promoting strategic development. For more information, visit WacoChamber.com.
 

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LEAD Scholarship(Photo L-R: Mercedes Herring, Desiree’ Kuykendall, Sara White, Carnealus Manning, Joe Nesbitt, Arexy Deleon, Zaira Lara, Chrystazia Alford, Alexandria Monroy)
 
 
WACO, Texas – High school students within the LEAD (Leadership, Education and Development) program attended their year-end recognition banquet Wednesday, May 24 at the Waco Convention Center, where approximately $40,500 in scholarships were awarded to eight students.
 
The annual $20,000 Bradley Ray Hulse Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Alexandria Monroy, a University High senior student who will be attending the University of Texas to study accounting.
 
“The LEAD banquet has grown tremendously since it began 10 years ago. The highlight is still the moment we award the $20,000 Bradley Ray Hulse scholarship, but the whole night is designed to celebrate the seniors who are graduating this year,” said Joe Nesbitt, LEAD founder, mentor and program sponsor. “But knowing that many of these students will be the first generation in their family going on to higher education – and that we have the honor of helping some of these students achieve their dreams through the scholarships – is part of what makes this night so special.”
 
The remaining $20,500 was awarded to seven other scholarship recipients.

  • Waco High student Carnealus Manning received the $7,500 No Boundaries Scholarship, presented by 1519 Surveying & Engineering. Manning will be attending Paul Quinn College to study Kinesiology;
  • University High School student Arexy Deleon received the $5,000 LEAD Ambassador Scholarship and will be attending Texas A&M University to study Landscape Engineering/Civil Engineering;
  • Midway High School student Chrystazia Alford received the $3,000 LEAD Merit Scholarship and will be attending Prairie View A&M University to study Nursing;
  • Waco High School student Mercedes Herring received the $2,000 Alton Davis Memorial Scholarhsip and will be attending McLennan Community College before transferring to Texas State to study Social Work;
  • Waco High student Sara White received a $1,000 LEAD Mentor Scholarship and will be attending Texas A&M University to study Education and Human Development/Special Education;
  • Waco High student Desiree’ Kuykendall received a $1,000 LEAD Mentor Scholarship and will be attending Stephen F Austin State University to study Kinesiology;
  • University High School student Zaira Lara received a $1,000 LEAD Mentor Scholarship and will be attending McLennan Community College before transferring to Tarleton State University to study Nursing.

Since 2010, scholarships totaling $181,000 have been awarded to students, and this is the first year that more than $40,000 will be awarded in a single year.
 
The LEAD program is a business and education partnership by the Greater Waco Chamber, which connects local high school students with business mentors.
 
The LEAD program launched in 2005 with one mentor and five students. Ending in the 2017 school year, the program included 83 mentors and 169 students.
 
LEAD pairs Waco Independent School District, Rapoport Academy, Harmony Science Academy, La Vega and Midway high school students with business leaders to foster mentoring relationships that educate and expose students to various business fields. By improving the students’ knowledge of higher education and potential career paths they expand their goals for their future. LEAD hopes to motivate students to graduate high school and pursue higher education, which in turn ensures greater employability and quality of life.
 
The Bradley Ray Hulse Memorial Scholarship is sponsored by Central National Bank and First National Bank of Central Texas.
 

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About the Greater Waco Chamber:
The Greater Waco Chamber is a business leadership organization that advances a progressive and visionary agenda for economic growth and quality of life. The Chamber prepares and markets Greater Waco for the businesses and jobs of the future and enhances the quality of life of the community by promoting strategic development. For more information, visit WacoChamber.com.
 

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TFTS2016-GWCCWACO, Texas – The Texas Food Truck Showdown, hosted by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, will present its third annual event in the heart of downtown Waco on April 1. This year’s event will feature 40 food trucks from around Texas, a grand prize of $5,000, live entertainment and more.
 
Eight of the competing food trucks are from the Greater Waco area.
 
Celebrity judging will kick off the full day of activities from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Food trucks will sell their signature dish from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., where the public will determine the People’s Choice award winner. Trucks will only take Tasty Tickets during this time to speed up food lines and focus on serving their signature dish.
 
Presale Tasty Tickets are now available at theTexasFoodTruckShowdown.com/tickets. Tickets can also be purchased during the event until 3 p.m. One Tasty Ticket is $5 for a 4 oz signature dish.
 
Food trucks will reopen at 5 p.m. with their full menus until 8 p.m., and Tasty Tickets will no longer be accepted at that time.
 
“We are really excited about all the food trucks that will be joining us for this new signature event in downtown Waco,” said Amanda Haygood, director of sports and special events at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. “This year’s showdown will have trucks coming from Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth, Abilene, Aransas Pass and throughout Central Texas, among other areas. But this event has more than just food trucks – it will have live entertainment, mobile boutiques, a KidsZone and more.”
 
Food trucks from across Texas will be featuring a variety of food from fish tacos and steak sliders to gourmet dounuts and pizza. The pet-friendly showdown will include live entertainment throughout the day on the main stage and a Guns 4 Roses Tribute band at 6 p.m.; a KidsZone, presented by Raising Cane’s, featuring Twiggy, the water-skiing squirrel, and a petting zoo; Artists Market; Live Broadcasts from iHeartMedia; and Beer and Wine Gardens.
 
