More than 700 of the Dallas Region’s top professional women and business leaders sparked new ideas, connections, and growth at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s (DRC) 25th Women’s Business Conference (WBC), presented by Jackson Walker LLP, Thursday, March 9, at Gilley’s Dallas.

This year’s program boasted three engaging keynote sessions that touched on all facets of what it means to be a woman in business. In developing the program, the DRC set out to empower women at all stages of their careers to ignite their spark and help create a stronger, more inclusive Dallas Region.

“We want you to be inspired, catalyzed, motivated,” Latosha Herron Bruff, DRC Senior Vice President of Inclusion and Community Engagement and the event’s emcee, told attendees. “Whether you’re looking for a spark in your workplace, in your community, or in your personal life, we want you to find it.”

Deryl McKissack, President and CEO of McKissack & McKissack, and Hattie Hill, President and CEO of the T.D. Jakes Foundation.

The day began with Deryl McKissack, President and CEO of McKissack & McKissack, in conversation with Hattie Hill, President and CEO of the T.D. Jakes Foundation. The keynote centered on McKissack’s prolific career and rise to leadership as a Black woman in the male-dominated architecture, construction, and engineering industry. McKissack was candid about the adversity she has faced and her dream of what could be accomplished with better representation.

“When I look at [women], I see untapped potential and creativity. I see talent; I see innovation. I see answers to questions we’ve had for years,” McKissack said. “Think about [the work that could be done] if we were tapping into unutilized Americans, the Americans who have been left out for so many years.”

McKissack added that, despite her frustration with the number of industries she sees overlooking women, she notices the Dallas Region setting itself apart with its desire to create intentional change and inclusion “not just for women, but for all minorities who have been typically left out.”

April Allen, President and COO of the Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation, and Megha Tolia, President and COO of Shondaland.

Megha Tolia, President and COO of Shondaland, helmed the second keynote session. In a conversation guided by April Allen, President and COO of the Southern Gateway Public Green Foundation, Tolia shared wisdom gained from leaning into the journey of her career instead of an end goal. Tolia’s flexibility for what life brings most recently sparked a transition from a career in consumer products to operating the global production company behind many smash-hit shows.

While Tolia said her first weeks in a new industry were like building a plane while flying it, she said her sense of responsibility is heightened developing media that reaches millions—but she has a philosophy to guide her through the decisions that come with that responsibility.

“I think about doors,” Tolia said. “In life, there are one-way doors and two-way doors. One-way doors are when you make a decision and it’s pretty final; to go back through that door would be really difficult. But I’d argue that 80-90% of the decisions that feel like one-way doors are often two-way doors. Thinking about a two-way door I can go back through gives me the courage and confidence to make the necessary decision.”

Four-time New York Times best-selling author and podcaster Jen Hatmaker

Four-time New York Times best-selling author and podcaster Jen Hatmaker closed the show with a resounding reminder that nurturing oneself is just as, if not more, important as nurturing a business.

“How we are doing ‘behind the counter’ makes all the difference in our work,” Hatmaker said. “When we are unhealthy, our businesses suffer, our work suffers. At best, we are distracted. At worst, we are destructive. We end up having no energy for innovation, and our motivation disintegrates. We cannot create a spark in our work when our personal light is extinguished.”

Hatmaker encouraged the women in attendance to maintain their spark by inviting people in and leaning on them, taking “radical, nurturing care” of themselves, and to not give up on hope.

“The healthiest, truest you is, of course, who your business needs,” Hatmaker said. “But more importantly, you deserve to get to be her.”

During the program, Ashlee Davidson, Vice President of Communications at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, was presented the YPL ATHENA® Award, presented by Thomson Reuters. Dr. Candice Lucas-Bledsoe of the Action Research Center and Southern Methodist University received the ATHENA® Award, presented by Wells Fargo. These awards recognize exceptional women who excel in their careers, contribute to their communities, and develop future leaders.

The great happenings at WBC were not limited to the inspiring women on stage, though. In between keynote sessions, attendees visited a vibrant marketplace, presented by Frost, featuring local founders, creators, and entrepreneurs. The “Let’s Kick Glass Together Table Talks” powered by BGSF offered an opportunity to connect with peer mentors and career coaches, and the KPMG Happy Hour provided meaningful networking and fellowship to end the day.

“This is one of the most important events we do every year,” said Dale Petroskey, President and CEO of the DRC. “I hope the great leaders you’ve heard from today and the chance conversations you’ve had have lit a spark. I hope you’re fired up to try a new idea or take a new approach when you head back to the office. That’s what this is all about.”

View more photos from the event on the DRC’s Facebook. The DRC hosts hundreds of events each year. Make plans to join us for more dynamic programming.

To celebrate Women’s History Month and the women of the Dallas Region business community, the Dallas Regional Chamber caught up with Linda McIntosh Todd, President of the Dallas Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, to get her perspective on challenges facing women in business and the things she wants them to know.

McIntosh Todd retired from Xerox after 27 years of leading diverse United States-based and international teams and has now redirected her corporate management, organizational, and collaborative skills to fulfill the mission and goals of nonprofit organizations. She serves on a number of community-based committees and boards, including the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Board of Directors.

What female figures have had the biggest influence on your life? Why do you look up to them?

My mom, Jean Frances Milligan, had the biggest influence on my life.  She was a loving, strong, supportive, and encouraging mother. She was an educator for 46 years; entrepreneur and owner of a Black newspaper called “The Spotlight News”; author of a book for educators with a companion book for students, “Interference for Young Audiences,” to enhance reading proficiency; and a community leader that was active in Jack & Jill of America, board member of the Dallas Park, and served in the women’s ministry at church.

She taught me that life is tough, but that I’m tougher, and to push through challenges to reach my goals. She was my role model and helped me develop critical thinking skills, effective money management, and Godly wisdom through humble self-examination, persistent prayer, and Godly discernment.

What are the biggest challenges facing women today, and what can employers do to help their female leaders excel professionally?

The biggest challenges facing women today are inequity and racial bias in the workplace, especially for women of color.  There are not enough role models that look like them in areas of leadership.

According to Women Business Collaborative, 46, or about 9%, of Fortune 500 CEOs in 2022 were women. Of those positions, less than 10, or 1%, were women of color and there were only two Black women – Rosalind “Roz” Brewer of Walgreens Boots Alliance and Thasunda Brown Duckett of TIAA.

Before now, the only other Black  woman to run a Fortune 500 company on a permanent basis was Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox.  She was a trailblazer, and I was fortunate to work under her leadership during my 27-year tenure with Xerox.

Employers must be intentional about hiring and providing an environment of growth and development for women.  It starts at the top with leadership, strategic planning, and awareness that the problem exists, and steps must be outlined in each organization to correct the current course. Programs should include efforts not only within the organization but outreach in the communities in which they exist and investment in higher education programs, especially HBCUs.

