Client Spotlight- Gerri Lawing
3 Mar 2020
Client Spotlight- Gerri Lawing
As a way to recognize some of the greatest economic developers that we work with, we are sharing client spotlights to inspire you and give you insights on the successes and challenges that these economic developers face.
We welcome Gerri Lawing to our client spotlight!
Gerri Lawing is currently the Economic Development Director for the Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative (GVEC) in South Central Texas and has served here since 2008. Gerri started her career in the Chamber of Commerce world and still has great respect and passion for what they do. From there, she took a job with the Gonzales EDC in 2006 and moved to Gonzales, TX. There, she not only found a job but also a husband, who is a Gonzales Police Chief. This kept her in the historic rural community which played a significant role in Texas history and is home to the famous Come & Take It Cannon.
Growing up, Gerri's mother made sure they all had plenty of opportunities to travel. That love of travel, seeing new things, and experiencing the unknown has stuck with Gerri ever since. She travels the GVEC region regularly and is rarely home more than a couple of days without getting the itch to get out and do it again. Her favorite adventures are usually no more than a road trip away.
While working at the Chamber of Commerce in East Texas, a board member strongly encouraged Gerri to apply at the Economic Development Corporation. As a single mom with three kids, she wasn't so sure. Those were difficult times and weighing the options of take-home dollars vs. paid benefits was not immediately clear. With the board member's continued urging, she made the move and became part of the economic development world. Gerri had an amazing mentor who would go through business articles, trade publications, etc. and talk with me about how this or that could fit together. He always saw possibilities when others dismissed them. To this day, she still reads everything she can and there's a lot out there to read these days! Her boss and she have a joke that she knows a little bit about everything and "just enough to get by."
On all of Gerri's social media platforms, she uses the description, "Fascinated by people, business, and the stories and opportunities that connect us all." She really does love meeting new people, hearing their stories, what they do, how they do it, and then figuring out if it can somehow fit into the goals and initiatives at GVEC. Gerri has had the opportunity to spend time with Texas Governor Abbott, national and state leaders, and industry heads. She states, "Economic development is truly a 'people businesses' and so many times it really is about who you know. I'm so privileged to work at a progressive company that loves its people, invests in them, and sends them out to succeed." Download our strategy tips for success.
When thinking about the challenges she faces, Gerri explains that GVEC is an electric cooperative with a bigger purpose than just delivering products and services. However, the perception of cooperatives can many times just be rural entities that are only there to deliver power. That couldn't be further from GVEC's mission of delivering the unexpected. Industry leaders and site selectors are often trying to figure out where GVEC fits in the picture and it's up to her to show them.
"No matter the size or prominence of your community, there are stories everywhere - and I mean everywhere!" Gerri is a big fan of LinkedIn and Twitter, but also Instagram for telling her story. She's sought out real estate developers, companies, and CEOs on social media with great results. A personalized invite on LinkedIn can get you a response from almost anyone and immediately you have that connection as a jumping-off point to further conversation. Gerri recalls that John Longshore with Global Location Strategies wrote that if you want to do business with him, you better make sure you're marketing and connecting on relevant social media platforms. According to Gerri, a couple of communities doing it really well right now are Ken Becker from the small West Texas town of Sweetwater, and new to the game, Temple Texas. They're on completely different levels but are both equally engaging and telling wonderful economic development stories that cause you to take notice.
Gerri Lawing's greatest success as an economic developer is the recent recruitment of Japanese automotive transmission manufacturer AW Texas, a subsidiary of Aisin AW to Cibolo, Texas. This deal broke all the rules, went against all the norms, and still came out on top with 900 jobs and $400 million in investment. When GVEC purchased 159 acres of farmland on the outskirts of San Antonio in 2013, it was with plans of spurring business development and growth along the I-10 corridor. The site was without any significant water, wastewater, electric, gas, or fiber infrastructure available. During those years leading up to 2019, options to masterplan, subdivide, bring utilities, and build roads were all passed around the table. As numbers were crunched, GVEC could just never get to a place where it all made fiscal sense but was confident that attracting the right prospect would encourage infrastructure development. In late 2018, Aisin AW officials were looking for a site to build their next US state of the art transmission facility. During the initial inquiry into the site, she told GVEC's partners at the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, "it will not work at this site." GVEC and a multitude of regional partners worked determinedly for almost a year to bring the project to fruition with an expected ribbon cutting on the facility in late 2020. The project was one of the largest in the history of GVEC and will certainly change the economy and landscape of our area for years to come. Read more here.