By CHRIS AGEE
Hundreds gathered in the gymnasium of First Baptist Church Friday for the second annual State of the Community Luncheon.
Organized by the Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by multiple local businesses, it was a forum for local leaders in four distinct disciplines to speak about current trends and future plans affecting Palo Pinto County residents.
City Manager Lance Howerton
Addressing a variety of Mineral Wells-related issues, City Manager Lance Howerton spoke candidly about recent accomplishments and concerns city staff are currently addressing.
Entering his 20th year in the position, Howerton began his address by touting the county’s comparatively low unemployment rate.
Standing at 5.7 percent, Palo Pinto County has a lower rate than the Texas average of 6 percent, he said. Comparing the local rate to the national rate of 7.6 percent presents an even brighter employment snapshot.
Howerton explained a period of high unemployment followed the closing of Fort Wolters in the mid-1970s, during which the community frequently experienced double-digit unemployment. He credited several factors in the marked turnaround, but noted plenty more can be done to continue the trend.
An extensive expansion project at PECOFacet showed the company’s commitment to stay in Mineral Wells, he said, and will provide job opportunities for local residents.
Other expansion projects, including those at Southwire, Ventamatic, Watkins Metal Fabrication and Tru-Test Inc., promise to add even more opportunities for the Mineral Wells workforce.
He said the establishment of new employers is a positive sign for a local economy, though expansions generally account for more new job opportunities.
“About 80 percent of job growth is expansion of existing companies,” he said.
Additionally, the city has joined efforts with the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Consortium and hopes to be home to one of six Federal Aviation Administration-approved test sites.