The growth of Fort Worth and how to handle it was at the center of Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke’s presentation to the Fort Worth Chamber Combined Area Councils Luncheon Nov. 9 at the Cendera Center in Fort Worth.
“Growth is a sign the community is attractive to new businesses and a lot of families and individuals want to relocate there,” Cooke told the crowd.
Cooke said things that make a city great include jobs, growth and prosperity, safe and inviting things to do, strong neighborhoods, resilience over time, and engaged residents. As for Fort Worth, he assured the audience that officials are working daily to put and keep the city in these categories.
Cooke said that projections have Fort Worth with a population of about 1.4 million by 2040. He said the city, the nation’s 16th largest with a current population of around 800,000, is growing at a rate of about 20,000-25,000 per year.
“This is an area that is going to continue to grow, and there are some challenges that come with that,” he said.
Cooke said that just because Fort Worth is growing today, nothing should be taken for granted. He cited Detroit, noting that the Motor City had a population of 1.8 million in 1950 and has 600,000 today.
“The success and prosperity of a city is not guaranteed,” he said.
He assured the crowd that Fort Worth is not headed in that direction. But, he added, there is always work to be done to keep moving forward.
For example, lowering the property tax by two cents was a good thing, he said. Under the new budget, businesses now pay a rate of 83.5 cents, while homeowners pay less.
“You owe the city council and mayor for reducing your property tax two cents this year,” Cooke said, then pausing as the crowd applauded.
But Cooke added that despite the tax cut, Fort Worth still has the highest tax rate of any major city in Texas and in the Metroplex. He said city officials are looking for even more ways to reduce the rate, citing the importance to be competitive.
Cooke said the vast majority of growth is on the fringes of the Fort Worth city limits. He also noted that while residential growth is at 59 percent since 1998, commercial growth is at 41 percent.
Cooke said the tax base should rise faster than the rate of population growth and inflation, and that the trend of residential development outgrowing commercial is “problematic,” because commercial development brings in more tax income.
Also, Fort Worth’s poverty rate of 19 percent is higher than the state and nation. And while the city’s population with a high school diploma for those age 25 and over is 81 percent, just 27 percent have a bachelor’s degree and 9.3 percent have a graduate degree.
Cooke said those issues are being addressed and as they improve, growth will likely also increase. Addressing the growth will come largely through economic development.
And, as Fort Worth grows, so do major projects. There is no shortage of these in the city and Tarrant County. They include:
*American Airlines Headquarters
*Sixth Patrol Division for police in North Fort Worth
*Tarleton University campus
*2014 bond projects
Walsh Ranch will include commercial development and up to 15,000 homes over its many acres between Aledo and Fort Worth. Cooke projected that each home will have an average of three residents.
“That’s a town,” he said.
The multi-purpose arena near downtown is set for groundbreaking after the first of the year, he said. Clearfork is working toward finishing its first phase, which includes a Whole Foods grocery and other venues already open for business. Frost Tower is Fort Worth’s first new office skyscraper in decades, a 26-story tower that includes a 12th floor sky lobby and restaurant.
“I encourage you to stay engaged,” Cooke said. “Fort Worth’s got an incredible future.”
Prior to Cooke’s presentation, the High Impact Legacy Award was presented posthumously to the late Tarrant County College District Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley, whose 47-year career at TCC focused on student success and extensive community service.
Hadley’s daughter, Ardenia Gould, accepted the award, along with her daughter. Gould has founded and chairs The Chancellor’s Promise, a new 501(c) 3 foundation honoring the life and legacy of Hadley and committed to cultivating the leaders of tomorrow.
Fort Worth leaders held Hadley in high esteem as a champion for diversity and inclusion, a driving force in TCC’s expansion and growth and a stalwart in civic and cultural affairs.
Hadley was the first African-American and first female chancellor at TCC. Her many achievements – locally, statewide and nationally – included service as the first African-American and first female chairman of the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport Board and Tarrant County Hospital District board. She served in similar capacities for many other local organizations.
Born and reared in a small East Texas logging town, Hadley referred to herself as “the little girl from Leggett.”
Her drive led her to become the first black student from Leggett to earn a college degree when she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M and, later, a master’s degree from Bowling Green State University. As a public school teacher, Hadley discovered her passion for nurturing students’ growth, a calling that bloomed in 1968 when she became a founding faculty member at what was then called Tarrant County Junior College’s Northeast Campus in Hurst.
Hadley went on to serve in TCC administrative roles, including director of personnel and vice chancellor for human resources.
She wrote and oversaw implementation of the college’s first affirmative action plan in 1973. When she became chancellor in 2010, she set into motion initiatives that led to student-focused programs such as Achieving the Dream, e-learning, Weekend College, Early College High School, Innovation Forum and more.
Hadley joins past honorees that include U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright, Fort Worth Mayor Bob Bolen and former XTO Energy Chairman and Texas Rangers owner Bob Simpson.
Hadley died on Oct. 1, 2015.