I am starting to hear the term "Stand Alone City" a lot when people are talking about San Angelo. I am told that San Angelo has to go its own way because there are no other large towns close to us we can partner with or depend on for support. Abilene has Sweetwater, Midland has Odessa, etc.. Having a close large town makes it simple to partner and share resources and expenses. This is true but it really is a comment on how San Angelo has done business in the past.
We are surrounded by a virtual swarm of small towns that we are interdependent with. There is Carlsbad, which has the "San Angelo State School", a major regional employer. There is Eden, where many San Angelo residents commute for jobs at their prison. Brady, a little farther away, is our number one trading partner. There is Grape Creek, Wall, Christoval, Knickerbocker, Mertzon, Miles, Paintrock, Water Valley, and the list goes on. Add them all together, and you have a fairly large population. The Census estimates the 2003 population of San Angelo at 87,922. The population of Tom Green County not in San Angelo is 15,850. That's enough for a fair sized town. If you add in the populations of the seven counties we share a border with, that's 43,138 people we work with. If you take the 13 counties in the CVCOG region, that is equal to a city with a population of 59,041. If you add in all our local economic and trading partners it's probably closer to 100,000. There are lots of communities and people we can and must be working with. They depend on us and we depend on them.
Up until recently San Angelo's attitude has been that of a stand alone city. We did whatever we wanted and tried to bully our neighbors into falling in line. You need look no further than how we have dealt with water and water rights to see what I mean. If we hadn't stood alone as a bully, we wouldn't have had a water master forced on us, and we would have saved considerable money in legal fees.
We are doing much better lately, but still have a ways to go. We really don't have a choice. Roughly 10% of our retail sales are made to people from Brady. If their economy takes a hit, ours will feel it. One third of the sales tax money we used to build the Spur arena was paid by people that live in surrounding area. Without them, the arena could not have been built. Agriculture is one of the biggest business areas in San Angelo. Without the gins in the surrounding areas and the wool coops in places like Mertzon, our agriculture sector would suffer. We can't stand alone.
We don't have the convenience of a single partner or small group of partners we can deal with. We have to cooperate and negotiate and partner with lots of groups and people. It takes more work to do that and do it well, but in the long run we end up with strong region, not just a few cities doing okay. In the end, San Angelo doesn't need to be a stand alone city. We need to invite our neighbors to stand with us as friends and partners.