The voice of the Dallas Region’s business community echoed through the Texas Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 22, as 70 representatives from the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) and its member companies spent a day advocating for the DRC’s legislative priorities during the 2023 Austin Fly-In, presented by Lockheed Martin. The event was the DRC’s first in-person Austin Fly-In since the 86th Legislative Session in 2019.
Attendees, including 14 members of the DRC Board of Directors, convened at the Capitol early in the morning before embarking on a jam-packed day of 37 meetings with state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to discuss the Dallas Region’s needs in economic development, education and workforce, health care, and quality of life.
“We don’t come here with our hat in hand. We come here to lock arms and do good for the people of Texas,” Dale Petroskey, President and CEO of the DRC, said to attendees. “Our role is to provide [legislators] with the facts, information, and the business community’s perspective – especially about the strength of the Dallas Region and our biggest needs.”
Among the legislators that welcomed Dallas Region business leaders into their offices were Sen. Royce West, Sen. Nathan Johnson, Sen. Drew Springer, Sen. Tan Parker, Chairwoman Angie Chen Button, Chairman Jeff Leach, Rep. Toni Rose, Chairman Morgan Meyer, and Rep. Rhetta Bowers—just to name a few. DRC leaders—including 2023 Board Chair Rafael Lizardi, Chief Financial Officer for Texas Instruments, and Board Chair-Elect Nancy Avila, Chief Information and Technology Officer for McKesson—also met with Gov. Greg Abbott’s Deputy Chief of Staff Toby Baker and staff from House Speaker Dade Phelan’s office.
The day’s agenda also included stops in the House and Senate Chambers, where legislators carried resolutions recognizing the DRC for its “integral role in the growth and vitality of the Dallas area and beyond” and recent designation as National Chamber of the Year. A video of the Senate’s recognition of the DRC, championed by Sen. Johnson, can be viewed on Twitter. Rep. Bowers presented the recognition from the House floor.
Over lunch at the Texas Association of Business, former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus shared insights into the ongoing legislative session and how the business community can work with legislators as they determine how to use the state’s unprecedented budget surplus. Straus said it’s “more critical than ever” for members and leaders of Texas’ business community to show up at the Capitol and meet with legislators face-to-face to discuss challenges and opportunities.
Sen. Johnson echoed Straus’ sentiments at an evening reception hosted in partnership with the City of Dallas.
“It’s so important that you’re here,” Sen. Johnson said to DRC members. “I need you to make sure that the policies we enact this session are the kinds of things that build to answer this one question: ‘What will people thank us for 30 years from now?’”
“We need your input. The voice of business has always played a prominent role in Texas government,” Sen. Johnson added. “I am proud of the Dallas business community because I think, more than any other chamber in the state, y’all get it – that it’s about the environment that we’re building.”
Sen. Royce West and Dallas City Councilmember Tennell Atkins also spoke to attendees at the reception. Councilmember Atkins championed Dallas’ greatest needs, while Sen. West emphasized how doing good in the Dallas Region ripples out to positively impact the entire state.
Among the people present at the Capitol for Austin Fly-In were members of the DRC’s Young Professionals program who represented the voice of future leaders and championed investments in the state’s workforce in meetings with Rep. Mihaela Plesa, Rep. Salman Bhojani, Rep. Kronda Thimesch, and more.
The DRC also invited along representatives from the City of Dallas, Dallas Police Department, Downtown Dallas, Inc., and more from outside the business sector–a move Senior Vice President of Public Policy Matt Garcia said resulted in a collaborative day that demonstrated the business community’s alignment with key stakeholder groups.
Posts recapping further highlights from the DRC’s day at the Capitol can be found on Twitter. To learn how you can be an advocate for the Dallas Region in Austin, contact the DRC Public Policy team.
The DRC’s 2023 Austin Fly-In was presented by Lockheed Martin. American Airlines and Toyota Motor North America were Gold Sponsors. Amazon, Fidelity Investments, Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Texas at Dallas, and West Coast University – Texas partnered as Silver Sponsors.