Gengelbach resigns as president/CEO of Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce

Brandom Gengelbach (Photo courtesy Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce)

Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Brandom Gengelbach is leaving his position, the executive board of the chamber announced on Tuesday.

Gengelbach joined the chamber in 2016 and became CEO in 2020, overseeing business attraction and retention efforts, talent development and small business initiatives and advocacy.

Mike Berry, president of Hillwood, has agreed to step in to lead the chamber during a national search for Gengelbach’s replacement.

“We are incredibly grateful for Brandom’s passion for Fort Worth,” Executive Board Chair Rosa Navejar said in a statement. “He’s been a tireless cheerleader and advocate for our city’s business community. We all wish him and his family success in his next endeavor.”

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The announcement of Gengelbach’s departure comes on the heels of a recent study that showed the Fort Worth Chamber had landed 72 economic development projects that created 11,400 jobs for the Fort Worth area.

These projects were the result of a chamber’s ability to parlay $25.25 million from its membership and supporters over a five-year period into a $2.5 billion investment in the area.

“More than 11,000 people in Fort Worth/Tarrant County have jobs that most likely would not exist without the Fort Worth Chamber’s involvement,” Gengelbach said in a statement.

In partnership with the city’s economic development initiatives, including the city’s Economic Development Initiatives Fund, efforts were underway to broaden its business relocation and expansion reach, particularly for more office jobs.

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While the Fort Worth area has been especially successful in drawing industrial business, office jobs have been lagging. At the recent 2023 Tarrant County Commercial Real Estate Forecast hosted by the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth, Cannon Camp, a senior vice president with JLL in Fort Worth, noted that office jobs in Fort Worth lag behind all the major metro across Texas even though there has been some growth in office jobs.

Office jobs account for only 18.8 percent of the total Fort Worth area job market compared to Dallas’s office job market at 33.2 percent, Austin’s at 30.6 percent, Houston’s at 22.6 percent and San Antonio’s at 24.3 percent, according to the JLL report.

Navejar stated that the interim period between Gengelbach’s departure and the arrival of a new CEO “will provide a unique opportunity for the executive board to evaluate how our chamber can best serve the business community.

“We are studying how other cities support development of local business while also driving business attraction and retention,” Navejar stated. “Many cities have chosen to separate economic development activities from the traditional chamber functions of supporting local businesses, workforce development, government advocacy, infrastructure, and transportation.”

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The divided model has worked well for many cities that have adopted the approach and which compete with Fort Worth for business relocations, according to Navejar.

“As a board, it’s our responsibility to focus our efforts on the areas where we can maximize (the chamber’s) positive impact,” she stated. “As a business community, it’s essential we do two things well: we must support our local businesses and ensure they have the talent and resources needed to thrive, and secondly, it’s essential we retain our hometown businesses and attract the right new companies to create new jobs for our residents here in Fort Worth and Tarrant County,” Navejar stated.

The Fort Worth Chamber has 1,300 members and a budget of about $5 million.