Having been declared the No. 2 best state for business in 2017 by Forbes, Texas business owners, as well as municipalities, chambers and offices of higher education, see the benefit in making sure the Texas legislature keeps business-friendly initiatives front and center. The North Texas Commission announced Monday, Jan. 8, a new initiative to do just that.
“During the last legislative session [various groups] came together to keep Texas business-friendly,” NTC president and CEO James Spaniolo said. “Our goal is to keep that momentum going.”
The NTC has formed a new group called the North Texas Advocacy Coalition to convene the region’s stakeholders to make sure the business community’s voice is heard in Austin during the 86th Legislative Session, which will be sworn in exactly one year from the announcement, on Jan. 8, 2019.
Chuck Allen, chairman of the NTC board and managing director of Government Affairs for American Airlines, said that both North Texas and Texas as a whole have been a magnet for business growth, resulting in one person moving to North Texas every three minutes.
“If we lose this business-friendly environment in Texas, our economy will suffer,” Allen said. “That’s why the North Texas Commission is launching [this coalition].”
Allen explained that the business community and the coalition need to “remind our legislators that the key to continued growth and economic prosperity for all of our citizens is a pro-business focus.”
According to Spaniolo, the coalition’s goals are twofold. First is to encourage citizens, and particularly employees of the business community, to vote in the March primaries. Second, he said, is to educate the electorate on the issues.
“We want to make sure that we do a full, robust job of focusing on the issues that matter to the future of business and our economy in Texas and particularly in North Texas,” Spaniolo said.
The commission says the initial focus of the coalition will be to encourage employees in the region to vote in the March primaries, as well as educating said employees on key issues for the North Texas business community.
Scott Ore, vice chairman of the NTC board and vice president of Fidelity Investments, said that 80 percent of statewide races are decided at the March primaries, and often only 4-6 percent of the community votes in those elections.
“When you have an informed electorate, you tend to make better choices,” Allen said. “They’re going to run the range of views – what’s important is getting them out there.”
To accomplish the coalition’s goals, members of the coalition will have the opportunity to participate in subcommittees, which will focus on legislative issues such as education, transportation, workforce development, communication and business competitiveness.
These subcommittees, or task forces, will meet to determine key issues and develop a legislative agenda that includes supporting tactics and communication. According to the NTC, the North Texas Advocacy Coalition will remain active throughout the 2019 Legislative Session.
Allen commented on the need for a focus on workforce development in particular, saying, “If we want to remain a competitive state we have to focus on workforce development. If we don’t have a focus on [that], I think we will fall behind other states.”
Some key aspects of the new coalition include that it is non-partisan and will not endorse candidates.
“The goal of the coalition is to convene our regions stakeholders and to support legislative priorities that keep us competitive and encourage investment and eventual job growth,” Allen said. “We oppose any bill that would be viewed as discriminatory on the basis of gender, ethnicity, sexual preference or identity, or that would damage Texas’ reputation as a business-friendly state.”
As for measuring the coalition’s success, Spaniolo said, “I think we will know if it is successful after [the end of] the next legislative session, but the work starts today.”
Organizations that have currently signed on to participate in the North Texas Advocacy Coalition include:
— Alliance Operating Services
— American Airlines
— BNSF Railway
— City of Grand Prairie
— Fidelity Investments
— The Rios Group
— Texas Association of Business
— Texas Competes
— Texas Health Resources
— U.S. Chamber of Commerce
“This is just the beginning, we’ve been communicating across the region. Today is the beginning and we will see this coalition grow in the weeks and months ahead,” Spaniolo said, adding that the NTC is in the business of making partnerships.