What is the one piece of advice you wish you received before you started your career? Do you use this advice in mentoring others?

I wish someone had advised me to share and obtain feedback regarding my career goals and aspirations not only with my immediate manager but also with a senior executive of the company. If I did not have my manager’s support, then I would obtain a mentor that could offer sage career guidance and wisdom.

Being seen by the C-suite is a critical step to being there in the future at the senior executive level.  Of course, you must have a track record of success, a well-thought-out plan, and the ability to articulate what you want to do and how you can contribute to the organization. Demonstrating self-confidence, discipline, and skill in your current role is key.

Know what you want and do not let obstacles deter you from your goals.

If you could write your autobiography, what would its title be, and why?

“She prayed, she planned, she lived her best life!”

I’m fortunate to have embraced the knowledge that placing God first in my life changes the perspective of how I live my life.

I’ve always been a planner and enjoyed creating a vision, planning the steps, collaborating with others, executing the plan, and then enjoying the success of it all.  There have been many challenges along the way, but I’ve learned and grown from each challenge and learning experience.

In addition, I’m volunteering in the community so that my small efforts will make a difference in the lives of others. I’m focused on wellness and enjoying my family.  That’s living my best life.

To celebrate Women’s History Month and the women of the Dallas Region business community, the Dallas Regional Chamber caught up with Jean Savage, CEO and President of Trinity Industries, to get her perspective on challenges facing women in business and the things she wants them to know.

Jean Savage, CEO & President

Savage is one of the few women CEOs in the Fortune 1000 and an accomplished leader with international experience establishing and directing global teams on complex, technical product development programs. She is a member of the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Board of Directors.

What female figures have had the biggest influence on your life? Why do you look up to them?

My mother had the biggest influence on my life. From a young age, she encouraged me to play sports and work hard in school. She supported me by always being there for me and being my biggest cheerleader. Outside of my family, Sandra Day O’Conner and Madeleine Albright were women I looked up to. Sandra and Madeleine broke through the glass ceiling and became the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court and the first female secretary of state, respectively.  Both had a profound impact on our country and the world.

What are the biggest challenges facing women today, and what can employers do to help their female leaders excel professionally?

The biggest challenge facing women today, I believe, is many times self-imposed. Many women are not confident in their abilities and not willing to take risks, take on a larger opportunity, or even change industries for new opportunities. I believe we need to ensure we recognize what women are accomplishing and encourage them to seize opportunities that come before them.

What is one piece of advice you wish you received before you started your career? Do you use this advice in mentoring others?

Change is inevitable. Don’t fight the change—learn and adapt.

The pace of change continues to accelerate, which causes changes in organizations. Those who can adapt by drawing on their past experiences, and modifying them to meet the current demands, will be successful.

I do use this when I mentor others. I encourage them to be change agents and to help others also adapt.

If you could write an autobiography, what would its title be and why?

“The Uncommon Path.” Looking back at my life, my path was not straightforward or one that I expected. I was fortunate to come from a family where hard work and dedication were instilled, and where I was encouraged to find a way forward. My choices were sometimes uncommon; for example, joining the Ohio National Guard to not only serve but also to be able to afford to continue my formal education and get my engineering degree. The military experience not only gave me confidence in my ability to survive but to excel, which led to me taking more risks in my professional roles. People along the way, my mentors, have also been instrumental in pointing out what my strengths and weaknesses were, to allow me to continue to develop.

Seventy members of the Dallas Region business community spent a day advocating at the Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 22.

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.

On the Senate floor: Taylor Wilson, Managing Partner of Haynes and Boone and 2023 DRC Public Policy Advisory Council Co-Chair; Nancy Avila, Chief Information and Technology Officer at McKesson and 2024 DRC Board Chair; Sen. Nathan Johnson; Rafael Lizardi, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at TI and 2023 DRC Board Chair; Angela Farley, DRC Chief Financial and Operating Officer; and Dale Petroskey, DRC President and CEO.

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.

DRC members and staff meeting with Sen. Drew Springer.

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.

Inclusion Cloud’s Commercial Vice President Nicolas Baca Storni details the company’s recent expansion to the Dallas area from Latin America and their goal of helping businesses embrace digital transformation.

How does your company help other businesses become more effective?

Nicolas Baca-Storni, Commercial Vice President

Inclusion Cloud helps companies embrace digital transformation by scaling teams with top-level professionals. This can include individual talents who are ready to join ongoing software projects or entire teams prepared to develop end-to-end solutions.

For more than 15 years, Inclusion Cloud has helped Fortune 500 companies improve their business processes through certified software engineers and innovations in application development through agile methods. We understand that technology is essential for growth, so we make it accessible and affordable for different companies to achieve their business goals.

Over the years, we have grown our expertise by partnering with the world’s leading technology companies, including Salesforce, Amazon Web Services, Oracle, Google Cloud Platform, and SAP.

What differentiates your company from others in your industry?

To supply the highest quality talent, Inclusion Cloud has focused on Latin America’s untapped talent pool. This allows us to provide:

  • Total time zone alignment with the US for maximum efficiency
  • Highly competitive rates that can save companies up to 50% in team costs
  • Excellent communicative skills with proficiencies in English and cultural similarities

Inclusion Cloud is the perfect partner to find top engineering talent in Latin America.

What do you enjoy most about doing business in the Dallas Region?

Since expanding to the Dallas Region last year, this area has proven to be a welcoming place with tons of opportunities. It’s an incredible place to live, work, and do business. As one of the world’s most thriving markets, it’s the perfect place for Inclusion Cloud’s long-term growth and development in the U.S.

Why did you decide to become a DRC member?

Our mission is directly related to people and community. Not only do we want to help companies achieve their business goals, but we also want to help top-level professionals boost their careers and forge the path they deserve.

By joining the DRC, we’re getting involved with our community, acquainting ourselves with the people, and taking the time to understand their needs. This is something we’ve strived for since the beginning, and the DRC provides us the opportunity to run with it in the booming Dallas Region.

How has your business changed in the past five years?

The pandemic created a huge push (and critical leap) for our industry.  Our teams were already working remotely with great results, but now we had a huge untapped pool who wanted to be a part of the transformation.

This sharp rise in remote work meant digital transformation and innovation were required for companies to keep up with the sudden change. We took this in stride and were able to open new offices in Spain, Chile, and here in Dallas

By Mike Rosa, Senior Vice President of Economic Development

Like the Texas Rangers making bold moves for the 2023 baseball season, the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) is focused on taking our region to the championship level as a destination for life science companies and jobs.

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the DRC announced a plan, a new website, and reasons why this is the moment to grow this important sector in the Dallas Region.

When recruiting and expanding companies we play to our strengths — like those that have attracted companies to put headquarters here for years.

