Panelists Natalie Boyle, Rep. Angie Chen Button, Tori Mannes, and Jaynie Schultz

By Catie George, Manager, Communications and Storytelling

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) hosted its biannual State of Early Education, presented by PNC Bank, Thursday, Feb. 15, to explore the economic importance of early education and child care.

“When we talk about companies looking to move here or companies that are here, what they’re looking for is talent… and talent starts with early education,” said DRC President and CEO Dale Petroskey. “That’s why we work so hard to advocate for early education here—it’s the building block we all get started on.”

Amber Scanlan, Senior Vice President and Director of Client & Community Relations at PNC Bank, set the stage for the keynote conversation by detailing the benefits of investing in children’s education before they reach five years old.

Amber Scanlan of PNC Bank

”[The investment] shows up in their third-grade reading scores, their ability to transition from learning to read to reading to learn; it shows up in high school graduation rates; it shows up in matriculation of college; it shows up in their ability to go and earn a living wage, be a good taxpayer, and also has opportunities to help bring people out of generational poverty,” Scanlan said.

President & CEO of ChildCareGroup Tori Mannes sees the funding structure for child care providers as a critical barrier preventing children from reaping the benefits of early education.

“As it exists now, 85% of the cost of child care is paid by parents through private tuition, and parents are maxed out,” said Mannes. “The cost of living has gone up, wages have not kept pace with inflation, and parents simply can’t afford care.”

Left to right: Rep. Angie Chen Button, Tori Mannes, DRC President & CEO Dale Petroskey, Amber Scanlan, Jarrad Toussant, Jaynie Schultz, and Natalie Boyle

In the November 2023 election, Texas voters passed a proposition allowing local governments to offer qualifying child care facilities property tax exemptions to offset some of their operational expenses, which can, in turn, support lower costs for parents and caregivers. The DRC supported the passage of the proposition with its Good for Texans campaign. However, it’s up to local municipalities to implement the tax break. The Cities of Dallas and Denton are the only ones in the Dallas Region to do so thus far.

Dallas City Councilmember Jaynie Schultz charged attendees with engaging their city and county officials to encourage adoption of the exemption, as had just happened in Dallas the previous day.

“I would consider yesterday absolutely a victory, though not a complete victory,” said Schultz. “The system itself needs to be reimagined and be strong enough to be resilient to our different changes that happen over time.”

Solving the challenges facing early education and child care requires engagement from a variety of stakeholders, including lawmakers, parents, employers, and providers.

Annie’s Place is one such example of cross-sector collaboration to address child care challenges. Through a first-of-its-kind partnership with Parkland Health, the non-profit organization helps provide child care services to patients and hospital staff to ensure access to medical care.

DRC SVP of Education & Workforce Jarrad Toussant

“We have to figure out the systemic things that we can do, but we also have to figure out the patchwork quilt that’s going to get us just past this little bump right now,” said Annie’s Place Founder and CEO Natalie Boyle. “If we get in and start finding solutions that work for people in certain environments [like Annie’s Place at Parkland Hospital], then we can help bridge this gap while we figure out the big things we can all work together on. But we need solutions now.”

“I really, truly believe early childhood development is much more than a child care issue,” said Texas State Representative Angie Chen Button, who Chairs the Texas House Committee on International Relations and Economic Development. “It’s much more than just a feminine issue. It is a labor issue. It is an economic development issue. And when business people comprehend this and embrace this concept, something good, productive, and sustainable will come.”

Thank you to our presenting sponsor, PNC Bank, and our silver sponsor, Oncor.

To learn more about the work the DRC is doing in education, visit our website.

By Chatashia Brown, Manager, Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement 

In the heart of Black History Month, the Dallas Regional Chamber is highlighting remarkable individuals who exemplify the spirit of resilience, excellence, and leadership within the African American community. For Victor Vital, Office Managing Partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP and a towering figure in the legal arena, this month serves as a moment to reflect on the rich history of African American contributions to the United States and the world.   

