Duncanville’s new Economic Developer Agustin (Gus) Garcia is returning to his roots. As a young student, he attended Acton Elementary and Byrd Middle Schools before his family moved away. Garcia said he still has several close friends in the community. While he and his wife, Tonya, and their children currently live in Little Elm, he says they are thrilled to be moving back to Duncanville this summer.
“Duncanville has great schools and a great quality of life,” Garcia said, “so my wife and I are happy to move our family here where we can be more active in the community.”
The Garcia’s oldest daughter, Soledad, is a student at A&M University. His other three children: Halle, Agustin III, and Pilar, will attend Duncanville ISD schools.
Like the rest of the country, Duncanville is emerging from a 100 year event, Garcia said. He compared coming back from the impact of Covid-19 and the pandemic to the way we were following the catastrophic era of WWI.
Ready for Roaring 2020s
“We need to be ready to capture every opportunity we can to convey this is a great time to visit or relocate here. We hope to recapture some of the enthusiasm Americans experienced during the ‘Roaring 20s’ with the ‘Roaring 2020s,’” he said.
After taking over the position of Duncanville’s Economic Developer April 15, Garcia said he has been busy settling in and setting up his office at City Hall.
“While getting organized, I’ve reached out to 20-30 community leaders and business owners to hear what they have to say. I’m interested in learning what they need or would like to see for our city,” he added.
High Quality of Life
Garcia says he is enthusiastic about the opportunity to tell people about all the good things Duncanville is already doing. He pointed to the high quality of life, such as being surrounded by nature and having access to so many parks. After voters approved Proposition A in 2019, Duncanville’s budget included $6,600,000 for parks and recreation.
Kidsville is regularly visited by kids who delight in playing on and around the structures. Kidsville will be replaced with a new playground and a splash pad, but demolition and construction have not yet begun.
A number of improvements have been made at Harrington Park. New parking was installed at Rotary Park, and a picnic/meeting pavilion was replaced at Lakeside Park.
Sports tourism is another plus factor and a big draw for Duncanville, Garcia said. Annual events like the Sandra Meadows tournament, and ongoing activities at the Duncanville Field House including basketball, dance competitions, karate, and volley ball draw visitors from far and near. Youth baseball and soccer programs keep the fields busy at Harrington Park and other Duncanville parks. Duncanville High School brings home so many championship titles the city is now known as the City of Champions. Duncanville ISD schools are another big draw for families looking for a new home, Garcia said.
The enthusiasm of Duncanville’s civic leaders, local business community, and others he has met with is inspiring, Garcia said. He is busy listening, and trying to gather as much input as possible from as many areas as possible. Garcia said he meets monthly with the seven member Economic Development board. He also meets with the city manager, Mayor and councilmembers, and other city department heads and staff.
Conversations with area chambers of commerce, civic organizations, local and state governmental agencies like NTCOG, and concerned citizens are ongoing. It’s obvious that input has been pouring in, as evidenced by the numerous posters that cover all the walls of Garcia’s office.
Opportunities & Challenges
Some of the topics outlined on the posters include (1) Emphasize High Quality of Life, with such suggested improvements as more wi-fi downtown, also more bike trails. More plays, concerts, events at Armstrong Park amphitheater; plus market Duncanville Community Theatre to other cities’ senior centers. Other topics to keep improving on the city’s already high quality of life include: better night life, revolving around Main Street improvements; more police presence and addressing citizen’s perception of crime in the area. Also look into bringing in more chain restaurants like Cane Russo, Twisted Root, or even an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Other areas include promoting events at Hopkins Senior Center, and the Best Southwest library consortium that includes Duncanville Public Library.
Poster #2: Reimagine Main Street City Center area. Topics of interest included expanding boundaries through zoning updates. Bike and pedestrian facilities along the Main Street corridor, and transit development, such as a bus from Westmoreland to DART, is also featured. More programs and partnerships with downtown business owners is another topic of interest. Finding additional uses for little-used downtown buildings like Duncanville Community Theater, or the now vacant EON Reality Building (former home of the Duncanville Public Library) and the tax building are other areas to be explored. A cooperative work incubator was one of the solutions mentioned.
Other suggestions included a BNSF (railroad) partnership on land use. How to handle non-conforming businesses, possibly by rezoning, amortization, or relocation incentives, is another topic listed. More housing options downtown to increase density, plus specific downtown marketing are also mentioned. Other avenues to explore include food trucks for downtown locations or parks, and discussions with the Land Bank about acquiring land.
Economic Developer Ideas
Poster #3. Promote innovative ideas for development and redevelopment. These topics include updating the city’s Demo program to show prospective developers. Purchasing distressed properties for repurposing, incentives for landlords, small business incubators and a business roundtable are mentioned. Also collaboration with cities who have encountered similar problems.
Poster #4. Develop multi-modes of transportation. Topics of interest include bike trails, possible implementation of $1.5M bond from master plan. Participate in county-wide Velocity web study, and in commuter rail study program with NTCOG. Study commuter transportation alternative modes, like Star Transit, shuttles, coaches, etc. Continue developing sidewalk property, update thoroughfare plan, and purchase key property are also topics of interest in developing modes of transportation.
Poster #5. Advance Marketing Strategy of the City. This poster suggests hiring a videographer to show Duncanville’s many opportunities and potential. Promoting festivals and events through publicity, and marketing to younger professionals is also mentioned. Bringing in a volunteer committee to deliver welcome baskets to newcomers to the community, plus garner more citizen engagement, are other topics mentioned.
Duncanville is a gateway city with easy access to major freeways like State Highway 67 and I-20. With a population under 40,000, the city has a great quality of life with exemplary schools and engaged citizens. Because Duncanville is 92% built-out, challenges going forward include finding ways to redesign and possibly restructure many of the existing structures to capture a larger tax base. Duncanville now has seven hotels, including two that opened shortly before the pandemic, and their annual sales revenue is $1/2 Billion.
As a dual certified Economic Developer with a BBA in Accounting from UT Rio Grande Valley, plus serving as a councilman for Edinburg for eight years, Garcia is well prepared to handle Duncanville’s economic challenges and opportunities. Most importantly, Garcia has so much enthusiasm and optimism for Duncanville’s future that spending an hour chatting with him is energizing.