And for years, despite having all-stars like UT Southwestern Medical Center in our lineup, our region has not achieved the major leagues as a life science location like a handful of other regions in the U.S.

Now, we have what we need to do it:

We rank seventh in the U.S with 90,000 jobs in biotechnology and life sciences, so we are a legitimate region for companies to consider.

We have a new pitch. Biotechnology and life sciences are converging with other sectors like artificial intelligence, software, virtual reality, big data, and others that are already strong here. We have an additional 225,000 jobs in computer, math, and engineering tech that support these convergent sectors. Dallas-Fort Worth is now the largest tech talent market in the U.S. that is also business and cost-friendly—a compelling combination for life science companies seeking new places to build their businesses.

We’ve got independent verification. CBRE puts the Dallas Region as the sixth-ranked rising biotechnology location, and we now appear in other published evaluations as being among the upper tiers of life science locations.

We have physical space to land companies, like Pegasus Park and Biolabs which is located there, where life science companies can see and feel the vibe they need when considering where to locate and grow.

We’ve got more all-stars – like UT Southwestern – now including the new Texas Instruments Biomedical Engineering Center, the O’Donnell Brain Institute, DFW International Airport’s cold storage capability, Dallas College’s biotechnology training grant, and companies like McKesson, Verily, and Evolve biologics picking the Dallas Region.

Our regional city allies and our DRC members and investors are all-stars as well, and eager to partner with the DRC to win companies and jobs in life sciences.

Thanks in part to a grant from NT Biotech, which is a Lyda Hill affiliate, the DRC has hired a full-time person to focus on this effort, our Vice President of Economic Development Life Sciences Kelly Cloud.

She will lead our plan, which consists of:

  • A full suite of marketing campaign elements and pitch materials, like our new website
  • Engaging life science companies, organizations, and institutions already in DFW to identify corporate location opportunities
  • Research to identify and contact life science companies located elsewhere but likely to be interested in our region
  • Traveling to meet with those companies, and hosting them in DFW
  • Meeting with key life science site location consultants, media, academics, and other influencers
  • Attending significant national and regional life science events like BIO 2023, and leading DFW’s contingent

We are confident this is work worth doing, the time is right, and the Dallas Region can rise to the top ranks as a location for life sciences.

To celebrate Women’s History Month and the women of the Dallas Region business community, the Dallas Regional Chamber caught up with Nancy Avila, Executive Vice President and Chief Information and Technology Officer for McKesson Corporation, to get her perspective on challenges facing women in business and the things she wants them to know.

Nancy Avila, Executive Vice President and Chief Information and Technology Officer

In 2022, Avila was named CIO/CTO of the Year by D Magazine and recognized for the third consecutive year as one of the top 100 most influential Hispanic leaders in technology by the Hispanic IT Executive Council. She is a member of the DRC’s Board of Directors and is set to serve as the 2024 Board Chair after officially being announced at the DRC’s 2023 Annual Meeting.

What female figures have had the biggest influence on your life? Why do you look up to them?

I draw inspiration from many female leaders, such as Mother Teresa, Amelia Earhart, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Each of these inspiring women embodied a remarkable degree of courage and strength in their respective fields. Mother Teresa is renowned for her selfless philanthropy in helping those most in need throughout the world. Amelia Earhart was a remarkable aviator who made history by being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Laura Ingalls Wilder was a groundbreaking author whose stories about life growing up on the American frontier have become timeless pieces of children’s literature.

What are the biggest challenges facing women today, and what can employers do to help their female leaders excel professionally?

Women continue to face challenges such as wage gaps, unconscious bias, and the lack of mentors or sponsors that make it difficult for them to advance professionally. To overcome these issues and create a more equitable workplace, employers must lead with culture and implement policies that promote gender equality and ensure equal pay for equal work. Moreover, employers should consider developing sponsorship programs and creating opportunities for women to take on leadership roles in major projects or initiatives. By taking these steps, employers can empower their female leaders and give them the chance to thrive in the workplace.

What is the one piece of advice you wish you received before you started your career? Do you use this advice in mentoring others?

The best advice I ever received was to be yourself and stay true to who you are. It’s essential to take ownership of your strengths, skills, and experiences and not be afraid to show them off. This will give you the confidence to push through any obstacles or criticism you may face and help you to stay true to yourself while achieving success. I also strongly believe in this message and have shared it with many of the people I mentor—encouraging them to be their own unique selves and remain determined in pursuing their goals.

If you could write your autobiography, what would its title be, and why?

The title of my autobiography would be “Show Up and Never Give Up.” This title encapsulates my personal journey of resilience, determination, and courage. I showed up no matter how hard it got and kept going and believing in myself. I chose this title to serve as a reminder for everyone to always keep pushing forward and never throw in the towel on their ambitions.

By Michael Wood, Managing Director for Education & Workforce

There is no shortage of indicators illustrating Texas’ national and global economic prowess. The state boasts the ninth-largest economy in the world by gross domestic product – just ahead of Canada – and continues to lead all states in job creation. In fact, 25% of all new jobs created in the U.S. last year were created in Texas.

Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Harrison Keller spoke to a room of Dallas Region business and education leaders at the Dallas Region Chamber’s 2023 State of Higher Education Friday, Feb. 10, at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. Keller said the long-term challenge for the state is not the number of new jobs, but rather the quality of those jobs and the state’s ability to fill them.

According to Keller, more than 60% of all jobs in Texas will require some type of training beyond a high school diploma by 2030. Today, just 48% of Texans ages 25-64 have a postsecondary degree of any kind. This gap between the credentials required by jobs and the credentials Texans have has already resulted in more than one million unfilled jobs throughout the state as employers struggle to find applicants with the appropriate qualifications.

Keller views the ongoing Texas legislative session as a historic opportunity to accelerate progress in higher education attainment, due in no small part to an unprecedented budget surplus of nearly $33 billion.

“For higher education and the legislature, it’s a huge opportunity,” said Commissioner Keller. “This is one-time, once-in-a-generation… That means we’ve got to be smart about where we make strategic investments.”

Three items top Keller’s wish list for the 88th Texas Legislature: investments in affordability and access for students, an overhaul of the state’s community college funding model, and expanded capacity for research and development.

Central to equipping more Texans with credentials or degrees is ensuring that postsecondary education is accessible and affordable. However, rising costs of attendance have challenged the value proposition of higher education.

In addition to expanding access to state financial aid programs, Keller emphasized the importance of advising to help students understand their options for paying for their education and avoid taking on unreasonable debt.

Locally, the University of North Texas (UNT) has developed several initiatives, from an award-winning money management program to earlier and more intentional career advising, to reduce the cost burden on students.

