Sometimes, the best way to see what’s going on at home is to leave and look back from a different, more developed perspective. That’s what we do for companies that expand to the Dallas-Fort Worth region from other parts of the world: We bring them here, help them look back at what works and what needs improvement, and show them how this region can be part of their future success.

International outreach missions are just one of the ways in which we grow this region’s prosperity at home and abroad.

In the paraphrased words of John Olajide, CEO of health-care technology company Axxess, “When we visit other cities, we take parts of our community with us to leave with them, and bring parts of their community back with us to plant and grow at home.”

John spoke these words in a small restaurant in Montreal during our June 2017 international mission to Canada. In case you didn’t know, DFW does about $1.19 billion in bilateral trade annually with Montreal and about $1.66 billion with Toronto, which is partly why Canada was chosen as a 2017 mission destination.

International missions like the one to Canada are hosted by Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Mayor Mike Rawlings of Dallas, and Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth. A select handful of business executives from the Dallas Regional Chamber and the Fort Worth Chamber member rosters participate and fill out the business pillar of mission activities, which include business dinners such as the one John attended, informational seminars about investing in the DFW region, and small, private meetings with the executives of foreign companies. 

The group of delegates also includes representation from VisitDallas and the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, which work together to supplement the mission with a travel- and tourism-focused pillar of events. The airport divides and conquers the aviation pillar by meeting with airport and airline executives around the world, which supports our strategic goal of bringing five new direct international flights to the region annually. Finally, the mayors devote their time to representing the region at diplomatic events, often speaking on panels and exchanging remarks with other elected officials, such as the mayors of Toronto and Montreal.

One airport, two mayors, two chambers, and two CVBs walk into a bar…and work together to bring new foreign direct investment into the region that we believe is the best place in the country (if not the world) to live, work, and play: Dallas-Fort Worth.

Looking back, we’ve had some pretty great success in making this dream a reality. In the past few years, we’ve visited Canada, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Japan, China, Hong Kong, France, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. We’ve built lasting relationships with businesses in these countries, which have led to successes like last July’s sold-out Japan Summit at the DRC and a brand new year-round direct flight to Montreal, thanks to Air Canada.

As exciting as international missions are, the destinations are chosen with great care. Two years ago, the DRC conducted research into which countries were investing the most in our economy, university systems, tourism industry, and overall GDP. We also looked at different countries’ tax, employment, real estate, and union laws to determine if there was a need for Texas’ light touch. In developing our international strategy, we also found that the availability of a direct flight to DFW significantly increased cargo, business, and passenger traffic to the region, so we built that into our list of factors for consideration. 

Countries that were identified through these metrics were identified as our top 10 countries of focus, a list which includes some obvious players — like Mexico and China — but also some surprising ones, like Australia and Spain. A flex list of countries including the Netherlands and Ireland are within our peripheral vision, and we will give due consideration to political and economic happenings in these markets as we plan for future missions.

Despite political tension, we will find ourselves in China and South Korea in October, pressing forward with our shared mission of raising this region’s international profile. Trade with China accounts for 31 percent of our regional trade with a foreign country, and trade with South Korea isn’t far behind — they’re our No. 1 largest export market and No. 2 largest import market, after China. It’s obvious why we need to be there.

As we look back on 2017 missions and look forward to 2018 missions, I am reminded once again that no matter the success of the global outreach we do, and no matter the lessons learned and ideas exchanged abroad…

It’s always nice to come home.