A $56 million infrastructure refinancing program adopted in the last year already is paying dividends for the city of Lorena, which expects the program to help bring in 4,000 new jobs, hundreds of new homes and several new businesses during the next 30 years.

The Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone already has brought improvements to the area, according to officials. It also recently won the city a Community Economic Development Award for communities with fewer than 5,000 people from the Texas Economic Development Council last week.

Mundo and Associates, an economic development consulting firm, helped the city apply for the award. Pamela J. Mundo, the firm’s founder, said she is proud of the city’s initiative to improve the area.

“In November of last year, the Lorena City Council definitely took a progressive action in establishing the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, which allows for financing of public improvements of property on the east side of (Interstate) 35,” Mundo said.

The TIRZ will spark significant economic revitalization during the next 30 years through a $56 million investment, Mundo said. Improvements also should extend beyond the zone.

“We believe the economic impact will yield 679 new homes, plus over a million square feet of retail, approximately 89,000 square feet of new restaurants and 480,000 square feet of office buildings and a similar amount of warehouse and high-tech buildings,” Mundo said.

The initiative also is expected to create about 4,000 new jobs.

City Manager Billy Clemons said the added value created by construction increases tax income, which pays for every city service.

“The TIRZ board totally operates outside of city government,” Clemons said. “It’s not the city of Lorena building new pipelines. It’s going to be the TIRZ. It’s not part of our budget.”

A 12-inch sewer line from I-35 to the Waco Metropolitan Area Regional Sewerage System treatment plant was the first project addressed.

“It just works a lot better since we’re on the east side of the interstate and the processing plant is on the east side,” Clemons said. “It makes total sense to run it through the (rural) country directly to the plant. And it opens up a lot more acreage for development because everywhere it passes we’ll be able to provide wastewater service.”

Clemons is focused on the short-term goals of the TIRZ and Lorena’s vast potential.

“Anything that generates economy will also bring in more investment dollars,” Clemons said. “The dollars then create more homes and businesses and an overall much higher quality of life.

“We’ve already rebuilt our park and done other minor things, but we’ll be able to do a lot over the next short term. So I’m not saying we’re trying to make improvements for 20 years down the road. We’re making improvements now.”

David Anderton, a member of the Lorena Economic Development Council, accepted the economic development award in Dallas last week.

“It just shows all the hard work we’ve put in over the years building the foundation for the community,” Anderton said. “We’re a small community but we’ve got some bright-minded, big ideas. That’s what I’m proud of.”

According to the Texas Economic Development Council, nominees were judged on innovativeness, transferabilty, community commitment and leverage, measured objectives and secondary benefits.

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