Where History Meets Business

Seguin Area Chamber of Commerce
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Founded soon after Texas won independence in the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, the Town of Seguin is one of the oldest in the State. Now, its thriving community shelters a vibrant business environment, thanks to an entrepreneurial spirit and the Seguin Area Chamber of Commerce.

The town got its name from Colonel Juan N. Seguin, who fought in the battle alongside Anglo settlers. These early inhabitants were enterprising and industrious, building homes and other structures from a unique local product called ‘limecrete.’

Today, about two dozen of these buildings still exist. Rich in history, the place once described as “the prettiest town in Texas” was initially built on agriculture, mills, oil, and manufacturing.

Originally founded in 1937 as the Seguin and Guadalupe County Chamber of Commerce, the organization was created to maintain uniformity in the commercial usage of the city and town, says Chester Jenke, President at the Seguin Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The secondary aspect of the Chamber startup was to acquire, preserve, and disseminate valuable business information as well as promote the interest of trade and increase the commercial transactions within the community,” says Jenke. “All of these aspects still hold for the Seguin Chamber today. We still promote the common economic interest of all the commercial enterprises within our community.”

Strength in numbers

Almost 90 years after its founding, the Seguin Chamber continues promoting its members and all the community has to offer. With a population of just over 30,000, the town remains relatively small, but its spirit is abundant, and the local pride in the town is contagious.

As spirited as the town, the Seguin Area Chamber of Commerce continues to promote the interests of its more than 585 active members, ensuring that every opportunity to grow commerce is grabbed with both hands. From individual members to small businesses, government entities, and large manufacturers, the Chamber advocates on behalf of all, ensuring “commerce continues to be unimpeded throughout the city, county, and state,” says Jenke.

For members, other benefits include networking opportunities, and the opportunity to showcase their products to locals via events like Showcase Seguin and Business in the Park, which sees over 30 businesses represented at each event. At the monthly Chamber luncheon, members from every branch of commerce come together to discuss their businesses, challenges, and successes.

Taking over as President in October 2021, Jenke says he has used the startup period to define chamber programming and services to ensure the best value for members. As businesses grow and develop, programming needs need to adapt.

This has become especially true during the past two years of the pandemic, which required reviewing and revising member-based programs. Before his current role, Jenke served as VP of Economic Development, which he says was an immense benefit.

“Most chambers are either economic drivers or membership-based advocacy and training providers – the Seguin Chamber is a mix of both of these worlds,” says Jenke. “Understanding the business aspect of business development and expansion for small business has been a valuable piece of knowledge. I hope to further this with new programs in 2022 that deliver small-business training resources to all of our local businesses as these continue to grow.”

Recent initiatives

Like most chambers across the United States, the Seguin Chamber is funded through business-owner membership fees or investment fees, with a small portion of the operating budget funded through private donations.

To continue to drive the interests of members, the Chamber implemented two changes this year.

The first, a revised Chamber 101 training course, provided a jumpstart to new chamber members and demonstrated to them how chambers operate and the benefits for their businesses.

The second initiative, coming this spring, will see Business Showcase, a business-to-business event, and Business in the Park, an outdoor business-to-consumer event where companies can feature their products to potential customers. This year, the theme of the Business Showcase is ‘Totally 80s,’ which will see booths outfitted in ‘80s style, and occupants dressed in clothing from the time.

“This is a fun event that allows the businesses to not only connect with each other but connect with the community as well,” says Jenke.

Location, location, location

Even with its relatively modest population, Seguin has access to a workforce of over 350,000 within a 30-minute drive from the city. Combined with a median age of 39 and median household income of $61,000 this makes Seguin especially attractive.

These factors, combined with a low sales tax rate of 8.25 percent, mean that businesses have access to an enviable pool of workers, and can stretch their every dollar so much farther.

Many employers, including Caterpillar, Vitesco Technologies, Commercial Metals Corporation (CMC), Guadalupe Regional Medical Center, and Tyson Foods, offer plenty of career opportunities right inside the city limits of Seguin.

The city is targeting specific industries, including manufacturing operations – such as machinery and automotive facilities – and the retail sector. And with a growing population, the needs of these and other business types will continue.

At present, 11,000 new home plans are working their way through the approval process. Combined with over 3,000 new home plans for the “unincorporated” area just outside of Seguin in Guadalupe County, this makes retail operations very attractive in its target sector.

