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Gillespie County Economic Powerhouse

By Jim Mikula, President/CEO


In preparing for the Chamber’s Economic Summit program, Tim Lehmberg of the Gillespie County Economic Development Commission came across an article about small businesses published on KTSM.com (El Paso TV Station). The story, citing a large study of counties across the U.S., was about Texas counties which have the highest number of small businesses per 1,000 residents.

 

Gillespie County is the #1 County in Texas for highest concentration of small businesses. In 2021, our county had 1,122 small business establishments which equals 41.1 establishments per 1,000 residents. Also, of all the establishments in the county, 99.8% are small businesses. Another factoid of interest is that in the top 10 counties in Texas for small businesses, only Gillespie County had a population of over 27,000 (2021). Eight counties had less than 4,000 residents and the 5th ranked county, Ochiltree, had 9,800 residents (2021).

 

Our neighboring counties were in the top 50: Mason County was ranked #3; Blanco County was #17; and Kerr County came in at #32. Kerr County had 1,509 small business establishments in 2021 with a ratio of 28.4 small businesses per 1,000 residents. Kerr County has nearly double the population of Gillespie County.

 

Being a curious fellow, I wondered how Gillespie County ranks against counties in other states. KTSM.com had a link to an article that reported the #1 County in each state for highest ratio of small business establishments per 1,000 residents. Of the top counties with populations similar to Gillespie County, we rank at #12.

 

The #1 county is Teton in Wyoming, where tourist mecca Jackson Hole Ski Resort is located, with 2,341 small business establishments (99.8% of all businesses) and a ratio of 99.1 establishments per 1,000 residents. Next is Fairfax County in Virgina with 1,994 establishments and a ratio of 81.8 per 1,000 residents. Of the top 12 counties, Fairfax is the outlier due to its location across the Potomac River from Washington DC. The common thread through the other 11 counties including Gillespie County is the role of tourism in each county’s economy.

 

Two counties have similar economies to Gillespie County—a combination of tourism and agriculture. Gallatin County in Montana and Emmet County in Michigan. Gallatin is home to Bozeman, West Yellowstone, and several ski areas. Emmet County is on the west coast of Michigan and includes Petoskey and a portion of Mackinac Island.

 

The other top counties include:

 

Blaine County Idaho – Sun Valley Ski Resort

Summitt County Idaho – Park City

San Juan County Washington – San Juan Islands

Dare County North Carolina – Outer Banks

Monroe County Florida – Florida Keys

Door County Wisconsin – Peninsula on Lake Michigan near Green Bay

 

I’ll dig deeper into the role of small business establishments in Gillespie County economy and perhaps I’ll find some niches that graduates of the Fredericksburg Entrepreneur Initiative can fill. (Census information herein from the U.S. Census Bureau.)

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