Celebrity judges include Lilian Halabi, owner of Lily’s Cakes in Harker Heights and Food Network Cake Wars winner; Mai Lyn Ngo, a Dallas food blogger; Doug Renfro, president of Renfro Foods; Mitch Siegert, owner of Truman Chocolates; and Erica Waksmunski, owner of Red Star Southern food truck in east Austin.
 
The presenting sponsor of The Texas Food Truck Showdown is National Lloyds Corporation. Follow The Texas Food Truck Showdown at Facebook.com/TheTexasFoodTruckShowdown or Twitter.com/thetfts to receive up-to-date information on the event.
 
For more information about the event, competing food trucks or tickets, visit TheTexasFoodTruckShowdown.com or call Amanda Haygood at (254) 757-5611.
 
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About the Greater Waco Chamber:
The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce is a business leadership organization that advances a progressive and visionary agenda for economic growth and quality of life. The Chamber prepares and markets Greater Waco for the businesses and jobs of the future and enhances the quality of life of the community by promoting strategic development. For more information, visit WacoChamber.com.
 

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Central Texas Area, Texas – The Grand Central Texas (GCT) economic development partnership releases marketing video to attract and retain companies in the Central Texas area–a region that encompasses a population of 724,673. The marketing video showcases assets and information from the Bell, Coryell, Falls, Lampasas, McLennan and Milam counties.
 
The GCT partnership formed in 2014 and works collaboratively to market the region, both nationally and internationally. The partnership invites you to utilize this video to promote your company and community in your initiatives.
 
To watch the video, please visit GrandCentralTexas.com.
 
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About Grand Central Texas:
Grand Central Texas is an economic development partnership that promotes business development and provides services to businesses interested in locating to the six county region. By working closely with our local, regional and state partners, the partnership can assist with locating a site or building, gathering detailed business cost and economic data and securing a competitive incentive package. With a convenient location, low cost of doing business, diverse workforce and abundant resources, the region is becoming a sought-after area for business development and company relocation. The Grand Central Texas partners are recognized regionally and nationally as one of the country’s most professional and progressive economic development organizations.
 
To learn more about the Grand Central Texas economic development partnership, please visit www.grandcentraltexas.com or contact the communities at www.grandcentraltexas.com/contact/.
 

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Greater Waco Chamber Looks to Engage Volunteers throughout January


WACO, Texas
– January is National Mentoring Month, and this year the Greater Waco Chamber is celebrating 10 years of the mentoring movement and expanding quality mentoring opportunities to connect more of our community’s young people with adults through its Leadership, Education & Development (LEAD) program.
 
“Mentoring is a critical part of developing positive, long-lasting relationships within the Greater Waco community,” said Rachel Martinez, director of leadership development at the Greater Waco Chamber. “Mentoring is proven to have a positive effect on academic, social and economic outcomes for young people. However, while we have many students looking for mentors, we do need more caring adults to get engaged and become mentors.”
 
According to Mentoring.org, one in three young people are growing up without a mentor. When a mentor is able to connect with a young person, at-risk youth are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school, 55 percent more likely to enroll in college and 46 percent less likely than their peers to start using drugs.
 
National Mentoring Month, each January, allows for unique engagement from community members interested in becoming a mentor. This year, with the support of the mentoring community, we are encouraging the public to go beyond just digital engagement – and become involved in making a real life impact. Mentoring relationships are at their best when connections are made between a caring adult and a young person who knows that someone is there to help guide them through those real life decisions.
 
In our community, the Greater Waco Chamber’s LEAD program is connecting local high school students with business mentors.
 
“The LEAD program is a business and education partnership that pairs high school students with business leaders in the Greater Waco area,” said Joe Nesbitt, LEAD founder, mentor and program sponsor. “By improving the students’ knowledge and awareness of potential career paths, we hope they will be motivated to graduate high school and pursue some form of higher education, which in turn ensures greater employability and quality of life.”
 
LEAD pairs Waco High School, Rapoport Academy, Harmony Science Academy, University, La Vega and Midway high school students with business leaders to foster mentoring relationships that educate and expose students to various business fields.
 
Since launching 10 years ago, the program has achieved a 100 percent graduation rate with all students having gone onto higher education. The LEAD program began with one mentor and five students. Currently, the program has grown to include 84 mentors and 175 students.
 
Several January dates are highlighted as part of National Mentoring Month in an effort to create opportunities for engagement and promote the mentoring movement.

  • Jan. 12, 2017: I Am A Mentor Day. A day for volunteer mentors to celebrate their role and reflect on the ways mentees have enhanced their world. #LEADMentors
  • Jan. 17, 2017: International Mentoring Day. A day of international conversations on social media where photos, video and powerful mentoring stories messages are shared.
  • Jan. 19, 2017: #ThankYourMentor Day. A day for all who have real life mentoring experiences to thank those who helped them on their path to adulthood and beyond.

National Mentoring Month is led by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with support from the Highland Street Foundation. Each year since its launch in 2002, National Mentoring Month has enjoyed the strong support of the President and the United States Congress.
 
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a LEAD mentor, contact Rachel Martinez at rmartinez@wacochamber.com or 254-757-5633.
 
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About the Greater Waco Chamber:
The Greater Waco Chamber is a business leadership organization that advances a progressive and visionary agenda for economic growth and quality of life. The Chamber prepares and markets Greater Waco for the businesses and jobs of the future and enhances the quality of life of the community by promoting strategic development. For more information, visit WacoChamber.com.
 

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