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In the News: News from December 2016

Text to 9-1-1 outreach gears up for service launch

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

As network connectivity testing for the Text to 9-1-1 service continues and the service prepares to launch in January or February, CAPCOG and its partners are completing several public outreach materials to be used region wide via social media and websites to educate residents about how and when to text 9-1-1.

Three Public Service Announcements (PSA) — two videos and an audio clip — are wrapping and will be available to distribute in late December, so they can go live with the region-wide launch of the Text to 9-1-1 service. These PSAs will include a brief, 30-second video and audio clip for airing on municipal access channels and possibly as radio and television commercials. A longer video, which provides a more robust explanation and demonstration of the services, was produced to be shared on social media and websites. A series of frequently asked questions about texting 9-1-1 and the service’s capabilities are already online at capcog.org/text911. The PSAs and other outreach materials also will be located at capcog.org/text911.

> Go to capcog.org/text911.

As Text to 9-1-1 outreach efforts get underway, it is important to remind residents that cellphone carriers provide texting services as a “best effort service” so a text message may not get delivered, and in an emergency residents should “Call if You Can, Text if You Can’t.”

> Learn more about the CAPCOG Emergency Communications Division.

Elgin Retail Trade Analysis helps local businesses

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development Division recently completed a retail trade analysis for the Elgin Economic Development Corporation (EDC) that will help the city identify business opportunities for local entrepreneurs and national corporations to meet residents’ retail needs.

At its core, the analysis studies Elgin’s retail trade supply and demand by evaluating where people who live in and around the city purchase their goods and services. The study also includes customer segmentation demographics for the same population as well as provides an economic overview, a general population demographic overview and a population growth forecast.

Municipalities such as Elgin can use a retail trade analysis to market commercial growth potential to local entrepreneurs and national big box stores by letting them know if their product or service is absent or in abundance in the area. This information is critically valuable for prospective retailers, as it helps to estimate potential market size for a new business. In particular, local and small businesses — those businesses without the resources to conduct market assessments on their own — stand to gain from community sponsored retail analyses like this one.

> Contact Chris Schreck, CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development director, about partnering with CAPCOG for a similar study or related economic development services.
> Read more about the CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development Division.

Labor Study to focus on educating career possibilities

Monday, December 12, 2016

The first phase of a study outlining vital statistics about the ten-county region’s labor market was presented in November to the Capital Area Economic Development District board, the region’s only economic development organization that covers the entire Metropolitan Statistical Area plus the surrounding counties.

The study shows that the region’s unemployment rate is low, but there are pockets of unemployment throughout the region especially among low skilled workers. It also showed that a significant share of new jobs were created in industries that pay less than $40,000 a year; however, there are several higher paying occupations that may require some education, such as nursing and accounting, where employers are seeking a number of workers.

“There are clearly, in general terms, positive returns to education, but a lot of that depends on the type of degree or credentials you obtain,” said Chris Schreck, CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development director, who compiled the statistics. “The data shows we need to do more to support efforts to align education and skills development with in-demand occupations if we want to sustain economic growth in the region.” Many of the region’s education and workforce organizations are already championing this cause, but the CAEDD wants to provide further support.

The CAEDD study includes a compilation of statistics such as the region’s unemployment rate, an employment by industry cluster forecast, employment by occupation group, wages by occupation group, occupation supply gaps in the region, and occupation supply gaps by education attainment. The next step at the committee’s direction will be to condense the data into a more focused statement of key issues to help draw attention to critical workforce needs that span across the Capital Area.

> Review the first phase of the study.
> Read more about the Planning and Economic Development Division. 

TWDB seeks State Water Implementation Fund for Texas project applications

Wednesday, December 07, 2016
Source: Texas Water Development Board

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) opened the application period for the 2017 funding cycle of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) program, which will accommodate about $500 million for projects in 2017 State Water plan.

“The first two cycles of funding through the SWIFT program were extremely successful, with the TWDB financing approximately $1.6 billion in state water plan projects,” said TWDB Board Chairman Bech Bruun. “In fact, our first SWIFT transaction was announced as the winner of the Bond Buyer's 2016 Southwest Region Deal of the Year in part because of the groundbreaking nature of the program. We are pleased to continue providing communities with this dedicated funding source.”