“What we are trying to do is to make sure [UNT] is affordable in as many dimensions as possible while giving back high-value credentials,” said Dr. Neal Smatresk, President of UNT. “Even with inflation roaring as it has been, we’ve reduced the average debt of our students by a couple thousand bucks over the past three years and we’ve decreased the number of students who have debt by about 10%.”

Outside of four-year universities, a key option for students seeking an affordable postsecondary education is their local community college.

In December 2022, the Texas Commission on Community College Finance published several recommendations to overhaul the state funding formula for community colleges. Of note, the Commission suggested Texas shift to an outcomes-focused model to incentivize innovative programs that help students swiftly complete a degree or transfer to a four-year university.

The recommendations have received broad support thus far, including $650 million in earmarked funding in the initial House and Senate budget proposals.

“It’s a generational opportunity that you have all of the community colleges as well as the business community aligned together to really make a significant impact,” said Belen Garren, Region Manager of Middle Market Banking at JPMorgan Chase. “From a business community standpoint, there’s a significant need [to invest in our local talent].”

Lastly, Commissioner Keller hopes to see the legislature support the research capacity of so-called emerging research institutions in the state. Lawmakers have expressed support for a new endowment, allocating $2.5 billion in both initial budget proposals, that would provide a significant, one-time investment in the research capabilities of the University of Houston, Texas Tech University, and, locally, UNT.

During the event, the DRC released a new edition of its Dallas-Fort Worth Higher Education Review. The magazine tells the story of DFW’s strong higher education ecosystem and the 70-plus institutions that contribute to DFW’s status as the intellectual capital of Texas.

The State of Higher Education was presented by McCownGordon Construction. The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum was the Venue Sponsor. Oncor and the University of Texas at Arlington were Silver Sponsors.

By Kelly Cloud, Vice President of Economic Development - Life Sciences

When presented with the opportunity to join the No. 1 chamber in the country and scale my passion for growing life sciences in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) region, I could not pass it up. We have a diverse life science ecosystem in Texas. People know bits and pieces of what DFW has to offer, and the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) is here to share opportunities you may not realize exist. I serve as the first point of contact, introducing medium and large companies to key players and educating them on opportunities they may not be aware of.

DFW has consistently been at the top of the list of great places to do business. Since joining the DRC, I’ve been delighted to learn that:

  • DFW makes up approximately one-quarter of the state’s population but contributes one-third of the Texas gross domestic product – roughly $535 billion dollars.
  • If DFW was a state, it would rank 12th for GDP – right between North Carolina and Washington.
  • Between March 2019 and March 2022, DFW outpaced Atlanta and Phoenix combined for job growth.

There is much success for us to build on. My goal is to recruit life science companies to the Dallas Region by helping them see how they and their people can thrive here. To do that, I am fusing all that I know about the Dallas Region’s ecosystem with my experience guiding companies through relocation and expansions in commercial real estate, development, and construction.

The Dallas Region has consistently proven itself as a destination for businesses over the past decade, with over 220 corporate headquarter relocations to North Texas. Organizations need to keep looking to the future to evolve and meet customers where they want to be, meaning areas with industry diversity will be ahead of the curve.

Already a leader in AI/ML, big data, IoT, logistics, software, and gaming, DFW is now poised to supercharge the life science industry. To showcase our unique position and advantages, the DRC just launched the DFW life science economic development guide website. Companies considering a move or expansion in the Dallas Region will find this to be a particularly helpful resource – especially when comparing high-cost areas like Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

The Dallas Region is a story of convergence across industries, and it is the cumulative effect of that convergence that sets DFW apart. Our momentum in life science and biotech can be seen in current projects like Pegasus Park, which includes BioLabs’ state-of-the-art co-working wet lab space, 18-story office tower, and recently announced Bridge Labs. There are also exciting, future projects on the horizon with TxS in Plano, Texas A&M’s new research and innovation campus in Fort Worth, and more.

DFW is also the intellectual capital of Texas, home to over 15 major universities, seven community colleges, and a growing roster of healthcare and biotech facilities. Plus, the DFW-based Texas Research Alliance serves as connective tissue between industry and academic institutions.

DFW also offers a high level of access and physical connectivity with:

Best of all? We still have room to build. We have a history of successful corporate real estate projects, and the ability to attract diverse companies and employees, which appeals to investors. Life moves fast – life science needs to move faster. When your work has global consequences, impacting millions of lives, you want to be in a collaborative environment that can accelerate advances for the greater good. How can the Dallas Region have a positive impact on your life, science, and business? Reach out to me, and I look forward to guiding you through the possibilities.

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) released its inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Benchmark Report at its State of DEI in Sept. 2022. The report highlights DEI-related areas in which member companies are doing well and areas of opportunity for action to improve their efforts.

The report shows that 60% of the businesses surveyed said they recruited from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), or both. DRC member Grant Thornton’s Train the Trainer Career Readiness (TTCR) program is a shining example of the value of investing in the development of a diverse, career-ready workforce.

The TTCR program was created in 2021 through a collaboration between Grant Thornton, American Express, and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. It is designed to foster professional preparation skills and resources at HBCUs to help ensure Black students are equipped to thrive in internships and full-time positions in corporate America.

Within two years of the TTCR program’s establishment, more than 500,000 Black students from over 40 qualifying schools are benefiting from this work, and Grant Thornton is already seeing the benefits.

“One of the many great results from our work so far is that many teachers and staff are now able to help their students better prepare for interviews,” said Pat Andrews-Osula, Managing Director of Grant Thornton’s Dallas Audit practice. “We’ve also seen an influx of applicants from HBCUs at Grant Thornton and other organizations, as well as more job offers to HBCU students.”

Interest from universities in the TTCR program is growing; Grant Thornton initially started with a goal of building intentional partnerships with just seven HBCUs but has since added 20 HBCUs and HSIs to the list of focus schools for the 2023 fiscal year.

Businesses have tried similar programs before to help build up and hire from the vast HBCU talent pool, but according to Andrews-Osula, Grant Thornton is taking a different approach by going into the communities and investing time, talent, and other resources in those communities. They are working with students to help them become the accountants of tomorrow, while also teaching professors and staff to help support the students with their needs.

Andrews-Osula says other companies can help support HBCUs by establishing close relationships with a college or university to better understand the needs of their students and where they can help make an impact.

Andrews-Osula also recommends companies look to the DRC DEI Benchmark Report to understand where they stand in supplier diversity or hiring and recruiting from HBCUs to help identify areas for improvement. She says these types of reports are important because every organization needs a strategy that builds, manages, measures, and monitors effective DEI programs—programs that have tangible impacts for an organization and its people. The DRC’s DEI Benchmark Report serves as a baseline that organizations can use to measure or monitor the progress of their DEI programs and the impact they are having within their organizations and external communities.

