Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

A Victorian enclave in Texas: Georgetown (No. 2)

On the outskirts of Austin is an enclave of small-town living - and a close-knit business community.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)

This Victorian-era building houses GX Creative Communications.

GEORGETOWN, TEXAS (FORTUNE Small Business) -- "Ten years ago, there was almost nothing here," says Chris Damon of the view from his office window.

Now, the entrepreneur can see a bustling street full of shops in downtown Georgetown, Texas. This former agricultural trading post has become a city of more than 40,000 (according to local officials' latest count) - and the most attractive home for small businesses in the Austin area.

More than 2,300 businesses are active in Georgetown, including GX Creative Communications, the marketing firm Damon founded with his wife, Judith Manriquez, nine years ago. Though they compete with more established companies in Austin, 26 miles to the south, the couple has grown GX into a $2-million-a-year company with big-name regional and national clients, including Boar's Head Provisions and PBS.

Damon, 41, and Manriquez, 39, stayed in Georgetown after graduating from Southwestern University and commuted to Austin for jobs in journalism and PR. But after ten years, the couple realized that they had spent more time traveling to and from Austin than they had getting to know their neighbors. So they quit and headed south.

Like many growing areas, Georgetown set out to attract technology and healthcare businesses. A bioscience incubator was opened last year and is currently facilitating the growth of three local start-ups, and a new convention center is set to open in 2009.

But Georgetown's biggest asset turned out to be the historic Victorian-era buildings around the downtown square - including the building in which GX is headquartered. Their restoration has created a set of marquee locations now occupied by businesses as varied as artisan chocolate shops and law offices. The city issues façade improvement grants to help entrepreneurs remodel their spaces without damaging exteriors.

Georgetown nurtures its business community as much as its facades. Neighbors take care of each other - GX creates free marketing materials for nearby businesses, few of which could otherwise afford their services.

One surprising resource that can benefit local entrepreneurs: Sun City, an upscale retirement community built in Georgetown eight years ago.

"We have a hidden talent pool of retired captains of industry," Damon says.

When GX was gearing up to go after one of its biggest accounts to date, Boar's Head, Damon happened to meet a retired deli executive in a planning meeting for a local non-profit. It was his inside knowledge, says Damon, that helped GX land the deal.

That kind of community connection and small-town feel is what GX's founders love most about their town.

"I like how easy it is to make a difference," says Damon, who has sat on five different advisory boards for local organizations. "When I was working in Austin I led a transient experience. Now, this is a town that I can get my arms around." To top of page

Check out FSB's full list of the 100 Best Places to Live and Launch - and stop by our forum to share your thoughts on our selections.
They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
17 cool gadgets that tease the future Smart telescopes, surveillance for dogs, an electric roadster and more from CES 2018. More
These 12 airplane beds let you really sleep on a flight For the price of a premium class ticket, you may just get a space that's comfortable, private, and quiet enough to ensure a good rest. More
CES 2018 kicks off with oddball gadgets The biggest tech show of the year opened with a collection of quirky gadgets. More