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Area cities look to future

Many municipal officials in the Denton area have their sights set on making investments to spur growth, and we believe their timing is right on target.

After several years of sluggish economic activity, it appears that 2013 could bring favorable conditions for projects that had to be put on hold after the plunge of 2008 and 2009.

According to a state comptroller’s report, the state’s recovery from the recession has been a little stronger than expected, leading to positive expectations for fiscal 2013.

The underlying cause for the increase in revenue estimates is job creation, according to the report. Denton County’s average unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in 2008 and jumped to 7.1 percent the following year. The county’s unemployment rate for 2012 dropped to 6.1 percent.

And even though sales and property tax revenues have not returned to pre-recession levels, according to the comptroller’s report, leaders are more confident in the economic outlook.

A quick survey of the county will show that leaders in Sanger, Argyle, Justin, Aubrey, Corinth and Shady Shores have reignited plans for expanding support services and commercial development.

What we’ve seen so far may be cautious optimism, but it’s positive news, and it’s welcome. Renewed confidence in the economy, coupled with a return to building and development plans, could help the county get back on track.

We’ve been a holding pattern far too long.

“Everyone was in sleep-and-survival mode,” Aubrey Mayor Gary Hammett told us. “We hit a rough spot in 2009, and we just lost confidence in the economy to build or even think about building.”

Now, Hammett told us, Aubrey has seen some activity in the private sector, which has generated interest, and people are spending money again. Economic recovery has been a driving force behind recent interest in expansions, he said.

Before the economy started to recover, cities had only enough resources to maintain their current operations, Sanger City Manager Mike Brice said.

That appears to be changing. Sanger now wants to expand water and sewer services to support future growth, and Aubrey officials passed an ordinance to move forward with development on several acres of land located between Spring Hill Road and U.S. Highway 377 to reverse neighborhood decay and attract commercial development.

Leaders in Argyle have their sights set on investing in infrastructure improvement along major corridors, and Shady Shores Town Council members expect to spend about $2 million in the next two years to repair roads and solve drainage issues.

Some of the projects being planned may not bear fruit for a few years, but every journey starts with a single step, and the path back to a more robust and stable economy begins here and now.

“You want to be ready before someone shows interest,” Hammett told us. “If they see you’re not ready for them to plug in, then they’ll move on to the next city.”

That’s good advice, and we’re glad to see so many area cities preparing to invest in projects that will pave the way to a brighter economic future.

We hope it’s just the beginning.