This has been an historic year for economic development in Fort Worth. A total of 15 deals representing $3.020 billion in capital investment, occupying 3.462 million square feet, and creating 5,336 jobs were announced in 2015. The list includes two deals with more than $1 billion in capital expenditures: Facebook’s data processing center and Lockheed Martin’s campus upgrade. This success is a testament to the hard work by the city of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, Tarrant County College, Workforce Solutions and the overall business climate here in our great State of Texas.
Facebook was one of the biggest wins for Fort Worth this year. In addition to its billion-dollar capital investment, Facebook increases the number of global technology companies in our city. The company selected AllianceTexas from among 220 sites initially considered for its fifth, and biggest, data processing center. The 110-acre campus will host up to three of the world’s most environmentally friendly data processing center buildings. These 250,000-square-foot buildings will enable Facebook to expand its infrastructure to accommodate increasing social media traffic. The company will recruit 50-100 employees for high-paying technology positions during the first two phases.
Fort Worth’s other billion-dollar project, an upgrade of the Lockheed Martin campus, also brings domestic and international attention. The reconfiguration of Lockheed Martin’s mile-long Fort Worth facility will accommodate production of the F-35, the largest defense program in our nation’s history. The team plans to triple its annual jet production by 2017 and produce a total of 3,170 jets by the end of 2039. To meet this target, Lockheed is creating new assembly stations and doubling the number of painting booths. The upgrade will make room for an additional 1,000 employees over the next few years.
In addition to these billion-dollar deals, Fort Worth has plenty more to be excited about. For instance, American Airlines, the world’s largest airline, has decided to expand its corporate headquarters in Fort Worth. The company will build its new headquarters on a 100-acre campus located on Dallas Fort Worth International Airport property. The project will include four buildings totaling 1.1 million square feet and will create 3,000 new jobs. Several North Texas communities vied for this new site, but Fort Worth’s incentive package and strong relationships with the company prevailed.
A number of international companies also chose to establish or expand their footprints in Fort Worth this year. Galderma, a leading provider of dermatological pharmaceuticals, announced plans to grow its operations in Fort Worth. The company, which is owned by Switzerland-based Nestle and has a longstanding history in our city, will build a 100,000-square-foot building and add 350 jobs. Fort Worth competed against sites in Cranbury, New Jersey; Boston and San Francisco.
Smith & Nephew is another international life sciences company that increased its presence in Fort Worth. The London-based medical technology giant is constructing a 55,000-square-foot facility to serve as its Advanced Wound Management Division headquarters. Smith & Nephew will hire 50 new employees. The company also considered sites in Austin and Jacksonville, Florida.
Companies seeking a favorable business environment also found a home in Fort Worth this year. Farmer Brothers Coffee, manufacturer and distributor of coffee and food service items based in Torrance, California, announced plans to move its headquarters to the Fort Worth area. The $100 million project will occupy a 500,000-square-foot building on 28 acres in Northlake, just across from the Fort Worth city limits, and will bring/hire 300 jobs.
Looking ahead, this year’s results will be hard to match. But we will certainly not rest on our laurels. A number of prospects remain in our pipeline, and our strategic recruitment initiatives are as aggressive as ever.
While we’ve seen increased competition for domestic opportunities, we have also watched the international market open a broader playing field. Members of the Fort Worth Chamber have joined regional partners, such as the city of Fort Worth, the city of Dallas, the Dallas Regional Chamber, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, on trade missions to England, France, Germany and the United Arab Emirates. Similar delegations will continue meeting with international companies to assist with bilateral trade opportunities in North Texas or to help them conduct business with Fort Worth companies.
Another area of focus in 2016 will be the pursuit of more life sciences companies. Fort Worth already has a robust roster of these companies, many of which are fostering medical innovations that will solve our world’s most critical life science challenges. We will enhance this cluster by working with companies that are already here and wish to expand, as well as introduce new prospects to the many attributes that distinguish Fort Worth and add value to life sciences companies. Securing partnerships that bring international visitors to Fort Worth to benefit from our pediatric and advanced medical care options will also be a high priority for economic development leaders next year.
Years of diligent efforts to recruit and retain business prospects have paid off, and we are closing out this year on a high note. As we continue our efforts to spotlight Fort Worth’s unique features and home in on strategic opportunities, we anticipate the momentum to extend far beyond 2016. The Fort Worth Chamber does not operate on an island. Without our partners at the State of Texas, Tarrant County and the city of Fort Worth, none of these accomplishments or initiatives would be possible.
David Berzina is executive vice president of economic development for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. www.fortworthchamber.com/