A century ago‚ the Texas hill country community of Boerne incorporated with fewer than 1‚000 folks in a tranquil Cibolo Creek setting prized for its recuperative powers. Today‚ the community of 8‚500 cont inues to woo serenity seekers drawn by the Hill Country’s stark beauty and colorful German heritage. More frequently‚ they’re seekers like Lynne and Adair McOran-Campbell and Beth and Mike Coyle who put down deep roots‚ building businesses and contributing to a community they cherish for its unique flair.
That bond – the sense of belonging in a beautiful setting – is why the Coyles and the Campbells are eager to recruit other businesses to help preserve their sense of place. “My husband and I both grew up in a small town in East Texas‚” says Beth Coyle‚ Greater Boerne Chamber of Commerce chairwoman. “We just really like the slower lifestyle. And we also wanted our kids in Boerne schools‚ as do a lot of people.”
Those qualities led them to leave San Antonio eight years ago for Boerne‚ a half-hour away‚ where Beth is the CEO and Mike is the principal engineer at Coyle Engineering‚ a firm practicing civil engineering statewide. The Campbells came calling from much farther afield: South Africa. Leaving that nation’s Atlas Aerospace Co.‚ mechanical engineer Adair McOran-Campbell said Boerne drew the couple during a 1986 scouting expedition of the southern United States. They embraced the Hill Country as a home for their startup venture‚ Texas Composite Inc. Among their aerospace clients are British bellwether Rolls-Royce‚ Boeing and NASA. “We like the education side here‚” says Adair McOran-Campbell‚ a Zimbabwe native and president of the 100-employee firm. “They’ve got a good school system here. There’s a reasonably good labor pool here – basically out of San Antonio and the surrounding area – and we’re really happy about that.
“Boerne is fairly business-friendly. It’s a great area‚ and I think if we concentrate on higher-technology businesses and trying to get them into the area‚ I think the area will grow really nicely.” Indeed‚ these are already heady times for Boerne‚ where voters approved an ambitious $100 million school bond project in 2004 to fund a fifth elementary school and a second high school. In early 2006‚ a new Kendall County Economic Development Corp. opened its doors‚ filling one remaining business vacuum and complementing efforts of the Greater Boerne Area Chamber of Commerce and the Comfort Chamber of Commerce. Ron Warden‚ an Edward Jones investment representative‚ heads a task force that’s formed the new economic entity and targets clean industries. “We’d like to have a hospital for health and medical care‚” he says‚ noting San Antonio’s Methodist Hospital system is laying the groundwork for a Boerne campus. “Boerne would be a great place for a satellite college‚ resort or conference centers and headquarters for small corporations‚ because we’ve got a well-educated‚ diverse workforce.” McOran-Campbell adds sophisticated electronics and machining firms as ideal matches‚ while Coyle points to Mission Pharmacal‚ a therapeutic drug and supplement manufacturer employing 250 in Boerne‚ as a model for the future. Boerne leaders also are bullish about being perched on the wing of America’s eighth-largest city.
A few miles south of town‚ where San Antonio’s outer Loop 1604 lassos Interstate 10‚ three new retail centers – The North Rim‚ The Shops at La Cantera and Regal Hills – are building more than 3 million square feet of shopping space with such stores as SuperTarget‚ the biggest Bass Pro Shop in Texas and Nieman-Marcus. Times have changed‚ but Beth Coyle believes current initiatives will keep Boerne moving on the right track. “We like to say it’s a small town that likes to live large‚” she says.