Carlton Crothers stepped into the role of executive director of the Rusk Economic Development Corporation on Oct. 3, replacing Bob Goldsberry, who now serves as assistant city manager.
Even before he was interviewed for the position, Crothers visited Rusk, went into stores, talked to different business owners and generally got a feel for the town.
“You can’t look at a city and say, ‘I know what the city looks like.’ It doesn’t work like that,’” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of businesses here, as well as banks, and I love doing that, just to get their input, their perspective. If you’re going to work for the city, you have to get their perspective.”
Crothers moved here from San Antonio, one of the many Texas cities he has lived in.
“I missed working for a rural community,” he said. “I loved that rural community feel, because you see the impact.”
His move to Rusk brought some pleasant surprises. He was surprised at how quickly he was able to get a fiber optic Internet connection. He was also delighted at how well stocked Harry’s building supplies are and being able to find an embroidery shop in town.
Crothers said his reception since moving to Rusk has been positive.
“I feel the same way I did when I moved to Michigan,” he said. “Instead of moving here, I feel at home.”
In his short time here, Crothers has found housing to be the biggest challenge.
“You have people who come to work for the two biggest companies here, but they don’t live here. They come to work and then they leave,” he said. “So housing is one of the biggest issues here and that’s one of the first things we want to address.”
He would also like to develop an entrepreneurial program to accelerate some small businesses so they can generate more income.
“The priority is helping local business owners improve foot traffic and then helping them find new tools that could perhaps help accelerate their revenue stream,” he said.
This requires more than just posting on social media or “getting the word out,” according to Crothers. Requires an incentive program to attract traffic.
Having managed several business incubators, Crothers believes he is up to the task.
He also believes in regional cooperation, something that is a long-term goal as he gets to know the strengths and weaknesses of the area.
“In my rural experience, when you have limited resources you have to use partnerships and collaborations and work together regionally, otherwise you won’t be able to compete,” he said. “We can’t compete against the likes of Tarrant County, Dallas County or Harris County; however, if we have a large enough block, we can be competitive in certain areas. With the way COVID has changed the workplace, it’s an attractive opportunity we don’t want to pass up.”
Crothers received his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas. She has three grown children and lives with her cat, Hana.