“African Americans have been so instrumental and foundational to this country,” Vital shares. “From childhood, this month has been a special [time] to reflect on our achievements and importance in this country and in the world.” 

Vital acknowledges the Black leaders and role models who have inspired him on his journey and paved the way for his success.  

“Booker T. Washington and Thurgood Marshall are the two Black leaders who have inspired me the most,” he said. “Great men; great Americans; champions for African Americans and for progress and justice!”   

Victor’s successes in the courtroom are legendary. With over two decades of practice and more than 100 trials under his belt, he is hailed as a formidable force in Dallas and across the country. 

“My experience and expertise in this space are who I am,” he emphasizes. “My daily goal is to bring who I am to the table, and I believe that necessarily fosters a culture [of diversity, equity, and inclusion].” 

For those aspiring to follow in his footsteps, Vital advises to “plant seeds for the future you desire through your intentions and dreams.” 

Despite his numerous accolades, Vital remains grounded in his commitment to honoring African Americans in his field.  

“We stand on the shoulders of giants,” said Vital. “We honor the legacy and contributions of those giants through demonstrating and embodying excellence in the spaces that have been paved for us by those who have gone before us.” 

Through his leadership, Vital continues to inspire others to embrace their heritage, pursue their dreams, and strive for a future defined by diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

By Dana Jennings, Senior Vice President, Communications, Marketing & Events

In recent years, Dallas-Fort Worth has experienced a rapid expansion in the information technology and health care industries. The growth shows no signs of slowing in the coming decade, and the DFW region needs a projected 130,000 more qualified workers to prevent unfilled jobs from hampering economic growth in the same timeframe.

The Dallas Regional Chamber, with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, has launched a new tool to help the region’s key players in workforce development meet this need.

The new DFW Health Care and IT Talent Pipeline Portal provides expansive, up-to-date data on the supply of and demand for talent for middle-skill jobs.

“Tackling a challenge begins with a shared understanding of it,” said Jarrad Toussant, DRC Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce. “Employer and education partners across the region need meaningful labor market data to inform the instruction, advising, training, recruitment, and development of our regional talent base. The DRC is excited to offer this free-to-use resource to help coordinate efforts to ensure employers have the talent they need while increasing living wage attainment for people living and working in the Dallas Region.”

Middle-skill jobs are careers that require technical education and training beyond the high school level without a need for a four-year college degree. These jobs are critical to Dallas’ economy, comprising more than half of all jobs, and Dallas’ fastest-growing industries need a ready workforce equipped to fill these roles. However, a staggering 53% of Dallas students either do not complete high school or do not enroll in post-secondary and thus do not meet the qualifications for these high-demand, high-wage jobs, resulting in nearly 300,000 unfilled jobs in our region.

The DFW Health Care and IT Talent Pipeline Portal provides stakeholders with the most up-to-date information on jobs and careers, skill gaps for specific roles, program completion by institution, job trends/forecasts, and much more. The custom portal is designed to help make data-driven strategy decisions for tackling regional talent needs for a broad range of users:

      • Workforce & Economic Developers
      • Counselors & Advisors
      • Policymakers
      • Recruiters/Employers
      • Education & Training Administrators
      • Employer Outreach & Engagement Specialists

In IT and health care in DFW, middle-skill jobs provide average salaries of $50,000-$95,000. By improving efforts to position workers and future workers to fill these roles, education and workforce institutions help increase the number of young adults set to earn a living wage, increasing economic mobility and decreasing the number of DFW adults living in poverty.

DFW has added 1.3 million jobs in the past decade, making it the leading U.S. region for job growth, and the region’s population is on pace to overtake Chicago as the No. 3 metro area within the next decade.

Despite this prosperity, Dallas County has the seventh-most number of residents living in poverty. Only between a quarter and a third of young adults are projected to make a living wage.

