Ever heard of a nationwide media empire being launched in the game room of a single-family house? You would have if you’ve been following the economic development success story that is Pflugerville, Texas.
How this Austin suburb of 67,000 people became the breeding ground of entrepreneurial, high-growth firms is a study in business climate caretaking, and there’s no person more qualified to tell that story than John Garrett, founder and CEO of Community Impact Newspaper.
Now publishing 33 local editions nationwide, Community Impact Newspaper (CIN) is a counter-intuitive success story like no other.
“We started this business in the game room of our house in 2005 in Pflugerville,” says Garrett. “I had been working at the Houston Chronicle and then the local Business Journal, but we knew that something was missing in local journalism. We live in the information age, but no one knows what’s happening in their own backyard. That’s when we decided to launch our very first Community Impact Newspaper edition in Round Rock and Pflugerville. From there, we expanded a few years later to Houston, and then on to Dallas, Phoenix and Nashville.”
By the time the dust settled on the expansion binge of a company that was the brainchild of the spouse duo of John and Jennifer Garrett, the Pflugerville-based firm was employing 240 people, publishing 33 editions around the U.S., reaching nearly 3 million addresses, and doing it all from a new, gleaming 16,000-sq.-ft. headquarters and a 36,000-sq.-ft. printing plant on the outskirts of Austin.
Choosing to locate his company in Pflugerville was the best decision he ever made, says Garrett. “Transportation was very important to us, and we needed access to a workforce where we could recruit quality talent,” he says. “The City of Pflugerville was fantastic to work with. We needed to be up and running with our new plant in 12 months, and the Planning Department was unbelievable.”
The city was “aggressive in their incentives to keep us here when we were ready to expand,” he says. “The thing I appreciate most about the city leadership is that they are genuine in their desire to help us and they followed through with their commitments.”
He adds that “this is a very business-friendly community. If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to connect to a community, that place is here. The workforce is great, and so is the quality of life. People don’t have to fight traffic to get to their jobs here. That has helped us recruit. And the city leadership is very strong.”
Amy Madison, executive director of the Pflugerville Community Development Corp., says that the business-friendly environment is a top priority of city leaders. “Our community is supportive of entrepreneurism,” she says. “In Pflugerville, you have an opportunity to build a local startup into a nationwide business from a concept that was born here. Economic development does not get any better than that.”
It’s a strategy that has not only produced successful entrepreneurs, but also attracted national businesses from other parts of the country. Case in point is Republic National Distributing Co., which on Nov. 12 announced that it will invest $27 million into a 250,000-sq.-ft. facility with plans to employ 304 full-time workers. “We considered sites in other communities but decided to make our new home in Pflugerville due to several factors including location and available workforce,” said Steve Feldman, vice president of operations for RNDC.
A lower-cost environment, quality educational assets, and access to multiple highways in the region make Pflugerville a national draw, notes Madison.
Garrett, who now presides over America’s fastest growing newspaper company, concurs. “There’s a lot of land and a lot of opportunity in Pflugerville,” he notes. “If you’re thinking about locating your business in the Austin area, Pflugerville should be on your list.”
He adds that “my advice to any business executive is to find a community that is pro-business. Being out here in the suburbs proved to be a wise decision. Our ability to attract talent due to the quality of life here is a plus. Don’t be swayed by those who say you have to be in Austin proper. If you go there, you’ll be competing against everyone else for the same talent.”
Mayor Victor Gonzales, who was serving on the City Council at the time of CIN’s expansion, says, “Our goal was to work with John Garrett, a home-grown entrepreneur, to help him be part of the continuing economic boom in Pflugerville, and we believed in the product he was creating to serve this community and others. We suggested that he open his corporate headquarters in Pflugerville, and the timing was right because the 130 Commerce Park was just getting started. This was an opportunity to work collaboratively and invest in someone who was from here and who was thinking very creatively about how to grow his business both locally and nationally.”
Making Pflugerville the headquarters of Community Impact Newspaper makes this success possible, says Garrett. “We want every household to receive our newspaper. We owe Pflugerville huge thanks for where we are today.”
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the Pflugerville Community Development Corp. For more information, contact Amy Madison at 512-990-3725 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On the web, go to www.pfdevelopment.com.
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.