Focus at Four: An economic check-up of BCS

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - Key players in the Bryan-College Station economy spoke positively about the area's future Wednesday at the 2018 Economic Outlook Conference, organized by the BCS Chamber of Commerce.

However, many spoke candidly about the imperfections BCS is facing in 2018, and how they're working to address them.

For one, the unemployment rate in BCS is significantly lower than the national or state average: 2.7 percent, making the Twin Cities the third-lowest in Texas after Amarillo and Midland.

"We're attracting people, not just from the state and not just nationally, but internationally," said Matt Prachaska, president of the Research Valley Partnership, citing companies like AdvantaSeeds making their home in the Brazos Valley.

Still, Prachaska admits there's room to grow in areas like compensation. There's an age gap there: BCS workers 25-44 make 25 percent less than the state average while workers 44-64 make 14 percent more than the state average.

"There's an opportunity to attract those younger people...the onus is really on us to provide higher-paying jobs for the future," Prachaska said.

Kindra Fry, president and CEO of Experience Bryan-College Station, took the stage to list several events coming to BCS as a result of her staff's work. She also pointed out the value of a tourism dollar to this community.

But Fry didn't shy away from what she calls a priority for Experience BCS: raising demand for hotel rooms.

"Supply is going up; demand is going up," said Fry. "But here's the bad news: demand is not meeting supply."

Fry and her team have been conducting more and more BCS site visits for meeting planners. She says, this kind of word-of-mouth marketing is proven effective to bring large events and conventions to the area.

"Once we show them, they'll go back and talk to other meeting planners," said Fry. "They're out there doing marketing for us, and they don't even know it."

Another presenter was Jim Gaines, chief economist for the Texas A&M Real Estate Center.

"Home prices will continue to go up in our area," said Gaines. "We're projecting at least a 6 percent increase."

That's even as more and more homes are being built in the area. However, Gaines says he would like to see more low-cost, smaller homes, like condos, potentially for first-time home buyers with a lower price point.

For more from Gaines, Fry, and Prachaska, see the video player above.