Less than 20 minutes south of Austin, Texas lie the small towns of Buda and Kyle. According to City-Data.com, about 16,000 people reside in Buda and 52,000 people live in Kyle. Most residents in both areas commute outside city limits to their job, meaning Buda and Kyle are considered bedroom communities. To encourage more people to work and play in the same locations they live, city officials in both Buda and Kyle are incentivizing small business growth and actively courting large corporations to expand into the suburbs of the fourth-largest city in Texas.
Built around railroad depots, Buda was founded in 1881 and Kyle was founded in 1880. These same rail lines still pass through both towns today and are interwoven into the expanding communities. According to U.S. Census data, Hays County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation. This growth is reflected in the 2014-2015 and 2022-2023 city budgets. In eight years, Kyle’s city budget grew from $45.36 million dollars to $212.6 million dollars and Buda’s city budget rose from $21.12 million dollars to $102.6 million dollars.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between March 2019 and March 2020, 69,430 small businesses opened and 60,952 closed in the state of Texas, which is home to about 3 million small businesses. Businesses in some parts of the state did better than others, especially during the pandemic. Hays County – including Buda and Kyle – did better. Some small businesses turned to the county for help. In 2020, as a direct result of the pandemic, the Hays County Emergency Cash Assistance Program was created through grants totaling $600,000. The fund provided a grant of up to $10,000 to qualifying small businesses on a first-come, first-served basis.
A current council member of the City of Kyle who is also a small-business owner, believes establishments of all sizes are vital to the local economy’s growth and are co-dependent. “I think that we need both large and small businesses, the mom-and-pop stores and the Costco’s, in order to really create that balance and provide the community with the businesses and services that we’re missing and that they’re needing, and that they’re going to San Marcos or Austin to get.”
While new businesses are still getting acclimated to the area, existing businesses are testing their longevity and trying to further establish themselves in a growing market. After realizing how saturated the tattoo market was in San Marcos and Austin, Becca Grant, co-owner of Faces in the Dark Tattoo, opened her shop on the west side of Kyle in 2016. However, only recently has she seen the full potential of her investment.
“We’re kind of at the point where we’re running out of room, and we’ve talked about opening a second location. Probably in Kyle, you know, maybe on the other side of town because I see how much things are growing over there,” says Grant.
In 2021, the City of Kyle and the Kyle Economic Development announced the opening of Costco which will bring 225 jobs to the area when it opens in spring 2023. This increase in employment is in addition to the hundreds of other jobs brought to the city by the recent openings of the Lowe’s distribution center and Amazon sorting facility.
A former council member for the city of Kyle, explains that companies like Lowe’s and Amazon are drawn to Texas because of the Freeport Exemption which provides tax exemptions to companies for temporary inventory. This former council member doesn’t expect Kyle’s growth to slow and hopes residents understand the importance of large employers to the city.
“The government doesn’t just go and say, ‘Hey, we want an Olive Garden or a Chipotle here.’ Not unless, you know, it’s something like Costco that’s going to bring in jobs and revenue. That’s the only time a city really goes after a specific business, but otherwise, businesses have just got to want to come here. We can show them the growth numbers and you know, all this different stuff but they’re also saying, ‘Hey, most of the people are leaving the city, so there’s no breakfast and more importantly, there’s no lunch crowd so why would I bring my restaurant here?’”
In addition to Costco, The City of Kyle announced residents can expect to see Torchy’s Tacos and Z Tejas Grill opening their doors soon, increasing sales tax rate revenues and lessening the dependence on property taxes for the City.
With less than half the population and half the city budget of Kyle, Buda’s Economic Development Corporation’s Small Business Retention and Expansion Grant Program has focused its attention on the growth of existing and future small businesses.
Travis and Noa Sutherland were the recipients of a $20,000 grant from the City for their coffee and cocktail bar, Meridian. “The city in general is just awesome about giving resources and connections to the small businesses, so yeah, it’s very supportive and friendly. It’s a great scene,” says Travis Sutherland. “We’re friends with quite a few business owners. It’s a pretty solid and close community.”
Dane Aziz, the owner of Water 2 Wine, echoes these sentiments, “I work with Brooklyn’s, Cigar Vault, I’ve got a great relationship with the owners of MudBugs and Taste, they own Hay’s City Store as well, and it’s a very collaborate network. We have the Downtown Main Street Buda Association and the Buda Chamber of Commerce, so we’re all about trying to work with each other and bringing each other up rather than being competitive.”
While both cities welcome small businesses, developers are more particular. “The developers in Kyle are acting like Kyle is part of Austin so the lease rates are astronomical. They are looking for more franchise owners with deeper pockets,” Aziz explains. “I’ve talked with some of the developers to see what we can work out and what incentives the city of Kyle can give me, a small business owner, rather than give large corporations sizable benefits.”
Due to its larger area size, Kyle has more room to develop businesses and subdivisions than Buda. However, LaVonia Horne-Williams, Buda Councilmember At-Large Position 3, believes the different qualities of each city are good for its residents. Horne-Williams embraces the opportunity to patronize each city within Hays County.
“When I think about it from an elected official perspective, I think about it from the county level to the city level, before I look at it from a state level,” explains Horne-Williams. “We want to make sure we provide, for everyone who moves to Hays County, an opportunity to have a great quality of life.”