“Today’s global business economy requires employers to make DEI both a priority and an integral part of their organization’s strategy,” said Andrews-Osula. “Committing to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment isn’t just the right business move; it’s the right thing to do, period.”

With Women’s History Month, Fair Housing Month, and more, March and April bring with them numerous opportunities to celebrate diversity, equity, and inclusion and engage in conversations that expand our perspectives and enact change. The Dallas Regional Chamber has compiled resources and events to help you commemorate, learn about, and engage in these commemorative and symbolic holidays.

March: Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month is an annual celebration of the contributions women have made over the course of American history. Women’s History Month began as a celebration of Women’s History Week in 1978 before Congress passed a law in 1987, making March the official month to commemorate the vital role of women in the U.S. Since 1995, presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as “Women’s History Month.”

In addition to Women’s History Month, the United Nations celebrates International Women’s Day annually on March 8. This began as a regional celebration in 1911 and was officially adopted by the U.N. in 1975. International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.  Learn more about International Women’s Day at International Women’s Day 2023.

Read, Watch, and Listen:


March 15: Equal Pay Day

Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the new year women must work to be paid what men were paid the previous year. Equal Pay Day for all women should be Dec. 31, but it’s not. This year, Equal Pay Day is March 15. Started by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996, the goal of Equal Pay Day is to raise awareness about the gender wage gap. Despite the efforts of the Equal Pay Act to eliminate pay discrimination, the wage gap remains. Currently, women still earn 83 cents for every dollar that men earn. That gap increases to 58 cents for Black women and 54 cents for Latinas.


April: National Fair Housing Month

April is recognized as National Fair Housing Month to commemorate the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, disability, or family status. Prior to the passage of the act, redlining of neighborhoods contributed to housing segregation, food deserts, and opportunity gaps in wealth, school, and health for groups deemed to be off-limits for issuing mortgages. Despite the legislation, which is an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination can still be found in certain communities for buyers and renters.  Learn more about National Fair Housing Month and the Fair Housing Act.

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Crown Laboratories (Crown) President and CEO Jeff Bedard tells us about the fully integrated global skin care company that is committed to providing scientific solutions for life-long healthy skin. By collaborating with industry experts, academia, and its customers, Crown develops and provides a diverse portfolio of cutting-edge skin care products.

Jeff Bedard, President & CEO

How does your company help other businesses become more effective?

Focusing specifically on our Dallas-based Crown Aesthetics business unit, our aesthetics portfolio is comprised of ideal “gateway” products that draw new consumers to aesthetics practices. By offering this range of best-in-class skin care solutions, our practices satisfy their loyal patient base because our solutions actually work. Through constant innovation, we bring novel products that are backed by science to market, which adds credibility to the product, to Crown, and to our customers.

What differentiates your company from others in your industry?

Our commitment to technology, education, and delivering A+ customer service has always been our mantra. Our technology is rooted in science, we offer a superior education program, and our customer service is unmatched.  We partner with our practices, and we are committed to their success. Our customers know they can depend upon us to make their patients happy and their practice successful.

What do you enjoy most about doing business in the Dallas Region?

The talent in the Dallas Region is incredible – our employees are passionate about driving growth and building a great culture rooted in Dallas. We are also able to recruit top talent from the local universities. Our team enjoys being in the heart of the City of Dallas, where we enjoy holding team-building events at local restaurants and spaces.

Why did you decide to become a DRC member?

The DRC provides us with an opportunity to become more involved in the community. As a global organization, it is important that Crown supports the economic development and policy formation that affect our people. Developing the people within our community so that they are prepared to enter the workforce and grow within their careers is important to Crown. The DRC allows us to have a seat at the table and to influence change. We all have a responsibility to protect the health of our future, and our DRC relationship is going to give us a platform to do just that.

How has your business changed in the past five years?

For more than 15 years, Crown was primarily focused on its Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen franchise. From the start, we knew that to best serve our customers, it would be in our best interest to become fully integrated and have sole responsibility for the entire operation. With that investment came some steep challenges. In 2017, Crown was acquired by a private equity firm and at the time had roughly 125 employees. Since then, our business has completely transformed into what it is today – a global skin care company with a diverse portfolio of aesthetic, premium, and therapeutic skin care products. Today, we employ over 600 people around the globe. Our products boast incredible accolades:

      • SkinPen is the first FDA-cleared microneedling device in the world.
      • PanOxyl is the No. 1 best-selling acne wash in the U.S.
      • Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen’s Baby Formula is the No. 1 pediatrician-recommended sunscreen brand.
      • Sarna Lotion is the No. 1 dermatologist-recommended topical anti-itch brand.
      • StriVectin was one of the fastest-growing brands in prestige skin care in 2022 and is growing quickly at Specialty Retailers, like Ulta.

We are an innovative company focused on skin science for life. Our unyielding pursuit of delivering therapeutic excellence and enhanced patient outcomes is why we have become a leader in Dermatology and Aesthetics. We have been listed on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies List for nine years and have expanded our distribution to over 41 countries.

Effort capitalizes on convergence in the region as a market of choice for industries of the future

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC), one of the largest business organizations in the nation, today announced a new economic development campaign to actively expand its focus on recruiting more companies and jobs in the life science and biotech industry to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW).

The campaign, funded in part by NT Biotech, Inc., an affiliate of Lyda Hill Philanthropies, seeks to build on momentum across the region in the growing biotech and life science sectors, capitalizing on the region’s existing competitive advantages in sectors like artificial intelligence, big data, and software development.

Convergence jobs—a combination of high-tech and life science jobs—are rapidly growing in the region to meet increased industry demand. DFW now ranks seventh in the U.S. for life science and biotech jobs (90,000) and is first in Texas and fourth in the country for the most computer, mathematical, and engineering tech jobs (225,000). In 2022, DFW added more high-tech jobs than any other region.

“This is a moment in time of true industry convergence, right now and right in our backyard,” said Dale Petroskey, President and CEO of the DRC. “From our highly skilled workforce and industrial infrastructure to our central location and low cost of doing business, our region today has become a hub for these industries of tomorrow, and that’s very exciting.”

To support the new effort, the DRC has released a new Life Science and Biotech Economic Development Guide and a research and data-driven website. The DRC will also launch a multimedia marketing campaign in key biotech and life science markets, including Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

The DRC has brought aboard Kelly Cloud as Vice President of Economic Development, Life Sciences to coordinate the outreach. In this newly established role, Cloud will collaborate with local, regional, and state economic development partners; the regional and state life sciences ecosystem; DRC member organizations; and community leaders to recruit and expand the presence of life science and biotech companies.

