Mayor’s State of the City: Price teases relocation of two California manufacturing companies to Fort Worth

Mayor Price speaking at State of the City address, Feb. 16, at Fort Worth Convention Center.

Fort Worth experienced growth both in population and in business last year, and in 2016, more growth could be coming by way of two manufacturing companies relocating from California to Cowtown.

Mayor Betsy Price made the announcement Tuesday during her annual State of the City Address. She did not specify what the companies were but said they were in the “manufacturing segment.”

A formal announcement will be made at the end of March, she said.

“They love Fort Worth because we have a great aviation labor force, a terrific sense of location and a great airport, a growing younger community that they love, and Fort Worth is a terrific logistics hub,” she said.

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Along with growth in business, the city could see continued growth in population as well, Price said.

The city currently has a population of more than 800,000 people, she said. According to City Manager David Cooke, Fort Worth grows by an average of 20,000 people per year. If that continues, Price said Fort Worth’s population could reach about 1 million people in less than 20 years.

In the midst of growth, Price said she hopes Fort Worth doesn’t lose its “small town” feel.

“That small town spirit and our front porch community feel – that’s what brings people here, and that’s why they stay,” she said.

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As Fort Worth grows, Price said the city government is trying to keep four elements in focus: fiscal responsibility, active and healthy citizens, community voice in the government and a bigger presence on the national and international stage.

Many of Fort Worth’s endeavors in 2015 were based on those goals, she said. Some of those efforts include:

• The announcement of companies like Facebook and Galderma expanding in Fort Worth

• The building of three bridges for the Trinity River Vision project

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• American Airlines’ plans to build a new corporate headquarters in Fort Worth

• The launch of a film commission to help filmmakers bring work to Fort Worth

• Creating a sixth police division in north Fort Worth, whose facility is scheduled to open in 2018

• The designation of businesses as “Blue Zones” sites that encourage practices like healthy eating and exercise

• Creating a 2016 budget that doesn’t require increase in taxes

Still, the city needs improvement in a number of areas, particularly in education, Price said.

“The biggest risk of regression that Fort Worth faces – you all know what I’m going to say because it’s my passion – is education,” she said. “To continue to thrive and be a strong city, education must improve and must be strong. Education is economic development.”

She said that 81 percent of Fort Worth’s population has a high school degree or higher, while the remaining 19 percent live below the poverty line and likely have no diploma.

To improve, the city must put more focus on early childhood education, she said.

“For us to be competitive, education must be cradle to career,” she said.

Along with education, Price said she wants the city to focus on new forms of transportation, whether it be public transportation through the incoming TEX Rail or alternative transportation through Uber, Lyft and other companies.

She noted that the Fort Worth Transportation Authority recently received $125 million in federal funding for the TEX Rail project, thanks to President Barack Obama’s new budget. The TEX Rail would connect Fort Worth to the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and should be ready for operation by late 2018.

The city is also discussing lower regulations for taxis and limos, as well as services like Uber and Lyft, Price said.

“All of those are alternative transportations for us that can take cars off the street,” she said. “Our goal is to get less regulation and to let the marketplace drive what they do and how they deliver their services.”

Other changes in the city could happen in the city government, as citizens will be voting on changes to the city charter during the May election. Those changes involve the raising of salaries for the council members and mayor, the addition of more council members and the lengthening of terms among other items.

The council itself doesn’t agree on all the proposed charter amendments, but Price said it’s up to the citizens to decide what changes they’d like to see.

Yet for any growth or change to be positive, Price said citizens need to be involved with local government and the community.

“The strength of Fort Worth has always been in its people,” she said.

The Mayor’s State of the City Address was hosted by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.