The mystery of economic development

Published 3:21 pm Sunday, December 2, 2018

By Bobby Tingle


Mayor Larry Spears, Jr. and I stood talking in the Tin Top 2 Arena and Event Center just after he welcomed participants, caregivers, onlookers and volunteers to the 5th Annual Special Angels Rodeo.

Spears, is a salesman, an optimist.

My first encounter with Spears was several years ago in the middle of August at the West OOrange-StarkMiddle School football practice field.

I showed up with a camera and Spears cordially asked if he could assist me.

He had organized a community event to commemorate the beginning of a southeast Texas football season.

There were a couple of hundred or so football players spread out over the fields.  They ranged in age from just barely able to walk up to mid teens.

It was hot and humid.

The City of Orange Fire Department arrived with their red fire trucks.

As the practices concluded, the gridiron gladiators gathered together and the fireman doused them with a spray of water from their fire trucks.

It was a simple, yet wonderful event.

My task was to get a photo, which would capture the refreshing moment.

Fortunately Clinton Vital, a professional photographer, attended the event as well.  He captured the moment in a wonderful photo of water raining down on delighted gridironers.

I kept my camera dry but there was no magic captured within.

Spears and the City of Orange made the moment possible.  Now, as then, he continues to look for ways to enhance our community.

As we talked, back at the rodeo arena, Spears and I drifted into the subject of developing Orange for growth.  He hinted of good things to come.  Big things.

I pressured him for details.

He smiled, in his winsome way, but did not fall into my trap, denying me a news scoop on that November morning.

Alas, economic development is a mystery, until it comes to fruition.  Even then, though it is tangible in the form of a new restaurant or industrial site, its benefits can be difficult to perceive.

How does ten more employed Orange County residents directly benefit you?

It is difficult to measure and perceive.  When you get a new car you sit in it and smell the new.  When you get new shoes, if you are eight years old, you run faster and jump higher.

But with economic growth and development, unless you get a new, better paying job or see your business profits grow then you just struggle to understand the value.

Spears and I talked that morning as the Special Angels Rodeo events began and I came away from our conversation and the event optimistic.

Special Angels Rodeo states their purpose at their website,

“Bringing the World of Adaptive Sports Rodeo to the Special Needs Community in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana.”

Let me interpret that for you.

They put huge smiles on faces as they provide an opportunity for fun and excitement in a rodeo atmosphere and setting.

Special Angels Rodeo is possible because of a healthy community.  Employers and employees of local industry, businesses and government agencies volunteer their time and give to make it happen.

Industrial leaders gathered recently at two events where they shared their vision and goals for growth and development at their respective facilities.

A big part of their message was the need for this community to provide a good quality of life for prospective employees and their families.  Industrial employers must compete for the talented and ambitious, who consider the community as much as they consider the employer and employment.

The mystery of economic development is two fold.  Often the focus is more on the offer of things like tax abatements offered to attract retail and industrial prospects.  The other is the indirect benefit.  The former sounds like public giveaways to big money.  The latter is just difficult to gauge.

Though mysterious, economic development benefits us all.  We should support it.


Bobby Tingle is the publisher of The Orange Leader.  You can reach him at