Rising Economic Development Star of the Week: Ann Miller
July 27, 2015
Ann Miller, 31, is the Executive Director of the Buda Economic Development Corporation in Buda, Texas. DCI is pleased to honor her as a winner of our 40 Under 40 awards — the only award of its kind recognizing young talent in the economic development profession.
Since starting in 2013, Ann has spearheaded the creation of the first Economic Development Strategic Plan for Buda. The Strategic Planning process took nine months, during which key areas for targeted economic development strategies were developed. Following the creation of the Strategic Plan, Ann drafted several programs that implement the targeted economic development strategies, including programs designed to support downtown facade improvements, adaptive reuse of existing buildings, and a program to reduce start-up costs for small independently-owned businesses opening in Buda. Ann also initiated the adoption of the BudaIncentive Policy, which serves as an incentive guide for both the Buda Economic Development Corporation and the City of Buda, and was created to provide an even playing field for all projects to compete for economic development incentives.
As part of the small business initiative, Ann created a partnership with the City of Buda and other organizations through an interactive brochure that serves as a resource and guide for small businesses starting in Buda. The creative and unique layout of the brochure shows off Ann’s graphic design capabilities. In addition to her list of duties, Ann currently oversees the organization and its $1.6 million budget. Ann has nearly 10 years of experience in the economic development field and is one of the youngest people to receive the Certified Economic Developer designation.
Ann is also a member of the International Economic Development Council, Southern Economic Development Council, Texas Economic Development Council, Team Texas, OSU Alumni Association and the International Council of Shopping Centers. Miller serves on multiple boards including the Buda Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater San Marcos Partnership, and the Hays County Chapter of Ducks Unlimited.
What’s your passion for places?
I grew up on a small farm just outside a suburb of Oklahoma City. There was nothing out there except several school buildings, farm houses, and a gas station. As I got older, I watched as the area grew and developed. Now it’s hardly recognizable and the last time I visited the area the large farm across the street was on the market for millions of dollars. To most people, watching that transformation was just a sign of the changing times, but I wanted to know more about what drove that area to grow. My desire to understand the development of places became my passion once I started working in economic development. While it wasn’t what I thought I would do growing up, I have found my calling in this career field.
What have you learned so far in your career?
When you represent a community, you represent that community every hour of every day of your life. This is the most rewarding job and the hardest job you will ever have. It’s important to build a solid support system that doesn’t mind you keeping secrets from them. Confidentiality is vital in this business and your friends and family need to accept that you will have secrets.
Being genuine and honest will get you much further than telling people what they want to hear. Sometimes a project isn’t a good fit for a community and sometimes it is better that a project locate somewhere else than be detrimental for the business and the community in the long run. People and companies can tell when you aren’t being genuine and it can cost you the project. Being genuine has helped me on several projects because the decision makers feel comfortable with you and open up about what the sticking points are, which may ultimately give you an advantage.
Finally, focus on quality over quantity. I like to focus on the long term impact of a project and not the short term announcement. Our community has so much to offer besides incentives. When we do offer incentives, it’s a strategic investment; we believe in the company and want to be a partner in its success. From the moment incentives change hands, my job isn’t ending, it’s just barely beginning. I have a commitment to each business in my community and will help them be successful now and in the future.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’ve found my calling in economic development and in five years, I’d like to be seen as someone with a deep expertise and broad understanding of this field. I see myself serving as a bridge between the older generation of economic developers, who are retiring, and emerging practitioners.
I’ve been fortunate to have already made the step from second in command to running an EDO. I see myself remaining in that type of position and currently I’m extremely happy and see lots of potential in my current position. I’ve always indicated that I would only stay in a community for as long as it was a good fit and for as long as I believed in the community vision for economic development. The moment an economic developer stops believing in the vision is the day he or she needs to move on. I hope that in five years, I will be as successful as I am currently and that I’m continuing to make my parents and my community proud of my work.
About the City of Buda
The Buda Economic Development Corporation is the only economic development entity in the City of Buda. The organization’s mission is to provide leadership in creating and pursuing balanced economic growth, by recruiting and retaining desirable, diverse businesses and developing infrastructure, while protecting the quality of life and natural resources in the region. The Buda Economic Development Corporation helps to grow the Buda economy by actively recruiting new retail, manufacturing, and office businesses to Buda, providing small business assistance and guidance, and working with existing Buda businesses by providing assistance with growth and expansion. To learn more visit www.budaedc.com.