As we prepare for the new year, let’s take a step back and look at 2020.  The year was kicked off with talk about a virus that was starting to spread internationally.  In February, many large events were considering cancellation.  In West Texas fashion, the World’s Largest Rattlesnake Round-Up was held with statewide thoughts that it should be canceled.  Our restaurant, hospitality, and retail industries were hit hard by the forced closures due to COVID.  All families, communities, and businesses were affected by COVID in one form or another.

We kicked off 2020 with WTI Oil at $57.52. On April 20th it went from $16.55 to -$37.63. By the 29th of December, it was back up to $48.08.  Nolan County fared better than most in Texas and the U.S. as our unemployment was at 3.1% in January, 7.4% in May, and back down to 6.5% in November.  The U.S. was 4.0% in January, 8.1% in May, and 6.4% in November. Texas was 3.8% in January, 12.7% in May, and 8.0% in November. During all the shutdowns and oil prices dropping, our community continued to develop and improve our opportunities.  Here are a few of the things that developed in 2020:

* Mustang Harbor Splash Pad – A Joint project between SEED MDD and the City of Sweetwater

* The SEED MDD Board of Directors expanded the Façade Improvement Grants boundaries. 6 projects have been approved by SEED MDD

* The Southwood Terrace Housing Addition continued to develop with from SEED MDD incentives

* The Oaks apartments complex remodeled 27 units with assistance from SEED MDD incentives

* SEED MDD approved incentives to promote the construction of 3 patio homes (coming soon on Skinny Drive)

* The demolition efforts of SEED MDD and the City of Sweetwater continue (23 have been completed since December of 2019)

* Hard Head Veterans, manufacturer of Ballistic Helmets, chose Sweetwater for their main headquarters, fulfillment center, and manufacturing site.

* Retail, Hospitality, and Quality of Life training was provided to the staff at SEED MDD and the Chamber of Commerce through The University of Texas IC2 and XLR8 programs, along with training provided through the Retail Academy funded by the USDA.

* Georgia Pacific Wallboard announced a $285,000,000.00 expansion that will include a 700,000 sq ft facility and will hire up to 120 people. The new plant should open in the 3rd quarter of 2022.  Local partners on this project included Sweetwater ISD, Nolan County         Commissioners Court, Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital, City of Sweetwater, and SEED MDD.

* A new website for SEED MDD will be unveiled in the 1st quarter of 2021.

* We continue to promote our community and its successes through The Sweetwater Reporter, KXOX Radio, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, direct emails, and a quarterly newsletter.

2020 will be remembered as a year of worldwide change.  Our lives went from normal to online ordering, curbside delivers, mask-wearing, zoom meetings, and more.  We were limited to our gathering sizes and interactions with others.  We found that “Home” wasn’t a bad place to be until we couldn’t go anywhere else.  We found that we had more time on our hands as some of our busyness went away. We realized the importance of our teachers and their face to face interactions.  We forgot how important our front-line workers were as we saw them continue to take care of and protect us from our surroundings.  Some of us miss the connections to people and the relationships we build.  We found that we didn’t always have to travel to a meeting as we learned about Zoom, GoTo Meetings, Microsoft Teams, and other virtual meeting options.

We choose to remember 2020 as a year where living in Rural West Texas became a good thing as we were away from the unrest in the larger cities.  We found that our Rural Texas way of life became more of a positive than a negative. We will remember that Texas is a great place to live and do business. We will remember our local banks as they took care of their customers through these trying times and different federal SBA programs.  We are proud of our frontline workers as they took care of us no matter what.

As we approach 2021, let’s work together to continue to improve our community and its opportunities.  Let’s find ways to partner and prepare our students for their next step…. work, education, or military.  Let’s not say that we don’t have time and it’s someone else’s job to make a difference.  Let’s thank those around us and remember what isolation, even if it was for a short time, felt like.  Let’s build a Sense of Place in Sweetwater and Nolan County that draws people here.  Let’s care about what our community looks like and do something to improve it.  Let’s clean up our community one neighborhood at a time.  How about starting with your neighborhood?

The SEED MDD staff challenges you to come together in a year from now to talk about what has been accomplished in 2021 as we build a plan for 2022.  As we say many times, “Someone” needs to do something.  That “Someone” is each of us.

I’ll be there, will you ………………..?