Austin College’s annual Public Administration Symposium on Wednesday welcomed AC alumnus Carlton Schwab, president of the Texas Economic Development Council since 1999. This year, the symposium asked panelists and speakers including Schwab to respond to the premise, "Texas got it right?"

Austin College’s annual Public Administration Symposium on Wednesday welcomed AC alumnus Carlton Schwab, president of the Texas Economic Development Council since 1999. This year, the symposium asked panelists and speakers including Schwab to respond to the premise, "Texas got it right?"


The title of the symposium is a reference to a recently-published book by Andrew Wyly and Sam Wyly. The book argues that Texas’ economic models have produced results that other states revere and envy. The subtitle of AC’s symposium was, "An investigation into the benefits and drawbacks of a low tax and light regulation economy."


Schwab answered the question of the symposium by saying, "We’re talking today about the Wylys’ book, ‘Texas Got It Right,’ and I think (other speakers) addressed that earlier, and their evaluations of it was something like, ‘Yeah, sort of. In a lot of things we did get it right, maybe not everything.’ My conclusions are like that, but they’re from a little bit different perspective, that’s the economic development perspective."


Schwab continued, "We are always in the top states for business. Always. You can go back 10 years, 15 years, we are always in the top ten."


Schwab said he disagreed with some of the author’s arguments about why Texas has experienced that success. "These are the general characteristics that the site location world looks at: skilled workforce, availability and flexibility of incentives, work permitting and regulatory environment; we’re nice to business. That helps us. Even more so is the perception that we’re nice to business."


Schwab said that Texas’ emphasis on economic development organizations at the local and state levels is an important factor in driving corporations to establish and expand their businesses in the state. He said the incentives and cooperation offered to companies by economic development organizations are indispensable to the state’s economic competitiveness.


Schwab said that some elected officials in the Texas legislature "believe that they don’t want any kind of business incentives to weigh in on the decision-making process. To that I reply, ‘Okay, are you prepared to lose? Are you prepared to walk away from a plant that employs 1,600 people at $23 an hour and provides great benefits?’ Then, they’re a little more hesitant, because if you don’t play the incentives games, you don’t win the incentive prizes. We didn’t create this game of incentives. We’d all love to see things work in the free market, but they don’t work that way."


The crowd assembled in AC’s Mabee Banquet Hall for the luncheon talk was packed with local government and economic development leaders, including Texoma Council of Governments Executive Director Susan Thomas and Sherman Economic Development Corp. President Scott Connell.


"The most important thing I think is the slide he had about what companies are looking at, and what they think is relevant to their decisions," Connell said. "That’s the thing we try to focus in on. There’s no question we have issues to deal with; we’ve always had issues. The question is: Are we on a trajectory to deal with those issues?


"We tend to work on a local level, we choose here to fund ourselves to do things. It’s the way we do it. … This recession has given us perspective nationally and that is, if you’re growing, you have the funds to fix your problems. So many of the states that have taken such an economic hit, they can’t address the difficult problems. They’re just trying to make it work. We’ve created an economy here that’s moving forward, so we can address parks and water and the other issues."


Schwab said the campus has changed a lot since he studied there in the 1980s. "I make no bones about the fact that AC was great for me. I’m so proud of where (the campus) has gone," Schwab said. "It’s on its way to being better than good. It’s on its way to being great. I was so impressed with the students there. I was talking to a friend of mine saying, we couldn’t even get in here nowadays!"