Spanning 11 counties, DFW is the fastest-growing metro area in the U.S., with a population of nearly 8 million and 24 Fortune 500 companies. DFW has averaged more than 100,000 new jobs per year since 2013, with the exception of 2020. Recent sector locations and expansions in the region include Evolve BioLogics’ new pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Sachse; Verily’s (formerly Google Life Sciences) new offices in Dallas’ Cypress Waters; and BioLabs’ new offices at Pegasus Park in Dallas, its first location in the middle of the country. Construction has also begun on a 100,000-square-foot building in Fort Worth that will house the newest medical school in the state, the TCU Burnett School of Medicine. Also under construction is the Texas Instruments Biomedical Engineering and Science Building, a partnership bringing together the biomedical engineering programs of UT Southwestern Medical Center and UT Dallas.

DFW has earned its distinction as the Intellectual Capital of Texas. More than 70 accredited universities and colleges cover the DFW landscape. The University of North Texas at Denton, the University of Texas at Dallas, and the University of Texas at Arlington are among Texas’ eight emerging research universities. UT Southwestern Medical Center, meanwhile, is among the nation’s best in biology and biochemistry research, boasting countless clinical breakthroughs and innovations and four Nobel Prize winners among its faculty. The region produced about 2,800 graduates with biological and biomedical sciences degrees in 2021—and about 4,600 degrees in computer and information sciences.

“The building blocks are in place to leverage the growing workforce and incredible intellectual capital in our region to attract more life science and biotech companies to Dallas-Fort Worth,” said Tom Luce, CEO of Biotech Initiatives at Lyda Hill Philanthropies. “The DRC has been a key driver of the region’s economic success for more than 10 years, and we are looking forward to partnering in this effort to grow and expand this important ecosystem in North Texas.”

The DRC’s economic development team, under the direction of Senior Vice President Mike Rosa, will be actively targeting companies in key markets around the country for meetings and site visits, and serve as a resource for research and data to highlight the opportunities for long-term, sustainable growth in DFW.

“As the life science and biotech industry continues to evolve and thrive, more companies are recognizing the convergence of the unique assets Dallas-Fort Worth has,” said Nancy Avila, Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer at McKesson and the 2024 Chair of the DRC Board of Directors. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. The life science and biotech industry is only going to accelerate, and Dallas-Fort Worth will be considered a market of choice for decades to come.”

Visit the website for additional information about the DRC’s Life Science and Biotech Economic Development Guide and plans for growth.

As part of its celebration of Black History Month, the Dallas Regional Chamber caught up with Tre’ Black, President and CEO of On-Target Supplies & Logistics, to ask about major influences on his life and diversity, equity, and inclusion in business.

Since taking over as president and CEO in 2018, Black has led Dallas-based On-Target Supplies & Logistics to record employment count. Black also leads the acquisition and management of the company’s real estate and private investments through a related entity, TreCo Investments. Black serves on the DRC Board of Directors and co-chairs the DRC’s Education & Workforce Advisory Council.

Are there any African American figures that have had a major influence on your life? Who are they, and why do you look up to them?

Ron Kirk, the first African American Mayor of Dallas. He had a unique style and ability to make people feel good about his leadership, while also being an advocate for business and economic inclusion. He laid the foundation for so many current leaders and economic developments that we enjoy today. Mr. Kirk also has a powerhouse wife and two girls (now adults). I’ve always admired his commitment to family.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the current generation of African American leaders?

Being an advocate for each other without seeking personal gain in return.

As a business leader, how do you have effective conversations on race?

By initially being an empathetic provider of historic literature that speaks to the current environment. Race conversations are difficult but can lead to greater understanding and constructive future community impact.

What would you want future generations of African Americans to know, especially when it comes to building a successful career?

Faith, family, and humility take you far. Develop and listen to true mentors because experience matters!

As part of its celebration of Black History Month, the Dallas Regional Chamber caught up with Hattie Hill, President and CEO of the T.D. Jakes Foundation, to get her perspective on developing Black leaders and diversity, equity, and inclusion in business.

Hill, who also serves on the DRC Board of Directors, has spent more than three decades developing successful global diversity, inclusion, and gender equity strategies that drive culture change and create inclusive environments for corporations, nonprofit organizations, and foundations across 70 countries, including IBM, Southwest Airlines, and McDonald’s. The T.D. Jakes Foundation is a workforce development and community-building foundation that is committed to building bridges to opportunity in the United States and around the world.

Are there any African American figures that have had a major influence on your life? Who are they and why do you look up to them?

Maya Angelou has been a major influence on my life. She was from a small town in Arkansas, just like I am. I first heard about her from my English teacher in 1973. From then on, I followed her in admiration of her courage in breaking barriers as a Black woman and becoming such a profound and important voice in American literature and culture. Her 1978 poem, “Still I Rise,” has been an emblem for so much of my own experience and that of so many women of color: we overcome enormous obstacles and “Still I (we) Rise.” I had the privilege of attending the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton, another leader from Arkansas, where Maya Angelou was the first African American woman to read a poem at a President’s Inauguration. “On The Pulse of Morning” left me mesmerized. Later, in March 2014, when I was CEO of the Women’s Foodservice Forum, Ms. Angelou was the keynote speaker, via video, for our 25th Anniversary celebration. It was her last speech; she passed away on May 28 of that year. From high school to today, I remain inspired by Maya Angelou – her voice, her influence, and her example of a life well lived.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the current generation of African American leaders?

Our greatest challenge as African American leaders is to recognize that we cannot just focus on some of us – the ones who have “made it” to levels of power and position. We have to focus on all of us. We have a responsibility to support and speak for the un-championed communities – and to demonstrate how sharing power, privilege, and resources makes us all better off, not only African Americans, but all Americans. We are truly better together.

As a business leader, how do you have effective conversations on race?

For me, being in the diversity, equity, and inclusion business for 35 years through my own company, and now representing one of the most high-profile Black leaders in the world, I have one clear truth to offer: We have to be willing to start at neutral. Everyone is so busy taking sides, and there is some truth to be found on every side. So, we have to leave our sides behind and come to the table starting at neutral. We have to listen and not let our filters – our backgrounds, our different experiences – get in the way. If we want to make a different world, an inclusive world of shared opportunity, we have to come to the table, start at neutral, listen, and work together toward solutions.

What would you want future generations of African Americans to know, especially when it comes to building a successful career?

One of the primary reasons I joined Chairman T.D. Jakes to stand up the T.D. Jakes Foundation was the underlying commitment to break down systemic barriers that perpetuate disparities and to build bridges to life-changing opportunities for African Americans and every underrepresented group in our society. The areas of greatest opportunity for success are careers in the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) fields, and these industries – particularly technology and high-tech industries – are among the least diverse in the U.S. and globally. We are working to change that by exposing young people of color to the many dimensions of careers in STEAM and supporting them in their pursuit of opportunities in the 21st-century workforce.

The DRC has compiled resources and local events to help you commemorate, learn about, and engage with Black History Month.

