GEDC president, CEO recognizes value of higher education to community

Genora 2 Genora Young became president and chief executive officer of the Gonzales Economic Development Corporation in 2015.

As president and chief executive officer of the Gonzales Economic Development Corporation, Genora Young understands the importance of small communities keeping their most valuable natural resource at home. 

“Too often, we send our high school graduates off to college and say, ‘Go make your mark somewhere else in the world,’ and they never come back home,” Young said. “We should tell them to get their education here or start their education here. Not everyone is college bound, and for those communities fortunate enough to host a community college, there are classes for industry-specific training such as welding, truck driving and nurse aide as well as workforce training opportunities for local businesses and business prospects.”

It was a homecoming of sorts for Young when she was named the president and CEO of the Gonzales Economic Development Corporation in 2015.

“My mother’s family actually lived in this area,” Young said. “My great-grandfather was a Presbyterian preacher. He traveled throughout the region in a little horse-drawn buggy and preached at churches that didn’t have a minister. I sometimes wonder if I’m walking where he walked.”

After serving five years as the Main Street Manager and Tourism Director in her hometown of Fort Stockton, Young moved to Midland in 2000 to accept a job as District Manager of nii Communications.  While working full time, she took several classes at Midland College.

“The classes I took really helped me when speaking with nii customers and explaining phone bills,” Young said. “Education is a confidence builder.”

Young served as the executive director of Downtown San Angelo, Inc., before returning to Midland in 2012 to accept a position with the city to assist with downtown redevelopment. While working in that capacity, she was able to learn more about the assets community colleges can offer a region.

“One member of the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) Board was elected to the Midland College Board of Trustees, and working closely with him I learned that Midland College was one of the supporting entities when Midland created the downtown TIRZ.”

A passionate advocate for rural communities, Young was drawn to Gonzales because of the history, the beauty of the region, and a job that allows her to promote rural Texas’ contribution to the state’s economy. 

“What better place than Gonzales? Gonzales was the first to contribute to Texas’ independence and continues to contribute to the economy,” Young said.

“We see the ‘Come and Take It’ flag all over the country. That one phrase has inspired so many. What makes Gonzales County so unique is our history and the people who live here. Many grew up here and some found their way here by happenstance, by visiting an event or applying for a job. Whatever the situation, they could live anywhere, and they are proud to live in Gonzales.”

Young is proud to serve on the advisory board for Victoria College’s Gonzales Center, and has seen firsthand how VC’s Gonzales Center has impacted her community and the surrounding area.

“When it comes to business retention, expansion or recruitment, a community college commands attention,” Young said. “The recent $50 million expansion at BYK Additives & Instruments is a perfect example. During the negotiations for the project, workforce training for advanced technology was a key factor. The training will take place at Victoria College. In the past 2 months, four business prospects inquired about workforce training. The presence of Victoria College in our community speaks volumes to developers.”

Young is excited to see how the Gonzales Center can continue to provide opportunities for residents of Gonzales and surrounding communities.

“I’m continuing to learn and watch the school grow,” Young said. “There are jobs here waiting for people with the right education and training. Victoria College provides that here, whether it’s a place for students to start and continue their education elsewhere and come back here, or a place where students can get the necessary training here and never have to leave.”

by Coy Slavik, Communications Specialist, Victoria College