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Rockdale Municipal Development District to release new economic recovery plans 15 years after Alcoa closure

Posted at 8:51 PM, Jan 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-01 21:51:49-05

ROCKDALE, Texas — Things have changed in Rockdale since Pam Wages bought her salon, Pam's Rockdale Beauty Shoppe, 34 years ago, especially after the closure of the Alcoa plant.

"It was a little slow at times, but small towns, it's kind of hard cause so there's so many people in town that drive out of town for work," she said.

According to Jim Gibson, the economic development director of the Rockdale Municipal Development District, it's closure cut the economy of the county in half.

The plant employed thousands of Rockdale residents since the 1950s, becoming the largest aluminum plant in the United States.

New facilities were created in Rockdale, which produced less pollution compared to Alcoa, prompting the company to shut down all operation in 2008.

"After the plant closures, the economy in Milam County is about half of what it is as measured in GDP, we also saw the county lose about 90% of manufacturing jobs in that time period so this plan looks to correct that," he said.

But now, the district is drafting a new comprehension plan to work in conjunction with its Strategic Economic Development Plan to recover the economy.

Gibson said the comprehension plan will prepare Rockdale for growth, upgrading infrastructure and adding housing.

"We are looking for ways to reduce the perception of investment risk in Rockdale, and so we're trying to do some things like beautification," Gibson said.

The group adopted the strategic plan in June, focusing on seven components like gaining community leadership, improving the quality of life, attracting new industries, developing the workforce through more education, adding new housing, expanding retail and creating an "entrepreneur ecosystem" or more opportunities for new business owners.

Gibson expects the strategic plan to be complete in five years, and the comprehensive plan will be finished by May 2024.

Wages said the city is already growing, and she's optimistic the plan will help.

"There's been a lot of influx of new businesses and from what we hear, more businesses are coming," Wages said.