By Matthew Berger, Director of Communications

Business leaders of the Dallas Region got an inside look at the Texas Rangers’ upcoming season and General Manager Chris Young’s leadership strategy Tuesday, Jan. 25, at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Q1 Executive Circle event, presented by McKesson, at Globe Life Field.

In conversation with Chuck Morgan, the Rangers’ Executive Vice President of Ballpark Entertainment, Promotions, and Production, Young detailed the changes made to the team’s roster and front office and his efforts to rebuild the organization’s farm system and talent pipeline in the two years since he assumed his role. His ultimate goal? Bring a World Series championship title to Arlington.

“I am always forward thinking and looking at what we need to accomplish,” Young said. “There is not a more fulfilling feeling for me, a lifelong Texas Rangers fan, than to help the team win. We need to win a world championship and that is the goal. I promise you we are working toward that goal every day.”

A championship team requires strong leadership, something Young says comes down to just doing the best you can every day.

“Ultimately what leadership is creating an environment for people around me to be the best versions of themselves,” Young said. “It starts by hiring good people and surrounding yourself with good people. I want people who are smarter than me and challenge me to be better every day.”

In line with this philosophy, Young has added proven champions Bruce Bochy and Dayton Moore to the Rangers’ leadership team. New team manager Bochy is a three-time World Series-winning manager, and Moore, who’s serving the Rangers as a senior advisor, built the Kansas City Royals team that made back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014-2015. Young was on the pitching staff in 2015 when the Royals won it all.

On the field, Young added players like shortstops Corey Seager and Marcus Semien last offseason and landed the biggest pitching free agent in Rangers history, Jacob deGrom, in December.

“I can’t wait for fans to see [deGrom] opening day and for the next five years,” Young said.

McKesson’s Mike Garcia, Senior Vice President of Technology Strategy and Portfolio, introduced Young and Morgan following a brief of the work McKesson does. Garcia highlighted how McKesson uses data in every form to better optimize their current capabilities while driving foundational changes that will promote changes in health care. McKesson is the series sponsor for the 2023 Executive Circle events.

The DRC hosts hundreds of events each year. Make plans to join us for more dynamic programming.

By Matthew Berger, Director of Communications 

Since purchasing the Dallas Mavericks in 2001, Mark Cuban has accrued many titles: owner, CEO, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and disrupter. The latter is one of the titles of which he is most proud, Cuban said at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s 2023 Annual Meeting, presented by Texas Instruments, on Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the AT&T Performing Arts Center Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House.  

During his career, Cuban has disrupted in many industries, forcing them to reevaluate the way things have been done and make changes for the better. In 2022, Cuban zeroed in on the pharmaceutical industry when he launched one of the only companies he has ever attached to his name: Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co. The company sells drugs at a flat 15% markup with a $3 pharmacist fee and a $5 fee for shipping. 

“Sometimes disruption is just about simplifying,” Cuban said in conversation with Emily Ramshaw, Co-Founder and CEO of The 19th*. “The pharmaceutical industry has just morphed into a very complicated industry.”  

Cuban enlisted the help of Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks and DRC Board member, to compile a list of medications the team has purchased over the past season. The total cost for the team was $165,000. The same prescriptions on Cost Plus Drug Co. would have cost the team just $19,000. 

When Ramshaw asked how he can bring this to Washington, D.C., and change the current structure of the pharmaceutical industry, Cuban said he will let his business do the talking. 

“The best way to teach politicians how to do things is by growing a business because that’s the one thing they pay attention to,” he said. “They see where the money is, they see where the checkbooks are, and they figure out what’s working and what’s not.” 

During the keynote conversation, Cuban also shared a key portion of his vision for growth in the Dallas Region: taking care of citizens and talent already here. He believes the education and the wellbeing of underserved youth in the region is the key to the city’s future.  

“I think being prepared to deal with making our weakest, youngest citizens better students, better fed, healthier, will pay off huge dividends for the city of Dallas in the long term,” Cuban said. 

The capacity crowd also heard Bob Pragada, CEO of Jacobs and 2022 DRC Board Chair, celebrate the DRC’s recent designation as National Chamber of the Year and reflect on the DRC’s progress on its 2022 priorities, which included an intense focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

“I’m most proud of the work the DRC has done to bring real financial investment to under-championed communities,” Pragada said, giving a shout out to Latosha Herron Bruff, Senior Vice President of Inclusion and Community Engagement. “[Bruff] led business leaders on 12 vision tours last year, highlighting the challenges and opportunities in Southern Dallas County. As a result of those tours, more than $4 million has been invested in that area—not as charity, but as business investments.” 

The Annual Meeting also kicked off the official start of Rafael Lizardi’s one-year term as 2023 Board Chair. Lizardi, Chief Financial Officer for Texas Instruments, took the opportunity to share his priorities for the forthcoming year, notably the 88th Texas Legislature. 

“We all know that Dallas is a great place to live, work, and do business, but smart, long-term investments are required to keep our business climate and quality of life strong and globally competitive,” Lizardi said. “The legislature is in session this year and has a historic surplus—over $30 billion. We encourage our elected officials to use some of that surplus and make smart, long-term investments in infrastructure and human capital.” 

Lizardi also announced that Nancy Avila, Executive Vice President and Chief Information and Technology Officer for McKesson, will be the 2024 Board Chair. 

The DRC shared its 2023 Annual Report, recapping and sharing the impact of our work over the past year. Read the report here.

The DRC hosts hundreds of events each year. Make plans to join us again for more dynamic programming. 

The 2023 Annual Meeting was presented Texas Instruments. Speaker Sponsor was Axxess. Platinum sponsors were American Airlines; Thomson Reuters; and Wells Fargo. VIP Sponsor was KPMG and Happy Hour was sponsored by PwC. Gold sponsors were Deloitte and Ernst & Young LLP. Silver sponsors were American Airlines Center; FORVIS; Haynes and Boone, LLP; The Men and Women of Hunt Consolidated, Inc.; Oncor; Santander; Southwest Airlines; and Toyota Motor of North America. Bronze sponsors were Amazon; Amegy Bank; Arcosa; Bank of America; Bridgepointe Technologies; DFW International Airport; Fifth Third Bank; Grant Thornton, LLP; Hillwood, a Perot Company; HUB International Texas; Locke Lord LLP; NEC Corporation of America; Texas Mutual Insurance Company; and The University of Texas at Arlington. 

With the new year underway, all eyes are on the Texas Legislature and their plans for a historic budget surplus – roughly $33 billion – during the 88th Legislative Session.

One significant investment opportunity for lawmakers comes from the Texas Commission on Community College Finance, a body created by the 87th Texas Legislature to study the state’s funding model for its community college institutions. The Commission published its final report in December, including recommendations for consideration by the 2023 legislature to reform the way in which Texas’ community colleges are financed.

