Southern Business and Development Magazine reported in its Spring 2017 edition that Dallas-Fort Worth “has entered another dimension in economic development.” DFW’s 2016 economic development success, as tabulated by the magazine, was the highest of any metropolitan area in the publication’s 23-year history. It was a tough act to follow, but 2017 felt as successful. We know already that DFW looks like a winner in job growth for 2017 among all U.S. metro areas, with 94,400 new jobs reported from October 2016 to October 2017.
Looking back at a few Dallas Regional Chamber-involved projects in 2017 — for anyone active like me in our region’s economic development activity for quite a while — a year that includes a Boeing headquarters move here is a great year. The DRC was delighted to help Boeing Global Services study our region, and it was a lot of fun to see the company’s headquarters landed successfully by Plano. Another very satisfying project was Louis Vuitton. That company announced a workshop in Johnson County that will eventually employ 500. It’s a project that, for us, started with a coffee meeting at a Starbucks in San Dimas, California in fall 2016. Our final meeting with the company prior to the announcement was in Paris three months ago, during a weeklong marketing trip to the UK and France. Another international company, Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP), recently announced plans for its U.S. headquarters in Plano. I met a BRP leader during a joint Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport mission to Montreal in June and subsequently met a project team here. The post-mission meeting was a “let’s find a spot” meeting at a local hotel. We took over a coffee table and some chairs in the lobby, spread out some maps and data displays, and I spent an hour or so encouraging and reinforcing why DFW was the place to be.
Those kinds of meetings are a lot of fun — and I’ve noticed over the years, usually work out pretty well. Our touch with the final project I’ll highlight, Golden State Foods, began about two years ago. Golden State Foods will construct a significant manufacturing facility in Burleson. In addition to the traditional work done for that project, we hosted one of the C-level executives, a big Cowboys fan, at a game.
It’s great to have such a fantastic, asset-rich region to sell. I’m fortunate to have a strong DRC team, backed by our members and economic development investors, to sell it with. It’s impressive to visiting companies and consultants that cities in our region are represented by expert economic developers that know how to work and win major opportunities — and work together when called upon to do so, as with Amazon.
Amazon asked for a single bid from any North American MSA of 1 million or greater in population interested in being its second home. Amazon received 238 bids: three times the number of qualified metro areas in North America. Clearly, there are regions that split, did not work together, and there were rogue responses. Those places, in my view, ironically ignored our very customer-centric customer and missed a chance to make an important first impression. The leaders and economic developers representing communities in DFW deserve a great deal of credit for working together and trusting us to aggregate one unified regional response. I appreciate the hard work that I and the DRC team saw firsthand by so many cities and members of the real estate community, and truly value the outstanding partnership of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce joining with us to shape the regional response.
The pipeline for 2018 is strong. The DRC hosted 40 company visits to its offices in 2017, more than in any recent year. We expect several to convert to wins in the new year. We see a strong flow of industrial deals, especially manufacturing with an emphasis on food and beverage. We are also involved with headquarters opportunities that are not named Amazon. A dozen projects are in what we call “finalist” stage, meaning the company should soon make a decision, and DFW is one of a very few locations being considered. All signs point to another good year ahead for DFW.