Making a Difference in Bangs, Texas

“Often in a small community, bringing in outsiders can lead to a sense of defensiveness on the part of some citizens and leadership, but our [CRE Consulting Corps] team did an amazing job of sharing their personal bond with small towns. The city was already taking some small steps to be more progressive and we are already seeing an increase in that as well as enthusiasm by local citizens to participate in the process and to even begin their own businesses in town. The EDC has created a billboard inviting people to ‘Invest in Small Town Living.’ The knowledge and skills the team brought was invaluable"
Laura Tilley, CEO, Heartland Association of Realtors®, and Director, Bangs Economic Development Corporation

 “We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with the City of Bangs and Counselors of Real Estate on this improvement project.  Bangs is a wonderful community, and we are confident that the recommendations developed by the Counselors of Real Estate will be a valuable tool for the city’s leaders as they work to continue that growth.”
Heidi Andrade, President of Heartland Realtors®

"The research and recommendations provided by the CRE Group are invaluable in unlocking the potential for community enhancements and growth. CRE is the catalyst Bangs has needed to show us what can be achieved by working together toward a common goal. Our thanks to CRE and to those who brought them here."
Steve Whittenberg, Mayor, City of Bangs, Texas

Clients: The City of Bangs, Texas, has a population of approximately 1,600 people. Located 12 minutes/10 miles from Brownwood, the county seat of Brown County and home to a hospital, college, and other employers, Bangs is in west central Texas. The Heartland Association of Realtors® serves approximately 190 Realtor® members across six counties. Through Transforming Neighborhoods, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) partnered with The Counselors of Real Estate® Consulting Corps and issued a call for proposals for strategic real estate problem solving. The project submitted by the Heartland Realtors® in conjunction with the City of Bangs was selected.

Challenge: The Counselors of Real Estate Consulting Corps was asked to assist the City of Bangs by identifying opportunities and outlining action steps that could lead to increased investment and commercial activity in Bangs. Specifically, the team was asked to address the following questions:

  1. What kinds of infrastructure investments should Bangs prioritize and what are possible funding sources?
  2. What is the best use of the newly annexed property? What strategies should be implemented to develop that property? How should those investments be prioritized relative to city needs?
  3. What tools could encourage increased commercial activity and downtown revitalization?

Assessment: In October 2023 the Consulting Corps team visited Bangs, toured the area, examined market data, reviewed prior plans, and interviewed more than 25 stakeholders including elected and appointed officials, community representatives, business and property owners, representatives of the REALTORS® and other stakeholders.

Findings and Recommendations:
The CRE Consulting Corps team reviewed existing data, plans, and background, both before and during their visit. The team toured the City of Bangs and interviewed more than 25 stakeholders. After assimilating the information, the team analyzed, discussed, and developed recommendations. To address the priority questions identified, the Consulting Corps team presented recommendations in four areas:

  1. Infrastructure.
  2. Recently Annexed Property.
  3. Business and Commercial and Downtown Investment.
  4. Housing and Community-Building.

Following are the priority first steps the team recommends:

  1. The City has already accomplished the team’s first recommendation to fill the City Administrator position as soon as possible.
  2. Reassert code enforcement, incorporating communication, education and consistent application of rules and regulations.
  3. Continue with current infrastructure efforts - complete the water infrastructure project.
  4. Move forward toward development of the newly annexed property. Clarify unanswered questions from the development proposal presented to the EDC and continue the review process and due diligence. If this proposal does not work out, seek others that will bring affordable, livable housing to Bangs. One possible approach is to issue a Request for Qualifications stating the community’s priorities and vision for the property, as well as indicating a willingness to provide incentives and invest in infrastructure.
  5. Refocus on downtown. Articulate a vision for downtown and take steps that demonstrate follow-through to existing businesses and residents. Cosmetic improvements, installing furniture or lights to create a downtown outdoor place, and staging community events downtown can be implemented immediately. Additional steps to improve downtown include developing a business incubator and encouraging second-story residential. Communicating with existing businesses is also a key component of economic development.
  6. Improve community communications. Improved communication will help raise awareness of priorities, investments, incentives, and events, and will serve as an opportunity for information-gathering, solicitation of community input, etc. Enhanced communication can strengthen relationships and enhance community building.
  7. Install gateway monumentation and wayfinding signage. Many cities choose to have a common theme and design to the gateway and wayfinding signage. A common theme or design will create a cohesive feel when navigating through the community.
  8. Encourage residential variety. Apartments above businesses, duplexes, townhouses, tiny homes, grandma units, and anchored factory-built homes are all options that could be considered.

Bangs has “good bones” with a lot to build on in terms of physical and social infrastructure.  Renewed focus and bold leadership will make a big difference. Bangs can indeed be as good as, and probably better, than ever.


The Bangs community welcomed the Consulting Corps input and began immediately to implement team recommendations. 

  1. A local business owner is moving forward to open a new restaurant. 
  2. The EDC has created a billboard inviting people to "Invest in Small Town Living."

  3. The community has seized on Consulting Corps recommendations related to improved communications: 
    • The EDC is planning to host a Meet & Greet and information session with all local business owners in the first half of 2024 to share resources and gather input on how best to support and communicate with them. 
    • The City has begun sharing a monthly "Upcoming Events" on Facebook.  
    • There was also a poll on a local FB group about the best ways to communicate with citizens.  
  4. The Brownwood News organization has agreed to include a Bangs Beat.  

“This group turned out to be an exceptional team. Our discussions were vigorous and authentic, and brought to bear decades of experience and expertise. The conclusions and recommendations were particularly rich as a result. I learned a lot from the Bangs citizens and from each Counselor on the team. That was a real highlight for me. All the hard work of the week paid off in a terrific set of recommendations. Despite the potential lack of credibility ascribed to “outsiders,” I’m pretty sure we broke through that enough to have real impact.”
Marilee Utter, CRE, Bangs Consulting Corps Team Leader

Bangs, Texas, Consulting Corps Team (L-R): Lloyd Thomas, CRE, Thomas Rhodes, CRE, Marilee Utter, CRE, Anne Ricker, CRE.

Team: The team was led by Marilee Utter, CRE, Denver, CO. Panelists were Thomas Rhodes, CRE, San Marcos, TX; Anne Ricker, CRE, Denver, CO; and A. Lloyd Thomas, CRE, Temple, TX.

In the News

Bangs Receives Economic Development Recommendations. October 29, 2023.

Heartland Realtors Receives Transforming Neighborhoods Grant in Sept. 27, 2023

"What I love about CRE is the fact that there are all of these great people that have great insights into different factors having to do with real estate. Each one has their own specialty, and it is really so much fun to meet our members and learn from each other, and share what we do every day, and be able to call upon them and ask questions - how do you do this? What would you recommend? Would you help me handle this? And, how would you tackle this type of project?"
A. Lloyd Thomas, CRE, Bangs Team Member

"I thoroughly enjoyed participating on this team and bringing Counselor expertise to assist Bangs. This assignment reminded me how much fun it is to work in small towns."
Thomas Rhodes, CRE, Bangs Team Member

Does your community, university, or local nonprofit need help with a real estate challenge?

For more information, to volunteer for a team, or to refer a project to the CRE® Consulting Corps, please contact Samantha DeKoven (312-329-8431;