Community colleges are a significant driver of higher education in Texas, comprising 47% of the state’s postsecondary enrollment, more than any other type of institution. Despite a substantial increase in the number of credentials and degrees awarded by Texas’ community colleges – up nearly 350% between 2000 and 2019 – state funding for these institutions has steadily declined since 1980.

The Commission’s recommendations, then, represent a meaningful opportunity to invest and reform these critical institutions. The proposals in the final report focus on three key areas: state funding for outcomes, affordability for students, and investments in community college capacity.

State Funding for Outcomes

The first set of recommendations would shift the current, input-based funding system to a dynamic funding model based on measurable community college outcomes aligned with regional and statewide workforce needs. Presently, nearly 79% of state funding for community colleges in Texas is tied to student enrollment and course load. Just 17% of community college funding from the state is driven by achievement of academic of workforce outcomes.

Instead, the Commission proposes a funding model that would rebalance this distribution and primarily fund institutions based on the number of students that attain a credential of value, successfully transfer to a four-year university, or complete a sequence of dual-credit courses while in high school. This model, as devised by the Commission, would also recognize and provide funding to cover the additional costs of serving economically and academically disadvantaged students and adult learners.

Affordability for Students

The Commission also recommends investing significantly in affordability for students by ensuring at least 70% of eligible students receive a Texas Educational Opportunity Grant, the state’s principal need-based aid program for community college students. Currently, due to limited dedicated funding, less than 3 out of 10 students who should receive assistance from this program actually receive it. Further, the Commission proposes enhancing financial aid to standardize access to high-school-based dual credit programs throughout the state as well as expand partnerships that provide paid work-based learning opportunities for community college students.

Investments in College Capacity

Lastly, the Commission recommends directing state resources to assist community colleges in standing up training pathways in high-demand fields to meet regional and state workforce needs, with priority given to programs developed in collaboration with employers. The Commission also suggests leveraging the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to facilitate shared services partnerships between community college institutions.

Next Steps

Dr. Harrison Keller, Texas’ Commissioner of Higher Education, estimates that full implementation of the Commission’s recommendations would require approximately $650 million in new funding from the state for the upcoming biennium.

“Ultimately, every additional dollar Texas invests in our community colleges can translate into greater opportunities across the state and a higher-performing workforce that will draw new investments and jobs,” the report states. “Strategic investments in community college outcomes, affordability, and capacity will secure our state’s leadership in higher education and workforce development – and elevate Texas families and employers for decades to come.”

Next, the Commission’s recommendations will be drafted into legislation for formal consideration by the Texas Legislature. The 88th Texas Legislative Session began on Tuesday, Jan. 10, and will conclude on Monday, May 29.

For more detail on the Commission’s recommendations or to learn more about opportunities to advocate for these recommendations during the state session, please contact Michael Wood, Managing Director of Education & Workforce, at

Rafael Lizardi, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Texas Instruments (TI) today began his one-year term as 2023 Board Chair of the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) at the DRC’s 2023 Annual Meeting at the AT&T Performing Arts Center Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House.

Lizardi will preside over the DRC’s efforts to help ensure the continued growth of the region’s economy and help drive the DRC’s public policy agenda for the upcoming Texas Legislative session.

Lizardi joined TI in 2001 and was named Vice President in 2010. He was promoted to Corporate Controller in 2012 before assuming the role of CFO in 2017. Lizardi has sat on the DRC Board of Directors since 2018.

“For several years now as a Board member, I’ve had a front row seat watching the DRC in action, championing economic growth and development across the region, helping our kids get a good education, creating a more equitable society, and advocating for public policy proposals to keep our business climate strong, open, and welcoming,” Lizardi said. “As we prepare for a new Texas Legislative session, the DRC will encourage our elected officials to take advantage of our state’s budget surplus to make smart, long-term investments in our region’s infrastructure and human capital. These priorities will strengthen our region and set us up for an even better tomorrow.”

Lizardi earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from The U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University. Prior to joining TI, Lizardi was a captain in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He also holds the designation of Certified Management Accountant.

Lizardi succeeds Bob Pragada, who will remain a member of the DRC Board and Executive Committee. During Pragada’s tenure, the DRC was named National Chamber of the Year by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

“I’m proud of the DRC’s unyielding commitment to bringing a future filled with hope for everyone who lives and works in the region,” said Pragada. “The DRC team works hard every day to expand the economic, educational, and job opportunities for all – including becoming the fastest-growing market in the U.S. for high-tech jobs, the expansion of Dallas Thrives to invest in our future workers, and the launch of the Southern Dallas County Economic Development initiative. And I know that under Rafael’s leadership, the DRC will only build on this record of success.”

The DRC announced today that Nancy Avila, Executive Vice President and Chief Information and Technology Officer for McKesson Corporation, has been elected by the Board to serve as 2024 DRC Chair.

“The Dallas Regional Chamber has earned its reputation as the best in the nation by being a different kind of chamber,” Avila said. “I look forward to working closely with Rafael, my Board colleagues, and CEO Dale Petroskey and his team to make the Dallas Region the best place in the United States to live, work, and do business.”

To view a complete list of 2023 DRC Board members, please click here.

For more information about the DRC’s 2023 Annual Meeting, please click here.

About the Dallas Regional Chamber

Named as the National Chamber of the Year in July 2022, the Dallas Regional Chamber is one of America’s most established business organizations and serves as the voice of business and the champion of economic development and growth in the Dallas Region. We work with our member companies and regional partners to strengthen our business community by advocating for pro-growth public policies, improving our educational system, attracting talented workers from around the world, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, and enhancing the quality of life for all. Our goal is to make the Dallas Region the best place in the United States for all people to live, work, and do business. For more information visit

About McKesson

Headquartered in North Texas, McKesson is a diversified healthcare leader that touches virtually every aspect of health by delivering insights, products and services that make quality care more accessible and affordable.

Commemorate, learn about, and engage in upcoming diverse and cultural holidays through the resources and local events below.

Jan. 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, observed on the third month of January, marks the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., honoring his achievements and work to resist racial segregation. He was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination in public accommodations, facilities, and employment, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The holiday promotes equal rights for all Americans, is marked by education about the work of Martin Luther King, and the struggle against racial segregation and racism, as well as community service.


Jan. 27: International Holocaust Remembrance Day

International Holocaust Remembrance Day pays tribute to the memory of the six million Jewish and five million non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust, reaffirming commitment to counter antisemitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance that may lead to group-targeted violence. Designated by the United Nations General Assembly, the date marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops on Jan. 27, 1945.

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February: Black History Month

Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. During this month, we reflect on more than 400 years of Black history in the U.S. and pay tribute to the generations of African American people who struggled through adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society. Below are resources to help you better understand Black history and celebrate the achievements.

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