Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve visited the Denton Chamber of Commerce’s beginnings and looked at examples of its impact on the community over the years. We’ve delved into how this Chamber’s structure is especially unique among Chambers of Commerce and why that benefits our community. In this final column of this series, we’ll peek into Denton’s future and the Chamber’s role in helping shape what it might look like.

One certainty in Denton’s future is growth. In his address at the Denton County United Way Campaign kickoff on Friday, July 14, State Representative Lynn Stucky stated that Texas is growing at a rate of about 20,000 new residents per day. Incredible!

What does that growth look like here in Denton? According to the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), the city of Denton’s population grew from 125,980 in January 2016 to 128,160 in January 2017. That is 2,180 new residents in one year, a growth rate of about six people per day.

Exactly like those who established the Chamber in 1909, our leaders today see unstoppable, exponential growth underway. Like then, the Chamber believes in actively shaping the city rather than merely letting growth happen to it. The mission is still to help plan and facilitate a progressive city, prepare for challenges before they become problems, and encourage good growth that will support community prosperity long into the future.

The population explosion in North Texas is happening regardless of what anyone does or does not do. It is simply a fact. Consider the strain on infrastructure and resources this kind of influx imposes. These people need jobs, schools, streets, housing, health services, government services, and, of course, quality of life.

I recently trekked across the metroplex from Denton through Dallas and enjoyed the new fast-but-expensive express toll lanes all the way. While this route down I-35 E and around the LBJ Freeway used to take an hour minimum in non-rush hour traffic, it’s like a little Autobahn now, cutting the time in half. I tried to imagine the additional 3 million people the NCTCOG projects will be sharing these new North Texas roads within the next 15 years. There’s not enough room!

It’s no wonder construction is underway everywhere we look. It’s no wonder water resources are a primary concern. It’s no wonder rising property tax increases are a concern. Who is going to pay for all of this?

This is why strategy is vital. Economic development through targeted business growth and tourism is the tool cities use to implement said strategy.

I remember when rooftops first started rising in the Lantana community to our south many years ago. Remember the mess that was FM 407 for a decade? That’s as good a picture as any of government’s infrastructural dilemma. Which comes first, the infrastructure or people who will pay taxes so government can afford to build the infrastructure?

This is the future in Denton, the challenge we face even now. Can’t we already feel the pressure when we must spend a half-hour just to drive across our city?

Economic development and tourism are powerful mechanisms for driving the right kind of business growth so the burden of funding the infrastructural demands does not fall solely on citizens’ shoulders.

Look at tourism alone. During 2016, 449,986 hotel rooms were occupied in Denton hotels. The hotel taxes that visitors pay are not citizen taxes. No citizen contributes to this tax stream unless they are spending nights in a Denton hotel room. Every one of those room nights also impacts our sales tax base, the general fund that fuels our city services and quality of life. Why? Because visitors eat, shop, attend events and entertain themselves. According to the Office of the Governor of Texas, visitors spent $176 million dollars inside Denton during 2016. Their sales tax impact alone was $5.4 million. These are general fund dollars citizens did not have to pay.

This is what the Chamber is doing today, and will continue to do in the future. We market and promote Denton to create jobs and generate revenue that feeds the necessary coffers so that citizens alone aren’t holding the bill.

The people are coming. Denton is changing. What will our city look like on the other side of this boom? As a community, we can decide that outcome. The Chamber is but one cog in a wheel. When the cogs come together, we can move the wheels in the direction we want to go to be the Denton we want to be tomorrow.