The headlines on the nation’s economy were not exactly encouraging when Patti Worfe became the first woman to lead the Economic Development Alliance for Brazoria County earlier this year.
The national news was dominated by gloom-and-doom talk of inflation, rising gas prices, the pandemic, and supply-chain disruptions.
Despite these headwinds, Worfe took over the organization, optimistic about the Brazoria County economy.
“It is an incredibly good time to be in Brazoria County,” she says.
As president and CEO of the Alliance, Worfe leads a membership- based organization founded in 1983 as a resource and advocate for the development and diversification of the Brazoria County economy.
The mission of the Alliance is to “promote and diversify the economic base, attract high-wage jobs in target industries to Brazoria County, and support and champion the interests of the existing business community.”
Asked why she is so optimistic about the local economy, Worfe says the county has important advantages when trying to lure new businesses our way.
First, unlike our Houston neighbors, Brazoria County has plenty of land available for new businesses.
Because of this, the Alliance can help businesses interested in moving here find land that fits their needs.
Working with municipalities and chambers of commerce, the Alliance, for instance, may help a company find land near a rail line or close to a highway or near the Medical Center.
Second, the county has a wonderful quality of life.
“With our beaches and parks, the county is an incredible place to live, work and play,” says Worfe. “It is a great place to raise a family.”
Third, the county has a stable workforce.
“Our schools and our businesses have done a tremendous job working together to provide training,” she says.
“If a young person is interested in becoming a pipefitter, there are ways to get the person exposure to that here,” she continues. “There is no reason a young person has to leave the county to find a job.”
Worfe admits that while economic development is advancing here, it takes patience because of lingering supply-chain issues from the pandemic. She cites the example of Maxter Healthcare.
The company, which specializes in manufacturing medical gloves, bought 215 acres in our county for its first U.S. facility. Brazoria County won out over bids from New York, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
When completely operational, the facility will produce 19.2 billion gloves a year, create 750 to 1,000 jobs and add $340 million to the tax rolls.
But there is a temporary hitch: A supply-chain problem has delayed the groundbreaking.
Although she just took over leadership of The Alliance in February, Worfe is hardly a stranger to the county.
She was born in Freeport and graduated from Texas A&M with a journalism degree. She started working for the City of Angleton as manager of the Main Street development project.
She then took on a bigger role as the economic development director for the whole city and also served as Angleton’s assistant city manager.
After 16 years of working in Angleton, she took a job in Fort Bend County as executive director of the Stafford Economic Development Corp.
Gary Basinger, then president of the Alliance, brought her back to Brazoria County, and she took over as president of the organization when he retired this year.
Worfe says her passion has always been economic development, but when she started, there weren’t many women choosing that career path.
“There are more of us now, thanks to people before me who were the trailblazers,” she says.
“I try to be a role model for others who want to enter the field.”
Like many economic development organizations, one of the goals Worfe and The Alliance face is diversifying our economy.
Worfe stresses that diversification doesn’t mean abandoning our petrochemical industry. It simply means recognizing that there are other opportunities in such fields as medicine, battery development, and electric vehicles.
Worfe, in fact, considers herself a “Dow girl”, whose father worked for Dow for 35 years.
With a laugh she says, “I grew up with polyethylene pellets instead of sand in my sandbox.”
(Contact Ernie at email@example.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)