Texas Rising June 2008

Oasis in the Panhandle

by Bruce Wright

Coordinated development pays off for Canadian.

The northern Texas town of Canadian, sometimes called “the oasis of the Panhandle,” is situated in a place of unusual scenic beauty, offering river valleys and mesas, sand hills and forest.

Local Government
Tools that Made
the Difference

Canadian

According to Remelle Farrar, Canadian’s decision to create an industrial development corporation (IDC) has paid big dividends in downtown revitalization.

Canadian’s IDC receives 1 percent of Hemphill County’s property tax revenues, giving the partnership a valuable extra tool for economic development.

“When we have a project we’d like to work on, and it’s not eligible for sales tax funds, we have that other arm to turn to,” Farrar says.

“For instance, our downtown building renovations – none of those would qualify for sales tax funding. But they definitely improve the quality of life and the business climate of the community, which is the requirement for the county funding.”

But a decade ago, half of the buildings on Canadian’s Main Street were abandoned and boarded up.

Today, Canadian is thriving, benefiting from a resurgent oil and gas industry and an economic development effort that pools public and private resources in a unique way.

Canadian created a partnership from an economic development corporation (EDC), an industrial development corporation (IDC), a chamber of commerce and Texas Prairie Rivers Region Inc., a nonprofit public-private partnership of 15 rural counties in the Eastern Panhandle.

Photo: Texas Prairie Rivers Region

“Over 10 years ago, we decided that, instead of separating the people and resources we had available for economic development, we’d put them all together, so that we would have enough energy and funding to accomplish something really different,” says Remelle Farrar, Canadian’s director of community development for 11 years and current head of Texas Prairie Rivers Region.

The four organizations work in a coordinated fashion, as “one group with one office and one staff – a kind of one-stop shop,” says Farrar.

Farrar credits the IDC in particular with broadening the resources available for development projects. “We were able to do things we wouldn’t be able to with just the EDC’s 4A sales tax – to help businesses renovate abandoned buildings downtown, for instance,” Farrar says.

Promoting Nature Tourism

Canadian also has developed nature tourism, including farm and ranch tours, nature walks and bird-watching tours to see the threatened lesser prairie chicken.

“We focused on the strength that Canadian had, which was that it is extremely scenic, and has a large amount of pristine, native landscape and wildlife,” Farrar says.

Canadian also gets a big economic boost from two festivals, a Fourth of July celebration and rodeo and the Fall Foliage Festival, both of which draw about 10,000 visitors annually to the town of 2,400 residents. In all, the town sees about 60,000 visitors a year.

To promote Canadian’s tourism offerings, Texas Prairie River Region works with the media and Texas Department of Transportation visitor centers year-round.

“We do extensive radio advertising, we do TV,” Farrar says. “Without very much money, we’re able to build relationships with people to get publicity.” TR

For more information, on Texas Prairie Rivers Region Inc., visit www.texasprairierivers.com.

For more information on forming an IDC, visit www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/taxpubs/tx96_302.pdf.