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Chamber's Economic Development Strategic Plan ahead of pace

Posted June 28, 2019

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The Fort Worth Chamber is 40% of the way into its four-year strategic plan, and Chris Strayer, senior vice president of business attraction, expansion and retention, said, “We’re doing great, more than halfway to our goal. We’re on pace to blow the numbers away.”

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: 10% distribution/90% manufacturing is “a great number.” He said the continued growth in existing business activity versus attraction from 10% to 16% in the second quarter is “because of our local efforts to get out there and meet face-to-face.”

Finally, 79% of the activity is headquarters, 21% 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.

Business-tourism connection

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.

Mitch Whitten, executive vice president of marketing and strategy for Visit Fort Worth, 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 three to eight 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.”

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