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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Economic Development: City, Chamber plans aligned to fortify Fort Worth

The City of Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Chamber have teamed for decades – along with Tarrant County, Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County, Tarrant County College and other economic development partners – to recruit and expand businesses in North Texas.

Together, we’ve met many high-stakes challenges, but none as complex as those we face today: new dynamics in the global business environment, explosive regional population growth, and an array of related hurdles we must clear to grow as a viable competitor in the economic development arena.

Therefore, the City and Chamber have forged shared economic goals and strategies with integrated multi-year strategic plans – symbiotic, historic strategies that we will launch this year.

By developing shared goals, defined responsibilities and measureable objectives, our resident taxpayers and business investors will be more informed and engaged in our challenges and successes pertaining to economic prosperity for Fort Worth. And we will be accountable for moving the needle.

Key Strengths and Weaknesses

The City of Fort Worth funded a comprehensive, third-party study that identified critical economic development trends affecting our city, both positive and negative.

There’s good news:

• Dallas-Fort Worth is a talent magnet, drawing new residents from across the U.S. Our mild climate, quality of life and lack of state income tax attract companies and employees.

• Fort Worth has 70,000 acres of developable land, more than any other city in the DFW region. More than several cities combined, actually. You wanna build? We have land!

• Fort Worth has key occupational strengths in fields such as logistics, aerospace and health care. And our medical district, downtown and Alliance corridors are major economic engines, with other districts serving as worldwide tourist attractions.

There’s troubling news:

• Residential uses dominate the tax base. In other words, our municipal and county services are lopsidedly funded by residents instead of businesses.

• Fort Worth residents are increasingly dependent on jobs in other cities. Other than health care or manufacturing, Fort Worth residents commute to other cities for jobs, especially those in professional services or high-tech fields. The city’s jobs-housing balance is eroding.

• Fort Worth is the 16th largest city in the U.S., but a survey of 500,000 people revealed that they ranked us as 45th, which, by the way, is Oakland, California.

How do we address this?

The City’s plan focuses sharply on Fort Worth and is centered on Three C’s: Competitive Edge, Creative Business Hub and Community Vitality.

The Chamber’s plan adds a wider, regional net with four Pillars that intersect with City goals: Business Recruitment & Retention; Talent Development, Attraction and Retention; Small Business & Entrepreneur Support; and Government Advocacy.

Both plans shoulder shared goals, including:

• Attract between three to five new Fortune 1000 HQ’s and more Inc. 5000 Companies

• Attract 2,000 new jobs and create 2,000 jobs with wages > the county average

• New residential development in the CBD within a 1, 2 and 4 mile radius

• 5 percent+ increase in the population of age 25+ with bachelor’s degrees

• 10 percent increase in targeted industries talent supply

• Increase business start-ups by 10 percent

• Increase affordable housing by 20 percent

• 10 percent commercial tax base percentage increase, relative to residential

• 10 percent median household income increase, adjusted for inflation

How do we get there?

Both the Chamber and City are reviewing organizational structure, technology and personnel deployment to gear for action.

The Chamber plans to increase its budget by 30 percent in 2018 to turbo-charge Fort Worth’s external marketing, its business advocacy at all government levels, and local entrepreneurial support.

We look forward to Fort Worth’s evolution as a world-class city that is more broadly recognized as such. But we will always remember – and continue to draw on — the pioneering grit and heritage that has propelled us this far, with an entrepreneurial spirit that inspires residents, business leaders and visitors.

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