By Jay Socol, Public Communications Director
College Station’s business recruitment and retention capabilities take a giant step forward this week by welcoming Natalie Ruiz as the city’s director of economic development.
Natalie is no stranger to the City of College Station or to many of our current staff, including City Manager Kelly Templin and Director of Planning & Development Services Lance Simms.
To learn more about Natalie’s background and her new assignment, I spent some time with her and Templin. You may also want to listen to the podcast at the end of this post.
JS: You worked for the city once before. When was that and what did you do?
NR: I spent 15 years with Planning & Development Services – from 1990 until 2005. As a way to pay my way through college, I started as a building technician and issued permits. By the time I left, I was development manager and oversaw all planning application reviews and permits.
JS: What have you been doing the last decade?
NR: I went into consulting on the private side of this business, helping developers through sometimes difficult processes of rezoning and plat approvals. My work includes helping write terms for the Planned Development District at Chimney Hill, revising comprehensive plans for the cities of Bryan and El Paso, performing corridor studies, working on several developments in Northgate and at Northpoint Crossing. Probably half my work is with the public sector, while the other half is with the private side.
JS: So, what made Natalie the right choice for this economic development role?
KT: Natalie is uniquely qualified to lead us in this regard. She already has a 15-year history inside this building. She helped formulate many of our development regulations and a number of the long-range plans that are now coming to fruition around town. She’s already told you about her involvement with a broad range of private development efforts around the state. But Natalie’s knowledge of finance and construction, combined with our local conditions and regulations, really positions her to hit the ground running for us. College Station is experiencing unprecedented growth and we needed someone with her background and knowledge.
JS: Assuming Kelly has told you, what are you expected to do? And how might those assignments differ from the city’s previous economic development pursuits?
NR: I think Kelly gave me a pretty good idea of what he expects. I’m not just reestablishing an economic development presence; I’m also helping people through the development process. That might mean helping clients meet our codes, understanding our guidelines and shepherding them through some processes. Mainly, I’ll be implementing the economic development component of our comprehensive plan. In terms of how this effort might be different from previous ones, I think it might be a more holistic approach, with a deeper level of collaboration between Planning & Development Services and Economic Development.
JS: Did she get anywhere close?
KT: Thankfully, she did! I had the opportunity to work closely with Natalie when she was in Development Services. Her approach to development and developers was always civil and productive. She knows that, as a public servant, her role is to assist and facilitate. She’s able to provide service while holding true to the policies and regulations adopted by the Council. In short, she’s a problem solver — her success in both the public and private sectors is proof of this.
JS: How thoroughly disappointing is it to come back to the organization after nearly a decade only to find Templin and Simms are still wandering the halls?
NR: (Laughs.) It’s a great time to come back. The economy is strong, a lot of projects are already on the books, and I get to work with people I know well and have a great relationship with. Lance ran the building division when I was here, and I ran the development planning side of things. We worked together daily, even out in the field doing inspections. We have a great relationship.
JS: Any final thoughts?
NR: Just that I’m excited to be back because I have a history here. I worked my way through school here, I stayed here after graduation — it’s like coming home.
Podcast with Natalie
Click the arrow below to listen to a podcast we recorded with Natalie: