In 1882, city leaders organized the Fort Worth Board of Trade to grow the “queen city of the plains.” Local prospects for economic expansion seemed limitless. Just like today. If that pioneer Board, which became the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce in 1912, could glimpse results of its vision 130 years later, there would be celebration, considering these Chamber highlights from 2011-12.
The Chamber’s Economic Development Division secured 15 projects in 2011 with estimated economic impact of $1.2 billion, according to an analysis by Austin-based Impact DataSource. The projects represent nearly 3,500 jobs, more than 3.2 million square feet of real estate and $587 million in capital investments.
GE Manufacturing Solutions announced an expansion of both its locomotive and mining equipment production to Fort Worth’s Alliance corridor.
At the forefront was GE Transportation’s selection of Fort Worth as the site for its new state-of-the-art locomotive manufacturing facility. The move will create about 500 high-tech manufacturing jobs and could add 275 more in the near future.
Bell Helicopter unveiled plans to invest around $240 million for 200,000 square feet of new offices and a 50,000-square-foot training academy at its Fort Worth headquarters; the plan will create 220 jobs. Alcon/Novartis announced an $18 million renovation and expansion to its campus, adding its Financial Service Center and 800 jobs.
FTS, International, formerly Frac Tech, bought a 558,000-square-foot building in Railhead Industrial Park for development as a state-of-the-art manufacturing, repair and testing operation, creating an estimated 800 jobs.
LinkAmerica, a regional transportation and logistics services provider, announced plans to expand to a 24,000-square-foot corporate office and training center in CentrePort Business Park. The move will create approximately 140 jobs.
Online broker TD Ameritrade announced plans for an $11.2 million remodeling and expansion of its 47,000-square-foot Alliance facility, which will create nearly 500 jobs by the end of 2015.
For the fifth time in the past eight years, Site Selection magazine named the Fort Worth Chamber as one of 2011’s Top 20 Economic Development Groups in the United States. The magazine ranked the GE Transportation locomotive manufacturing plant among the Top North American Deals of 2011.
“A Decade of Drilling,” a Chamber-commissioned economic and financial analysis of Barnett Shale impact, found that the gas play has become an immense and growing economic engine in the 24-county North Texas region and Texas. The analysis, conducted by The Perryman Group of Waco and released in September, estimated that 38.5 percent of the region’s economic growth since 2001 stems from Barnett Shale activity. Perryman estimated $11.1 billion in annual regional output alone.
International activity focused on exploring business and cultural opportunities in Mexico, Germany, Japan, China and Australia. Qantas Airways’ launch of non-stop service from DFW International Airport to Sydney and Brisbane opened new doors to the South Pacific region.
The Chamber’s Distinguished Employers of Fort Worth Teens (DEFWT) program set a record for participation in 2011-12, more than doubling since launched in 2007. Some 69 employers in 288 locations are employing nearly 2,000 students in Fort Worth ISD schools.
The U.S. Department of Labor awarded a $4.9 million education and training grant to Workforce Solutions and partners, including the Chamber, to place 385 unemployed individuals in engineering and information technology jobs in the region’s aerospace industry.
Fort Worth Chamber staff provided oversight and technical assistance for GO Centers in all 13 of the Fort Worth Independent School District’s high schools and three alternative campuses as well as schools in other area ISDs. The centers and mentors help 7,500 students annually to research career ideas, college plans and financial aid.
Job Links EXCELerator helped employers to quickly fill openings. Presented by the Chamber and AT&T, the program announces an average of 500-1,200 jobs monthly.
GOVERNMENT AND URBAN AFFAIRS
The Chamber’s legislative agenda overcame budget knives and competing interests in the 82nd Legislature to win key victories. Efforts also blocked initiatives that could have ended the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) and the Emerging Technology Fund (ETF). Legislation increased the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) from $67 million to $150 million and transferred $20 million to workforce programs. Meanwhile, the Legislature freed up another $3 billion of bonding authority for transportation projects, which voters approved in 2007 when they passed Proposition 12
Long-awaited work began on the $103 million Tower 55 Multi-Modal Project southeast of downtown Fort Worth. The project will expand rail capacity by 30 percent at one of the United States’ most congested rail intersections. Plans for the public-private initiative led by BNSF Railway and Union Pacific include building a third north-south rail line and improvements at several pedestrian crossings to make them safer.
Groundbreaking ceremonies for Chisholm Trail Parkway in December included (visible l to r): NCTCOG Director of Transportation Micheal Morris, Senator Wendy Davis, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley, Mayor Betsy Price, Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon, NTTA Chairman Kenneth Barr, former Mayor Mike Moncrief, and Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks.
Chisholm Trail Parkway groundbreaking ceremonies on Dec. 20 celebrated a 40-year-old dream come true. The $1.4 billion, 27.6-mile toll road from downtown Fort Worth south to Cleburne in Johnson County will end gridlock along I35 and in west Fort Worth while tapping extensive economic development potential along the way. The project is a collaboration between the North Texas Tollway Authority, Texas Department of Transportation, the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), Tarrant and Johnson counties, along with the cities of Fort Worth, Burleson and Cleburne, and Western Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad.
Fort Worth Chamber officials and members teamed up April 16-18 with the Dallas Regional Chamber for the bi-annual Congressional Summit with North Texas’ congressional delegation and policymakers in Washington, D.C.
The Chamber expanded its membership benefit levelsto seven tiers to meet members’ business goals. Levels range from a base membership of $435 annually to $30,000+, depending on business size and benefits desired.
Members received more than 3,500 referrals from Chamber staff, and the online member directory was searched 42,936 times.
Archit Sanghvi, Pearl Hospitality, was a table leader at the Big Brainstorm, where Fort Worth’s young professionals shared and refined ideas for the city’s future.
Members of Vision Fort Worth, the Chamber’s program for Young Professionals, played central roles in the Big Brainstorm series, a community visioning partnership with young adults in Mayor Betsy Price’s Steer Fort Worth program. Facilitated by Leadership Fort Worth and incorporating branding research assistance from TCU’s Neeley School of Business, Brainstorm sessions gave residents age 20-40 an opportunity to share their ideas for making Fort Worth more competitive in attracting and retaining young talent.
Women Influencing Business leaders Cynthia Sadler (r ) and Lynn Montgomery (l) welcomed Barbara Pierce Bush as the keynote speaker at the inaugural Best Workplaces for Women Awards in November
A joint research project led by the Chamber’s Women Influencing Business (WIB) program set out to define ideal workplaces for women. With assistance from Texas Woman University’s Small Business Institute (SBI), work was done in collaboration with the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber and Metropolitan Black Chamber. Findings established criteria for the Chamber’s inaugural “Best Workplaces for Women” award.
Mayor Betsy Price sketched city priorities and initiatives in her first State of the City address. The Feb. 23 event at Fort Worth Convention Center drew 1,400 attendees, setting record levels of attendance. Price, who introduced a new Q&A format for response to the public’s questions, covered issues ranging from the city’s budgetary challenges to transportation priorities.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley inaugurated the annual State of the Countyreport. In a Nov. 17 presentation at the Omni Fort Worth hotel, Whitley outlined the county’s operations and involvement in a wide range of challenges affecting one of the United States’ fastest-growing counties. The event, originated by the Fort Worth Chamber, was presented by Tarrant Area Chambers of Commerce.
Judge Glen Whitley (l), seen here with Chamber Vice Chair Whit Smith, spoke at the first State of the County address in November.
Federal health care reform and wellness initiatives were explored at the Chamber’s annual Health Care Summit in November. The half-day event at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary focused heavily on reforms that are part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
The Chamber’s Impact Your Business series for small business executives was repackaged to deliver breakfast and lunch meetings with tight focus on professional and business-development topics suggested by members. About 1,000 attendees benefited from 10 workshops with topics like social media strategy, web marketing, selling a business and tax preparation.
The Chamber’s 25th annual Golf Classic Sept. 19 at Ridglea Country Club drew more than 300 players. The event is one of the Chamber’s largest fundraisers.
Dubbed the Sports Series, successful high-profile luncheons included the Colonial Preview, TCU football preview with Coach Gary Patterson and a Texas Rangers Q&A with CEO and president Nolan Ryan.
My Chamber App, a free interactive mobile application, allows smartphone users to carry the chamber member directory in their pockets. It’s available for iPhone, Droid and Blackberry.
An iPad sales presentation was developed that allows a customized approach for each prospective member meeting.
Digital versions of the Newcomer’s and Economic Development guides are now available along with print versions. Content also is carried on Livability.com and BusinessClimate.com for additional search engine optimization.
A suite of websites for the Chamber, Economic Development and Vision Fort Worth, with fresh design and improved navigation, is in development for launch this summer.