The Stafford Story By Leonard Scarcella, Mayor
Virtually every city in the country is trying to enhance its economy. Stafford is no exception. It is aggressively pursuing economic development, especially along the extensively landscaped and enhanced US 90-A Corridor, with its interior section designated as the Island, a historic area for which the City has long been recognized. By setting out a flavor of our roots, achievements, attributes and philosophy, we believe we can entice many business interests to locate here, and join us, for their benefit and ours.
With that perspective and desire, we proudly present: The Stafford Story
The City of Stafford has one of the most unique and intriguing stories of any municipality in Texas. A community, which was founded as a ranching plantation by William Stafford in the early 1820’s, was burned to the ground a decade-and-a-half later by Santa Anna’s Mexican Army and reconstructed to become a vibrant commercial center in the new state resulting in the final destination of the inaugural 20-mile rail line, the first railroad built in Texas.
A century later, this agrarian community of 500 people, with a smattering of businesses and a post office along the main road in town, US 90-A and the adjacent rail line, was incorporated as the City of Stafford. What has transpired in the five-and-a-half decades since reveals an innovative and independent spirit that has been questioned and applauded. But, one cannot deny the magnitude of its achievements.
In the late ‘60s, Texas Instruments initiated a commercial explosion in Stafford, at the entrance to Fort Bend County and several miles west of Houston on the newly designated US 59, with the opening of a major high- tech fabricating facility. The influx of businesses and the shrinking of the farming community instilled an attitude of independence, and precipitated initiatives which would ultimately change the dynamics of this municipality. Although Texas Instruments is moving on, the strategically located property they leave behind has the potential to open new vistas for the City, just as it did 45 years ago.
This attitude of doing it our way boldly manifested itself in 1976, starting a couple of weeks after the nation’s Bicentennial Celebration of the Declaration of Independence, when the City of Stafford announced it was going to break away from the Fort Bend Independent School District and the Houston Independent School District, where the Stafford children were being educated, and create its own school district. Six years of bitter political battles, numerous elections, a host of administrative proceedings, several federal and state courts’ trials and two hearings before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans – the last of which mandated the implementation of the Stafford Municipal School District – made it the sole break-away school district sanctioned by the federal courts out of nearly 300 other such efforts from across the country to try. Thirty-five years later, S.M.S.D. remains the only municipal school district in Texas.
Confident from the stunning school victory and subsequent impressive accomplishments, and buoyed by the disdain of most of its residential and corporate citizens for property taxes, the Stafford City Council, in 1995, generated a media frenzy led by the Wall Street Journal, when the Mayor proclaimed that the City would be abolishing its municipal property tax. Now, 17 years later, the vocal naysayers have been silenced and the net result, in spite of the recent debilitating recession, has been economic and financial success beyond all expectations.
The list of notable achievements does not end there. The Stafford Centre, a 90,000-square-foot performing arts theatre and convention centre complex opened in 2004, has caught the attention and admiration of not only the community, but far beyond, with a myriad of sterling events ranging from the Moscow Ballet to Steve Martin, as well as a lengthy list of impressive conventions and civic events. Attendees have just surpassed 2,000,000. Equally compelling is the number of communities eyeing our venue for duplication.
The safety of the public is a very important priority for a flourishing economy. Stafford is noted for its exceptional police department. The Stafford Volunteer Fire Department is one of the most distinguished in the nation with the top ISO rating of One, thus, affording businesses outstanding protection and lower insurance rates.
Of significant pertinence to the enticement of commercial entities is the widely recognized fiscal prudence of our City. Couple this attribute with the zero property tax rate, the near elimination of general obligation debt and the expeditious regulatory process, and you have the main ingredients of what commercial interests are claiming is necessary for a well functioning business climate. As a direct result, Stafford has one of the strongest and most diverse economies per capita in the state. It has also gained an international reputation as a prime global location for the manufacture of valves – an outgrowth of our early embracing of the Freeport Tax Exemption which affords even greater financial advantage to these sophisticated manufacturers.
This leads to the issue highly touted as the main enticement for attracting businesses to a community: incentives. Often elevated to a status of imperative components are cash payouts, tax kickbacks and a host of public funding vehicles to draw in private enterprises. This is perplexing in view of the mantra of so many successful entrepreneurs that, for commerce to succeed to its fullest, government simply needs to stop interfering. In that same vein, they often claim the most compelling attributes are to locate in a governmental entity that is stable; sound; fiscally prudent; and has low taxes, a tight rein on debt and a desirable regulatory structure. If indeed those are, and well they should be, the critical criteria, few, if any, can best Stafford. Our record will stand scrutiny with anyone. Consequently, if a business’ focus is truly on a long term, sustainable and promising commercial opportunity, it need look no further.
Stafford has exactly what it takes to offer your business a bright future. Come see us!