I enjoy speaking to groups and audiences around the region that are interested in our economy and the Dallas Regional Chamber’s economic development efforts. And although I may disappoint everyone when I’m not able to divulge sworn secrets about the “next Toyota” that might be around the corner, I still try to provide new and interesting information about the region, its geography, its economy, and how the economic development process works.
At a breakfast speaking engagement in June, prior to the program getting underway, I was talking to a guest who’s a collector of fun facts. He asked if during my talk I would share a takeaway fact that he would be able to remember long after the breakfast. Not just any fact, but something that related to the size and scope and strength of our region’s economy that he could pass along to others. I told him it was his “lucky morning,” because my presentation was loaded with such material. I asked him if a erward he would come tell me which tidbit was the one he planned to remember. His favorite was that, at 9,200 square miles, it would only take about five DFW regions to fill the entire state of Pennsylvania.
I can’t imagine a better region about which to build a geographic, demographic, or economic presentation than North Texas. And though they might be considered simply fun facts when sharing with a local group, our economic development team uses basic geographic and economic facts with a more serious intent when working with executives, consultants, and others who influence where headquarters and other facilities will locate.
The DRC staff knows that “Dallas,” as it’s usually referred to by the company teams we meet, is a very large, option-rich region that can be overwhelming to analyze — particularly over a very short evaluation and decision period. Those decision-makers, our customers, are usually doing the same sort of drill in on at least a couple of other candidate regions, compounding the layers of information they have to sift through . Plus, moving a headquarters or locating a major new campus or manufacturing plant is not something that company leaders do all the time, so it really can be chaotic and stressful for even the most seasoned executive team. Our Chamber team recognizes all this, and focuses very hard at the beginning of each engagement on making sure that we do a good job of “Dallas 101,” and that we give our guests a strong sense of place.
Normally, we’ll have an hour or so at the beginning of every company visit to provide an orientation, to set an understanding for the executives on what they will see, where they will be, and whom they will meet. Fun facts become new information, learning, and an ability to better understand and connect the dots as to why the Dallas region may indeed be the best choice for their corporate move.
We begin most presentations with a map of the entire Dallas-Fort Worth region, and we have a conversation with the map as a backdrop. Our region is not “built” like most others in the U.S.; and certainly is very different from the Houston, Austin, and San Antonio regions. The twin cities aspect of our region is obvious to most, but less known is the fact that Fort Worth is one of the 20 largest U.S. cities, completely unlike St. Paul or St. Petersburg or Durham or Tacoma or other cities that pair with a larger city to form a twin-city region.
The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area has four cities with a population greater than 250,000, and 14 cities with a population of at least 100,000; our region has three times as many large suburban cities (12) as Houston, Austin, and San Antonio combined (4). That definitely falls under the category of fun facts, but when we invest the time up front to explain our fundamental regional architecture, it proves extremely valuable in establishing a comfort level and a great platform from which a company’s detailed investigation can launch. Very quickly, our visiting executives begin to realize that “Dallas” is of course the city of Dallas but also a lot more; a region with two major cities and large, growing suburban cities that have over time developed individual characteristics, leadership, neighborhoods, amenities, and critical mass to support corporate locations.
They understand that our regional cities are large enough to function very independently and sophisticated enough to support major corporate moves. They also see that there are many small suburban cities and more rural options within the DFW region. They are able to understand our labor force patterns and our traffic patterns and proximities to the factors that are most important to their planned operation.
They also begin to appreciate the inherent cooperation that must exist here at a base level for a region like ours, with two major U.S. cities and a surprising number of large suburban cities, to be so successful.
The DRC team enjoys being able to work closely with inbound companies, and linking those companies to the communities, business leaders and others that team up to create corporate wins for our region. Coordinating and cooperating regionally to pursue corporate locations and jobs is particularly important here to ensure a seamless, positive, informative experience for the executives who examine us. And for us, that usually starts with a map and a few fun facts.
BLUEPRINT FOR PROSPERITY
The Dallas Regional Chamber’s economic development program, Blueprint for Prosperity, provides organizations in Dallas-Fort Worth with an accelerated investment opportunity that helps advance our region’s success. This additional investment made by more than 130 organizations in addition to annual chamber membership dues allows organizations to increase their support of our efforts to further economic prosperity throughout the region. This initiative funds efforts related to direct contact with corporations and location consultants examining the DFW Region.