New retail and restaurant projects that opened this spring and others on the way over the next few months include Sprouts Farmers Market, Dunkin Donuts, Panera Bread, Jason’s Deli, Raising Cane’s, Chicken Express, Golden Chick and CVS Pharmacy. According to Scott Welmaker, director of the Mansfield Economic Development Corp., these new businesses are signs that developers continue to see Mansfield as a prime location.
The city’s bustling economic development also is a direct result of a project dubbed Shop Mansfield, created by the MEDC to emphasize how shopping, dining and having fun in Mansfield can affect the entire community.
“Our goal is to attract and retain quality businesses that meet our residents’ lifestyles and complement our existing businesses,” Welmaker said.
Welmaker, a certified economic developer through the International Economic Development Council, came to Mansfield in 2008 after serving in the same position for four years in Colleyville. He has worked in similar capacities in northeast Tennessee and in Tarrant County for the past 18 years.
Mansfield’s economic development department was created in 1994, and four years later it spun off into its own corporation. The MEDC focuses on the economic growth for the city, which is located in Tarrant, Johnson and Ellis counties.
In recent years, the MEDC has welcomed the development of medical, retail and industrial properties, including the expansion of Mouser Electronics, the city’s top employer with 1,300 employees; the addition of Illinois-based Klein Tools Inc., which brought 300 new jobs; and the $118 million expansion of Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, featuring a new 118-bed patient tower and additional operating rooms, support services and jobs.
Along with the boom in commercial growth comes a demand for housing, Welmaker pointed out.
In November 2014, MKP Development LLC bought 157 acres of raw land at the corner of West Broad Street and Lillian Road for a 100-lot luxury residential community. The Oaks Preserve features 40 acres of trails, a habitat sanctuary and an equestrian center. Summit Custom Homes Inc. and Innovation Builders Inc. are the builders for the initial phase of the project. Six more custom homebuilders are lined up for construction in the gated enclave.
The Texas Department of Transportation signed the final contract May 15 on the estimated $300 million extension of state Highway 360. The 10-mile project will extend the four-lane divided section of SH360 to East Broad Street in Mansfield; it now ends at Sublett Road-Camp Wisdom Road south of Interstate 20.
Construction is slated to begin on the interim phase this fall, with the extension open for traffic in early 2018. Plans for an “ultimate” project, which has not been funded, would further widen the section north of Broad Street to eight lanes and the southern section to six lanes.
The SH360 project is expected to ease traffic congestion and spur additional economic development in Mansfield, south Arlington and much of southeast Tarrant County.
Welmaker spoke with Fort Worth Business about MEDC’s vision, some of its accomplishments and its plans for the future.
Does MEDC focus on specific developers or developments to support the city’s growing population?
We have a robust industrial sector that we continually work to expand and diversify. Our commercial efforts are focused on medical, office and retail. We nurture strong relationships with targeted local, regional and national development partners. Our philosophy is: It’s not what we know, and it’s not who we know. It’s who knows us that matters.
What kind of incentives does the city offer to new and expanding businesses?
We have the flexibility to tailor an incentive package to each unique development. There is no formula. We work with the developer to identify any gap there may be in a project and work to bridge that gap.
There is growing interest in Mansfield from commercial and residential developers. What about the demand for residential housing?
We have over 5,000 residential lots in various stages of development right now. Many regional and national homebuilders are competing to purchase lots. This has also attracted the attention of restaurant and retail developers. We are currently working with several national retail developers on projects ranging from neighborhood centers to regional projects.
I make a point to meet regularly with residential real estate professionals about the Mansfield market right now. If you want to list your house, you need to go home and pack. Multiple offers over listing price are common. This has created very strong demand for new residential product.
Talk about MEDC’s Shop Mansfield project. What kind of impact is the campaign having on the city?
We started the Shop Mansfield campaign in 2009. In the time since, we have continued to set records for retail sales. There are a lot of factors contributing to this, but I believe the program works.
Construction on the extension of SH360 is slated to begin this fall. What kind of economic development do you foresee for Mansfield when the interim and ultimate phases are complete?
SH360 has been the ultimate goal for Mansfield for a long time. City Manager Clayton Chandler has been a major force in keeping this project moving forward. Our ability to attract corporate headquarters and executive housing will increase dramatically with the completion of SH360 to U.S. Highway 287.