David Berzina Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce
The U.S. Census Bureau recently announced that Fort Worth is the fastest-growing metropolitan city in the country, boasting a 42.34 percent increase in population during the last 13 years. This figure dwarfs growth in other Texas cities, such as Austin (which came in third), San Antonio (fourth) and Dallas (24th). While this is no real surprise to those of us who live and/or work in Fort Worth, it is still a wonderful punctuation mark on the last year. Increasingly, the new paradigm for Fort Worth is mixed-use/industrial developments that are attracting global companies and industry leaders to our community. With the opening of the Chisholm Trail Parkway in 2014, expansive land is now ripe for development, including nearly 2,900 acres across the Chisholm Trail Ranch, Waterside and Pate Ranch mixed-use developments. New developments including Walsh Ranch, Edwards Ranch, Trinity Lakes, Trinity Vision and Westside 7th add an additional 10,000 acres to our inventory. We also offer premier sites through existing developments such as AllianceTexas (which just marked its 25th anniversary), Fossil Creek, Rail Head, Mercantile, Centreport and Carter Industrial Park, totaling more than 24,000 acres.
Access remains one of our strongest selling points to new and relocating companies. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which turned 40 last year, is an invaluable partner and regional asset, contributing more than $31 billion annually to the economy. In 2014, D/FW Airport announced new non-stop international flights to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing and Abu Dhabi. Together with billions of dollars’ worth of new highways completed or under construction, our city and region offer unparalleled connectivity to all points in the United States, as well as around the globe. 2014 also saw the completion of Tower 55, easing congestion along the Union Pacific and BNSF rail lines and improving air quality for all of us in Fort Worth.
Expanding our horizons internationally has remained a top priority for Fort Worth. Mayor Betsy Price, together with the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, D/FW Airport, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, the Dallas Regional Chamber and the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, were part of North Texas delegations that traveled to Australia, South America, China and Japan last year. Our goal has been to make new connections as well as enhance existing relationships with business leaders and elected officials, opening doors to new alliances, partnerships and business development opportunities. One of the successes on our last trip to China, during a tour of the NGC Transmission plant, was the announcement by company President Gou Jianhui that the company’s new Fort Worth facility will serve as its North American headquarters. The city of Fort Worth once again took center stage in front of national and global audiences. Last April, ESPN based its national broadcasting operations in Fort Worth during the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament. In October, Fort Worth hosted the annual International Economic Development Council conference, attracting more than 1,500 guests and allowing us to showcase the many reasons businesses choose Fort Worth and people move here and stay here.
Other highlights in 2014 included the one-year anniversary of the new Sundance Square Plaza, which has been a crown jewel in the revitalization of Fort Worth’s downtown, and the first anniversary of the majestic expansion of the Kimbell Art Museum. Plans for the historic Stockyards will unfold in the coming year, with a new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district now in place that is expected to generate $40 million to pay for infrastructure and promote development. The partnership between Majestic Realty Co. and the Hickman family will bring a new 1-million-square-foot, $175 million development to the Stockyards. And, with voters’ approval, Fort Worth will begin work on a $450 million, 14,000-seat multipurpose arena and sports facility in the Cultural District. Tarrant Regional Water District’s vision for the Trinity River is also one step closer to reality: in November, work began on three Panther Island bridges. Between now and 2018, the bridges along Henderson Street, North Main Street and White Settlement Road will be built, with the eventual goal of creating an urban waterfront neighborhood. The bridges will be the first phase of Panther Island, which will eventually include a new 1.5-mile-long channel for the Trinity River, creating a 33-acre lake and an 800-acre island. The long-term vision will transform the landscape along the Trinity River and ultimately boost annual economic activity in Tarrant County by nearly $2 billion.
All of these successes – and future initiatives, such as high-speed rail, which is in the planning stages – have generated substantial momentum. Nearly 90 companies requested information on Fort Worth, with many making site visits here in 2014. In the last three years, economic development projects have generated $992 million in capital investment, 8 million square feet of development and more than 10,000 jobs. We anticipate one of our best years on record in 2015. Continued economic progress will dramatically enhance the economic vitality of the region and improve the quality of life for Fort Worth’s 800,000-plus residents. We already see a number of exciting new projects and initiatives, both here at home and internationally, that will extend Fort Worth’s reputation and recognition as one of the premier places to work and live well.
David Berzina is executive vice president, economic development for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at 817-336-2491