Stepping on the Gas

Relocation and expansion are on an uptick in Fort Worth and Tarrant County, and activity’s moving faster, now that 2016 elections are behind us.

Competitive relocation and expansion activity are humming at high levels in Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

Year to date, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce has worked with the City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County and other partners on 51 projects, moving at a brisker pace in 2017 now that we’re free of the uncertainty surrounding last year’s elections.

Projects include a data center and three health care/biopharma operations, but many involve food manufacturing companies, reflecting local and national trends in that industry that present significant growth opportunities in our market.

Food giants already here include Dannon, Best Maid, Renfro Foods, Parker Products, MillerCoors, Coca-Cola, Andrews Distributing, Ben E. Keith, Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee, Deen Meat Co., Cargill Value-Added Meats and more.

Project Southern Comfort is a food maker looking to create an estimated 170 jobs with a capital investment of $32 million. Project Watson is a food manufacturer looking to invest up to $180 million.

In another industry, Project Prince is an existing company looking to expand its facility and increase employment by 100.

These prospects are moving through the incentive, permitting and planning processes in their respective municipalities.

Meanwhile, on our radar are the possible relocations of four corporate headquarters that would bring major investment, jobs for the degreed workforce and an enhanced outlook for recruitment of other corporate headquarters. Work is in the early stages.

O, Canada Fort Worth and Dallas officials focused on a high-stakes trade mission in June to Canada, meeting in Montreal and Toronto with public and private sector leaders in this region’s second largest North American Free Trade Agreement partner.

Two-way trade between North Texas and Canada amounts to nearly $9 billion annually, and Air Canada recently expanded operations at DFW Airport.

Led by Mayor Betsy Price and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, the team sought to grow more depth and new strength in trade relations and tourism while reaffirming local commitment to NAFTA – an urgent matter in light of President Trump’s plan to renegotiate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico, another leading NAFTA partner and the DFW trade mission’s destination last summer.

As with the 2016 mission to Mexico, the delegation roster mirrored the high esteem in which this area holds Canada, the scores of Canadian companies that operate here, including Aldo, Bombardier Aerospace and Learjet, and the relationship we enjoy in areas ranging from high-tech to tourism.

With Price and Rawlings were DFW International Airport Board Chairman Sam Coats and board members, airport executives and representatives from the Fort Worth Chamber, Dallas Regional Chamber, the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau and the North Texas Commission.

Delegates included Fort Worth Chamber board members JJ Cawelti, senior manager of global public affairs for Bell Helicopter; Robbie Briggs, CEO of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty; and Tom Galbreath, CEO of Dunaway Associates.

Senior executives on the mission also included representatives from Axxess Technologies, Nunnally & Martin LLP, Dallas Innovation Alliance, NEC Corporation of America, Texas Central Partners and Uber Technologies.

The Consulate General of Canada in Dallas and the Québec Government Office in Texas also supported the mission.

In Toronto, meetings included discussions with Mayor John Tory, who leads efforts on improving urban infrastructure, and bike manufacturer Cervélo (a thrill for cyclists Mayor Price and myself).

In Montreal, trade relations were discussed with Dominique Anglade, Québec’s minister of economy, science and innovation. Via the Montreal Smart Cities Tour, officials exchanged views on urban quality-of-life issues. Delegates also participated in a seminar by the 3,000-member Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal on “Doing Business in DFW.”

What’s Next Within a few weeks, the City of Fort Worth economic development department’s new strategic plan will be delivered to the city council.

Soon after, the Chamber’s new multi-year, five-pillar strategic plan will be introduced. The plan will integrate comparable city strategies, and the Chamber will begin aligning funding efforts with measurable outcomes for our investors.

Brandom Gengelbach is executive vice president of economic development for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, a regular contributor to FW Inc.