“Seguin’s current retail trade area has a population of over 100,000 people,” says Jenke. “With the explosive growth in Seguin and Guadalupe County, this number is expected to rise exponentially over the next five years.” This growth will see the city’s existing population of 30,000 push past 50,000.

For residents and businesses alike, Seguin offers ideal access to roads, ports, and air travel.

For a start, it is situated on several major Texas crossroads. Interstate 10 runs east and west from coast to coast, with Seguin located about midway between coasts. State Highway 130, in Seguin, is a toll road helping motorists access Interstate 35, which runs to Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. These highways, says Jenke, provide ample opportunity for companies to move their products throughout the U.S.

“If an overseas shipment is needed, the Port of Houston is about two and a half hours from Seguin to the east and provides convenient port access for goods being shipped out of the U.S.

“When you add in the access to two international airports – San Antonio International Airport 30 minutes to the South and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport 45 minutes to the north – travelers have many flight options available to them, both domestic and international.

“Seguin’s location between the two airports provides a great opportunity for business travelers.”

Quality of life

From restaurants to microbreweries, festivals to fine arts, the City of Seguin has it all.

Every year, the city salutes the Pecan during Pecan Fest, a festival that sees residents celebrate Seguin’s Famous “World’s Largest Pecan.” From small amusement parks to Broadway shows in one of the city’s historic theaters, there is fun and entertainment for all ages.

For golf enthusiasts, Seguin is home to Starke Park Golf Course with 18 holes nestled along the Guadalupe River, with huge Pecan trees along the course.

In confirmation of its old-time charm, downtown Seguin is listed on the National Register for Historic Places. This is an opportunity for residents and business owners in the 27-block historic district to receive incentives such as federal tax credits, local tax abatements, and permit-fee waivers to encourage property owners to refurbish and maintain the buildings in their historic state.

The Texas Main Street program assists with architectural design in the historic district. And together, the Texas Main Street program and the Seguin Main Street program have provided funding to businesses that have preserved the heritage of the buildings.

For the betterment of the community, Seguin continues investing in itself in many areas, including health and education. This includes millions of dollars invested in the Guadalupe Regional Medical Center (GRMC).

One of the only city/county-owned hospitals in Texas, the GRMC employs more than 700 employees and over 100 skilled physicians in a world-class facility not supported by tax dollars.

Named one of the best places to work in the nation by Modern Healthcare, GRMC was recently awarded an “A” grade for hospital safety by an independent institution grading hospitals nationwide.

“The hospital is consistently on lists of the “Best of…” for their services – such as the November 2021 list of the top 10 percent in the nation for joint replacement. This is a list that evaluates over 4,500 hospitals nationwide,” says Jenke.

That same month, GRMC became one of the first facilities in America to install a Twin Robotics X-Ray system, allowing physicians to perform diagnostic imaging of patients, providing a much broader range of diagnostic tools in a single room. “The Guadalupe Regional Medical Center is second-to-none,” adds Jenke.

Educational offerings

In terms of education, Seguin has two area school districts: the Seguin Independent School District, and the Navarro Independent School District. Both schools have a great sense of pride and are striving to ensure graduating students have the skills they need to succeed post-high school.

Recently, Seguin added a Construction Trades Department, where students earn industry-recognized credentials to quick-start their career in construction trades. Navarro is also working through a recently passed bond election, which will expand the high school to meet the needs of future students.

Post-secondary education options include Texas Lutheran University – home to over 1,400 students. There is a great sense of “TLU Bulldog” pride on its 185-acre campus. Its students enroll in four-year liberal arts, sciences, and professional studies in 27 program majors, 37 program minors, 64 specializations, and other programs. And, established in 2008, the Central Texas Technology Center is a workforce development center that has been instrumental when prospective new employers visit the region.

In a time of strong residential growth, the City of Seguin continues to do an outstanding job of keeping infrastructure current and progressive. This forward-looking approach has ensured that there is opportunity both for future businesses to locate in the region, and for future residents to find ample housing options, Jenke explains.

“There are also opportunities that remain available for new job creation and a new workforce to help support these businesses. The Chamber is a partner with the city and the county to assist with the growth and the new residents that are moving here.”

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