Stephenville and Erath County enjoy a very broad based economy, allowing it to thrive during virtually all economic conditions. Over the years, several organizations have emerged in leading the way to this level of success. In 1952, a group of local businessmen formed the Stephenville Industrial Foundation with the primary objective to attract manufacturing companies in order to broaden the economic base. At the forefront of the foundation’s leadership were influential community members, such as Dr. J.C. Terrell, Sr., Dr. Vance Terrell, Brad Thompson and Rufus Higgs. As it’s first project, the foundation chose to support the poultry industry by providing a building for a pullorum testing lab. The Foundation then purchased land, built a structure and leased it to West Manufacturing.
Although the foundation’s funding was limited, several individuals within the organization purchased land for future development. Subsequently, this land was sold to a number of area entities, including Genault Industries, Caporal Indsutries, Celebrity Homes, Norton Company, Fibergate Corporation, Emerson Electric and FMC. Stephenville was appealing for several reasons, including an ideal workforce, excellent educational and recreational opportunities, and an involved supportive community.
A number of years later, the Stephenville Industrial Foundation, Inc. emerged, which began with $25,000 of initial funding. The new corporation, led by Byron Singleton, Brad Thompson, Mickey Maguire, Roy Stafford and Dr. Jim Whitacre, expanded it’s reach and included new projects with entities such as the National Weather Service.
Although plant relocations and expansions slowed due to changes in the economy during the 1980’s, local manufacturing companies continued to grow. Business operators saw that the local plants in Stephenville area proved to be some of the best performing plants within their organizations. Several parent companies even closed their facilities elsewhere and relocated to the Stephenville area. Tarleton State University students proved to be an excellent source of employees, and local plants found their employees to be among their most educated, highly trained and productive.
Under the leadership of Bill Nix, the Stephenville Economic Development Foundation, Inc. (STEDCO) was formed in 1993. With the combined assets of it’s predecessors, STEDCO found itself in an ideal position to assist area industries with land, loans, grants and lease purchase arrangements, and has even provided management consulting at times.
In 1994, the National Weather Service closed their facility and relocated. With the assistance of STEDCO, the facility eventually became the home of Outlaw Conversions, marking a major milestone in STEDCO’s portfolio. Area financial institutions have played a key role in the support of STEDCO’s economic development efforts by providing loans at competitive rates.
The Stephenville Chamber of Commerce has also played an instrumental part in assisting STEDCO. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Chamber included an Industrial Team, which was trained to work with and assist prospects as they evaluated Stephenville and the surrounding area.