Facebook’s New Friend: Fort Worth

Global brands enhance Fort Worth economy.

The Texas economy remains among the strongest in the nation: With a gross domestic product exceeding $1.6 trillion, the state’s economy rivals many nations’ such as Canada, Australia, Korea, and even our neighbor, Mexico. North Texas, and Fort Worth in particular, are playing a large role in this continued economic prosperity.

Regionally, North Texas has the sixth largest GDP in the nation, $414 billion in 2013. Tarrant County contributed $13 billion, earning a spot as the fourth-largest metropolitan GDP just behind Texas’ Dallas and Harris counties and Los Angeles County, Calif. As well, Tarrant County enjoys the highest level of business growth among the top five counties with the highest GDPs, at 3.5 percent. It’s no wonder that Fort Worth is attracting more interest than ever before from international companies.

This past July, the London-based medical technology giant Smith & Nephew selected Fort Worth as the U.S. headquarters for its Advanced Wound Management Division. The company is expanding its existing footprint in Fort Worth by constructing a 55,000-square-foot facility at the Clearfork development, with immediate plans to hire 200 local employees and the option to hire another 50 later.  This multinational company manufactures arthroscopy products, advanced wound care management products, and ENT, gynecology and orthopedic reconstruction products. The city competed against sites in Austin and Jacksonville, Fla., for this international investment.

Another English company established a presence in Fort Worth this year. NiteSite, of York, England, moved into a 3,000-square-foot facility at the Riverbend Industrial Park to distribute night vision scopes for hunting, security and zero light observation.

In addition to attracting new businesses, a number of international brands already in Fort Worth have expanded their footprints here.

Without a doubt, the biggest win for Fort Worth in 2015 was Facebook. This project is Fort Worth’s first $1 billion-plus capital expenditure project. The Facebook project is projected to surpass $1.2 billion in capital expenditures, perhaps even reaching $2 billion. While the company may be a shining example of American technology and entrepreneurism, Facebook undoubtedly has an international presence and influence. The company announced in July its plans to build three 250,000-square-foot facilities on 110 acres at AllianceTexas. The buildings, which will feature advanced renewable energy sources, will house data processing and power storage equipment that will enable the website to handle its increasing traffic. The project will have between 50-100 high-paying computer and data related positions in the first two phases.

In addition to attracting new business opportunities, a number of international brands with long-standing histories in Fort Worth expanded their footprints. Galderma, an industry leader in dermatological pharmaceuticals, selected its Fort Worth campus for a 100,000-square-foot expansion. Fort Worth competed against a site in Cranbury, N.J. The Galderma project will create at least 350 high-paying jobs in the near term. The company specializes in the research, development and marketing of dermatological treatments. It became a wholly owned subsidiary of Nestlé in 2014 and is headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Novartis is yet another international company that increased its local presence this year. In September, Alcon celebrated the ribbon cutting of a new global data center for the Americas at the Alcon eye care division headquarters in Fort Worth. The data center is one of only four primary Novartis data centers worldwide; the others are in Basel, Switzerland; East Hanover, N.J.; and Stein, Switzerland. Alcon, a global company specializing in eye care products, established its headquarters in Fort Worth more than 70 years ago. Novartis, Alcon’s parent, is a global healthcare company based in Basel.

While we are always thrilled to work with international companies who want to establish or expand their presence in Fort Worth, we also realize there are a number of opportunities for local companies to conduct business internationally. The annual Mayor’s International Luncheon provides these companies with a chance to gain unique insight about how to be successful in the worldwide economy from Fort Worth CEOs who are leading global brands. This year’s luncheon, which took place on Oct. 28, featured Humberto Antunes, CEO of Galderma and Nestle Skin Health.

Another way we are attracting international attention is by getting out into the world and talking about the wide array of amenities available in North Texas. The focus of our most recent trip to the United Arab Emirates is a great example of the unique partnerships we are creating for this purpose. The Fort Worth Chamber joined the City of Dallas, Dallas Regional Chamber, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and American Airlines to familiarize our partners in the UAE about the pediatric and advanced medical care options available to UAE residents at our regional hospitals. Representatives from Cook Children’s Medical Center, Baylor Scott & White All Saints, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center also participated.

In addition to receiving state-of-the-art medical care, international students seeking an education in the medical field have another reason to come to Fort Worth. In July, an announcement that perhaps rivals the Facebook project was the partnership of Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas Health Science Center to create a new MD school. The program will provide Fort Worth with the nation’s most comprehensive health care education located on a single campus. An initial class of 60 students will begin the program in 2018. The MD school will be a great complement to the existing Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine program at the UNTHSC.

There was a time when it seemed that Fort Worth did not have much of an international presence. According to the results of our latest survey, Fort Worth companies do business in 84 countries. Our economic strength is building momentum as more international companies see the benefits of having a presence in our city.