Strongest Town 2022, Round 1: Navasota, TX vs. Taylor, TX

STC+3

Entry submitted by: Bert Miller, Jason Weeks, Lupe Diosdado, Rayna Willenbrink, Johnny McNally, Jose Coronilla, Jennifer Reyna, Lance Hall, Shawn Myatt.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

Navasota is a charming small town that can be summed up using the city’s motto: “So Much, So Close.” Being a small town with a population of 8,000, our city gets its charm because of the people in the community that take pride in living in Navasota and working together to bring positive change. Navasota takes pride as a clean, relaxing, safe community and is a growing suburban area where commercial development and residential communities grow and prosper, with a lively historic downtown that draws residents and visitors out to our community. The City Hall Plaza hosts events all year long, bringing opportunities for the community to gather and celebrate together. The best thing about our town is the people and the sense of community. With neighbors smiling from across the yard, people eager to lend a hand, and friends always close by, Navasota is the Texas you’ve heard about. 

What is the biggest challenge your town faces, and what are you doing to address it?

Navasota is located in the “Texas Triangle,” just 30 minutes south of the rapidly-growing Bryan/College Station (B/CS) metro area, and 45 minutes from Houston. The Texas Department of Transportation is undergoing a large extension project, the TX SH 249 Extension, aka the “Aggie Expressway,” which significantly lowers the commute from B/CS to Houston. The main exit and entry into the highway begin in Navasota, and once completed in 2023, is expected to bring a lot of growth to our community. As B/CS, Houston, and Texas as a whole grows, so does our small town. With this level of rapid growth, our community faces the challenges of how to maintain our unique identity as a charming small town, and how to keep up with the increased demands for new infrastructure.

The community is taking several approaches to addressing and embracing the growth and concerns. This year, the city partnered with the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Innovation Center to facilitate a workshop series, Communities as a Start UP (CASU). Through the CASU model, community leaders from the city, economic development corporation, school district, workforce development center, and chamber of commerce gather to identify our community’s identity, and throughout the year we’ll strategize ways to work together to prepare for the growth and how to maintain our small-town feel. The city also begun to plan by completing transportation studies, pedestrian and bicycle plans, and comprehensive planning, as well as updating infrastructure needs (roads, drainage, and utilities) through our $10 million capital improvement project. 

What transportation options exist in your town for people of varying ages, abilities, and means? How easy is it to live in your town without regular access to a car? What transportation investments has your town recently made or is it in the process of making?

Transportation is one area of continued focus for our community. The city has a strong relationship with the Brazos Valley Council of Governments and has worked together to identify the scope of transportation services available for Navasota residents, published in the recent Brazos Valley Transportation Inventory Report. The Brazos Transit District is an on-demand transportation service available to individuals with disabilities, individuals ages 65+, and people with low incomes. They provide services for medical (non-emergency), paratransit, and social/recreational needs. The Grimes Health Resource Center also provides transit to individuals with disabilities, individual 65+, people with low incomes, veterans, and other public members to provide transit for medical (non-emergency) and shopping needs. Lastly, the Brazos Valley center for Independent Living (BVCIL) provides transportation to individuals with disabilities and transportation options include to and from BVCIL for classes appointments, and events, along with medical (non-emergency), paratransit, shopping, and social/recreational needs. This transit system operates weekdays and weekends, during any time of the day or night, including holidays.

The community also recognizes the importance of providing safe and reliable routes via sidewalks, trails, and bicycle paths to enhance walkability and the ease of getting around town without a vehicle. In 2021 the city partnered with a consulting firm to invest in, and adopt, a comprehensive Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan. The City has applied and received several rounds of funding for sidewalk construction and improvements to enhance walkability, and many of these funds have required that the community make a matching investment.

Tell us about your community’s local economy. Who are the key players, big and small, and how do they help your town to be financially strong and resilient? What local businesses are you most proud of?

Navasota has a diversified and robust local economy, with a diverse range of shopping, employment, educational, and entertainment opportunities for our residents. The seven most common industries in Navasota by number of employees are retail trade (15.7%), manufacturing (13.3%); health care and social assistance (13.1%); educational services (12.4%); accommodation and food services (6.9%); professional, scientific, and technical services (6.22%); and mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction (4.66%). The distribution of employment levels across many different sectors contributes to our community’s strong and diversified economy, and contributes to our overall economic resiliency.

The Navasota Industrial Foundation is home to several large industrial and manufacturing facilities, and provides employment opportunities for many of our local residents. There are also many health care, educational, and professional facilities, like the Navasota Independent School District and CHI St. Joseph Hospital that employ many local residents. The Navasota Grimes County Chamber of Commerce is very active in our community and works with a large number of our local businesses—from sole proprietors and small brick-and-mortar stores, to larger companies with many employees—to help provide the support they need to not only thrive and grow in our community, but to be able to stay afloat and prosper even during hard economic downturns like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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