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Sunday, June 2, 2002
Last modified at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5, 2002
© 2002 - The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Moving forward top priority for mayor, Lubbock


Despite ongoing attempts to make Lubbock a city of growth, the community remains solidly linked to its foundation as the commercial center of a region dedicated to farming and ranching.

Agriculture continues to be the major force of the region's economy, but Lubbock's diversification through industry, manufacturing and the medical community keep the city stable, newly elected Mayor Marc McDougal said.

''From where we were to where we are today, we're in good shape,'' McDougal said. ''We need to continue to move forward.''

Signs of the city's past remain fixed on the landscape.

Barns, a bunk house and a Spanish fortress are among the authentic and reproduced structures at the National Ranching Heritage Center.

More than 60 windmills dot the East Lubbock landscape at the American Wind Power Center.

The Lubbock Memorial Civic Centers honor a more recent event that shaped the city � the devastating tornado of May 11, 1970, that killed 26 people, injured more than 500 and flattened a quarter of the city.

Lubbock was founded in March 1891, three months after representatives of the Monterey and Old Lubbock communities agreed to merge the neighboring settlements. They moved buildings to the new town, named after Col. Tom Lubbock of Terry's Texas Rangers. He was killed in the Civil War at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862.

Lubbock was awarded the county seat in 1891, and within a short time had six stores, two hotels, a livery stable, the county courthouse and a jail.

George W. Singer had been running a small store in Yellowhouse Canyon, about five miles northwest of present day Lubbock, since about 1882. Singer's Store served as the first post office in the county.

The store moved to the town square after the merger. The original site is near today's Lubbock Lake Landmark, known for its unbroken 12,000-year-old record of early man.

The city of Lubbock incorporated in March 1909, and seven months later the Santa Fe railroad came to town. The settlement's population of 1,938 doubled over the next 10 years.

A turning point in the city's growth came in 1923, when the state Legislature established Texas Technological College. Just over 900 students enrolled when the first semester of classes started in October 1925.

City leaders at the time saw the college's potential and donated land to the project.

''Looking back on that now, that was a great decision,'' McDougal said.

More than 25,000 students now attend the university, which changed its name to Texas Tech in 1969.

Reese Air Force Base, which began as Lubbock Army Field in 1941, attracted other outsiders to the city. The base served as a major area employer until the government closed it Sept. 30, 1997.

The city took possession of the land and buildings, turning the area into a research and business park called Reese Technology Center. Tech, South Plains College, the Lubbock Police Department training center and several private companies are located there.

By the early 1940s, chain stores started moving to Lubbock. South Plains Mall opened in 1972.

City leaders remain dedicated to economic development. About $3 million in taxes each year support Market Lubbock Inc., the city-appointed nonprofit corporation dedicated to business recruitment and retention.

Since its inception six years ago, the organization has provided incentives to some 40 companies, including Cingular Wireless, Convergys, Purina Mills, X-Fab Texas, NTS Communications and Grinnell Flow Control.

But the area' economy remains dependent on the same thing it did 100 years ago � agriculture.

The 20 or so South Plains counties surrounding Lubbock grow 60 percent of the state's cotton crop and 3 percent of what's produced in the world. Area producers also grow corn, grain sorghum, peanuts, sunflowers, vegetables and wheat as well as raise cattle.

McDougal says the city's future success lies in revitalizing East and North Lubbock and promoting regional unity.

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