Why experts say that Corpus Christi needs to embrace diversity and create value in order to save itself
The Southside Light
Ask any business owner and they will tell you that one of the hardest things to change is the hyperlocal consumer mindset. Corpus Christi is no exception to this rule and in fact, it’s one thing that some experts say is hindering solid growth in the area. While places like Round Rock, Dallas and Houston are all thriving, they are doing so because of cultural diversity—an area where some feel Corpus Christi is lagging behind.
With the region lagging behind in overall growth, the city’s south side is seeing steady numbers. While that may very well be a good thing, it is far from making Corpus Christi a major metropolitan area that captures growth and imagination. Even cities such as San Antonio find themselves falling behind in that department while places like Houston and Dallas capitalize on it.
“What Corpus Christi needs is a really good culture shock,” says urban growth expert Nathan Ivern. “New talent wants new things.”
The sad but true fact is that while Texas A&M-Corpus Christi graduated over 1,000 students this past weekend, only a very slight handful will stay and keep their talents in our workforce.
“The area has some very strong public schools,” says Invern. He points out to area districts such as London ISD and Flour Bluff ISD as being solid feeders for places like Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, but that alone he says is not enough to keep the young talent close to home.
“Graduates and talent today want to live and work in places that have more to offer than just a job and limited recreation,” he says. “Younger people today are forward thinking and constantly eyeing their future.”
In places like Round Rock and Dallas, the attractions are obvious. They, like Corpus Christi offer recreational and cultural diversity and though Ivern says Corpus Christi offers the recreation, it leaves plenty of room to grow culturally.
“What museums the city has are far and few between,” Invern notes. “Unlike Houston and Dallas that have done wonderful work creating museum districts, Corpus Christi is lagging behind.”
Ivern does point out that Corpus Christi is doing its part to attract new development.
“One positive move multi-family housing units,” Ivern notes. “That is a step in the right direction but there needs to be more affordable family options available.”
Ivern points out the need for a children’s museum or heritage sites that really help promote the community.
“Every major city has a children’s museum that really captivated the youngest of imaginations,” he says. “But it can’t cost an arm and a leg.”
Like Ivern, economic strategist Kim Johansson says that Corpus Christi suffers from quality recognition issues.
“Very, very few people in Corpus Christi will pay top dollar for a quality, gourmet sandwich,” she says. “Largely because they can get one from a chain retailer for six bucks.”
“Tamales, tacos, cars, furniture you name it,” Johansson says. “The consumer cultural challenge is real.”
The biggest problem Johansson says is getting locals to recognize value.
“Rosas tamales for example cannot sell tamales for $15 per dozen because you can find them elsewhere for $9 and they are of similar quality,” she says.
Both Johansson and Ivern agree that the challenge is getting the community to recognize worth.
“Corpus Christi has plenty to be proud of but if you don’t value it then why should anybody else value it?,” Johansson points out. “There has to be a critical change in value around Corpus.”
While driving around the south side, you often come across some very well established, middle class neighborhoods. One problem experts point out is that while five homes on a block can be very well maintained, you stumble across one in the middle that isn’t. That, says some real estate experts is what makes for an even harder sell.
“Look at the area of Lipes near Yorktown,” says economist Michael Gonzales. “Ten houses look great but there is always that one that is in great need of repair and yard work that brings down the consumer value.”
“The trick is the agents can’t let potential buyers see that and get it in their heads,” Gonzales says. “There is not any need to buy a house in a neighborhood like that when for the same money you can get a newer home with strong property owners association that is going to enforce neighborhood rules.”
Economists suggest that growth depends largely on creating value and letting others see that value. They also say that communities like Corpus Christi need to do more to embrace outside culture and do more to encourage younger talent to stay at home.
“You have to give them a place that they want to live and give them affordable things to do,” says Ivern. “If you don’t, all the work you can do to build a strong economy will never, ever work because you can’t attract and keep the talent.”