The TWDB is considering an important change for this cycle—the increase of subsidies offered for rural and agricultural projects. Preliminary projections indicate a subsidy level of up to 50 percent for loans. This year’s cycle will provide non-rural entities with interest subsidies that range from 16 to 35 percent depending upon the length of the loan and type of project.

The two-page preliminary SWIFT Program applications are due Feb. 3, 2017, and may be submitted via the TWDB’s online application or by paper copy.

> Submit an online application.

These applications provide information the TWDB needs to prioritize projects. Projects that receive priority for financial assistance will be invited to submit a full application, which will include a financial, legal, engineering, and environmental review.

> Learn more about the SWIFT program.
> Learn about the TWDB.
> Read TWDB’s full announcement about the SWIFT program.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Regional Services Division.

Regional homeland security exercise educates response crews

Monday, December 05, 2016

More than 30 local, state, federal, and private business emergency response agencies conducted an all hazards training exercise in early November to deploy specialized teams and equipment used in regional disaster response. The three-day event, which occurred in Lee and Travis counties, worked to improve communications, enhance partnerships and reinforce command protocols between agencies.

“Lee County and everyone involved learned some valuable takeaways from the exercise, and we all will be expanding on what we learned to continue to improve our disaster response,” said Delynn Peschke, Lee County Emergency Management Coordinator. It was the first time for the county to participate in a large scale exercise so pooling resources such as Austin Fire Department and Williamson County Hazardous Materials Response Team to work alongside the county’s volunteer firefighters demonstrated a higher level of training experience. “Training like this is invaluable for knowing what resources are available and how to facilitate their response,” Peschke said. “It also helps build relationships that strengthen communication and cooperation with other local jurisdictions and state agencies.”

Lee County hosted sites for mock incidents for two of the three days the training occurred. At the El Dorado Chemical Co. fertilizer plant in Giddings, emergency crews simulated responses to an explosion, an unexploded bomb, a hostage situation, radiation leaks, and hazardous chemical leaks. Hazardous material and mass fatality response also was simulated at City Park in Lexington.

Every scenario the teams practiced could occur somewhere in the region, said Marty Herrin, Chief of Williamson County’s Hazardous Materials Response Team who planned the exercise. Fortunately in most cases, training events are the only times specialty equipment such as a toxic chemical monitor gets used. It is critical that public safety personnel train using this equipment so when it is needed they know how it works.

Lee County also tested CAPCOG’s regional notification system that alerts residents of emergencies through phone calls, text messages and emails. Within 36 minutes, the system called, emailed and texted enough people to reach 81 percent of the households in Lee County, 64 percent of those notifications were answered. The system only contacts residents who have landline phones and those who self-registered cellphones and email addresses at WarnCentralTexas.org. “The notification system worked very well,” Peschke said. “In a real event, it is beneficial to know how fast these alerts can go out. It would be our primary way of delivering information in a real emergency.” Residents throughout the CAPCOG region can register their cellphone numbers and email addresses at WarnCentralTexas.org.

> Help spread the word about WarnCentralTexas.org.

CAPCOG has begun work on an after action report to provide greater insight on how emergency teams and command staff performed during the exercise. “The report will show us where we excelled and where our response can be improved,” said Eric Carter, CAPCOG Homeland Security director. “Training for disasters is a never ending process because every situation is a little different no matter how much you plan.” A debriefing meeting will occur Dec. 16 at CAPCOG, and the after action report should be completed in January. It will then help local governments develop a plan to improve their response.

> Learn more about the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.

DPS, CAPCOG help policing agencies apply for NIBRS grant

Friday, December 02, 2016

More than $14 million is available through a state grant program to help Texas law enforcement agencies update their crime reporting system for submitting it to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). On Dec. 8, CAPCOG will host a National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) workshop where DPS staff will discuss the newer system’s benefits and how local agencies can apply for the grant’s funds.

The state has a goal for all local agencies to transition from the FBI’s Summary Reporting System (SRS) to the NIBRS by September 2019. NIBRS like its predecessor provides an aggregate tally of crimes, but it also helps derive circumstances and context for crimes. Crime reporting using NIBRS includes all offenses within a single incident and additional aspects about each event, such as location, time of day, and whether the incident was cleared.

During the first round of the grant program, the state awarded $1.8 million to Texas law enforcement agencies. The second application round opened Nov. 15, 2016 and will close Jan. 16, 2017.

> Register to attend the workshop.
> Learn about the CAPCOG Criminal Justice Program.

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