The Fort Worth Chamber is 40 percent of the way into its 4-year Strategic Plan and Chris Strayer, senior vice president Business Attraction, Expansion & Retention, said, “We’re doing great, more than halfway to our goal. We’re on pace to blow the numbers away.” See full update here.
More than 100 members attended the Chamber’s quarterly economic development update June 19, sponsored by BYRNE Construction Services and held at Ridglea Country Club. Strayer was joined by Mitch Whitten, executive vice president of Marketing & Strategy for Visit Fort Worth. They spoke about the alliance between the Chamber and the tourism group in attracting businesses and visitors.
To date, 2019’s biggest relocation win is Stanley Black and Decker, which will locate to a 1.2-million square-foot warehouse and have a separate manufacturing facility for its Craftsman line of tools.
Strayer said the Chamber — and his team of Shea Hopkins and Netty Matthews – is working with 70 active prospects, of which 50 are new in 2019. The companies represent nearly 15,000 jobs and $1.125 billion in investments.
Strayer lauded certain percentage gains in his presentation. Ten percent distribution/90 percent manufacturing is “a great number.” He said the continued growth in existing business activity versus attraction from 10 to 16 percent in the second quarter is “because of our local efforts to get out there and meet face-to-face.”
Finally, 79 percent of the activity is headquarters, 21 percent back office, and Strayer described that as “fantastic. We are getting a lot more headquarter looks.”
One other number illustrates the positive momentum. During 2018, the Chamber was involved in 2,305 jobs being created. Already in 2019, the number is 1,585.
Strayer said Fort Worth doesn’t get a lot of feedback when a company decides to go elsewhere, but he listed three possible reasons: need for specific skill sets, personal preferences by decision makers (near family, oceans, etc) or a better piece of property available.
Companies do take a hard look at school districts, but the people that are here and being hired already have chosen their district. “What is important to the companies is the labor pipeline our schools are producing,” he said.
Strayer called Visit Fort Worth a “great partner. We have to come together for Quality of Life,” a key component across the four pillars of the Chamber’s Strategic Plan.
Whitten said tourism had a $2.6 billion economic impact from 9.4 million visitors last year. Approximately 24,000 jobs exist to happily serve those visitors. And, many of those visitors are decision makers and their first look and first impression are impactful.
He said Visit Fort Worth is more focused on pursuing conventions in areas the Chamber attraction team is focused, such as Aerospace/Aviation and Medical Innovation. He also mentioned the need for 1,400 more hotel rooms downtown and completion of the Convention Center makeover. “We’ve had to turn down $200 million in bookings because of facilities.”
D/FW International Airport has 60 international routes and Fort Worth has become a favorite destination of Australians, who, Whitten said, “spend 3-to-8 times more than other tourists.”
Strayer said the Chamber is in complete alignment with Visit Fort Worth on transportation issues. “Companies do look at how employees get around,” he said. “If they’re looking at a headquarters downtown, they’ll ask, ‘Where is the transportation?’”
Whitten said TEXRail “elevates our whole brand” and said Visit Fort Worth gives grants to Trinity Metro’s Molly and Dash circulators in and out of downtown.
“One of the differentiators here is people…friendly, with a can-do attitude,” Whitten said. “The Chamber is a great partner and we are working to make sure our messages are complementary.”