“We cannot import our way to a skilled talent pool,” Toussant said. “We must build skills for middle-skill IT and health care jobs within our local talent pipeline to support continued growth while building critical economic mobility for all of our citizens. We believe uniform access to data through the DFW Health Care and IT Talent Pipeline Portal moves us closer toward this goal.”

The DFW Health Care and IT Talent Pipeline Portal is an initiative of Dallas Thrives, which was launched by the DRC and the Commit Partnership in 2020 to double living wage attainment for young adults in Dallas by 2040.

Through its strategic focus on Education, Talent & Workforce, the DRC fosters collaboration between the local business community and educational institutions to meet regional industry needs.

If you are interested in learning more, visit the Dallas Thrives website or read the Dallas Thrives Update Report. Learn more about the DRC’s work in Education and Workforce on our website.

By Catie George, Manager, Communications & Storytelling

Access to quality child care is a critical component of our regional infrastructure, much like access to broadband and water. However, a survey from the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children suggests that more than 40% of Texas’s child care providers are at least somewhat likely to close within the next year, due in part to the expiration of federal relief funding that sustained child care providers throughout the pandemic.

To alleviate the challenges facing child care providers, the DRC supported the passage of Senate Bill 1145 (West, 89R) during the 88th Texas Legislative Session to create a constitutional amendment to provide property tax exemptions for qualified child care providers across the state.

Ahead of the November 2023 constitutional amendment election, the Dallas Regional Chamber launched the Good for Texans campaign to support the passage of Proposition 2—the ballot item created by SB 1145—to allow jurisdictions to provide property tax exemptions for local qualified care centers. Proposition 2 was widely supported throughout the state, passing with 65% of the vote, but especially so in Dallas County, where the measure was approved by 72% of voters.

Now, it’s time for local jurisdictions to adopt the optional exemption.

What it means to adopt Proposition 2

Child care facilities across the state are facing challenges due to an unstable and often insufficient financial model, driven by high occupancy costs. Providing child care providers property tax relief will offer vital relief to providers in North Texas and help ensure access to affordable and quality child care for our communities.

To be eligible for the exemption, a provider must participate in Texas Rising Star (TRS), the state’s child care quality rating system, and maintain at least 20% of their enrollment for children receiving assistance through the state’s child care subsidy program. The tax exemption will reduce local property tax levies on child care providers by at least 50% where it is adopted, with the potential for local jurisdictions to exempt up to 100%.

As a result, high-quality child care facilities serving families most in need will see a reduction in their operating expenses, and child care operators not currently participating in the TRS or state subsidy system will be incentivized to opt into both, further increasing the overall quality and accessibility of child care.

The business case for adopting Proposition 2

Lack of child care is a major barrier to workforce participation for parents. A 2021 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that 35% of workers in Texas who quit or planned to quit their jobs did so because of challenges accessing child care.

For working parents, the affordability of quality child care, in addition to availability, can prevent access to child care services. In Texas, the average annual cost for infant care is nearly $11,000, but providers still struggle to make ends meet.

What the business community can do to support adoption

The Dallas Regional Chamber applauds the City of Dallas and the City of Denton for recently adopting 100% exemptions and setting a strong example for other municipalities in North Texas.

To take effect for the current tax year, municipalities likely need to adopt the exemption by the end of April. It is critical for families, community leaders, and employers to advocate to their local city councils and county commissioner’s courts to ensure the timely adoption of this important exemption.

To help aid this measure’s adoption, contact your municipal officials and express your support.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can support the adoption of child care tax relief in North Texas, visit the Child Care Tax Relief website. If you have any questions, email Michael Wood at mwood@dallaschamber.org.

By Catie George, Manager, Communications and Storytelling

As the first Black female CEO in the history of the NBA, 2024 Dallas Regional Chamber Board Chair Cynt Marshall always celebrates her culture, especially during Black History Month (BHM) in February.

“As a Black person, this month is meaningful to me because it allows others to learn about my heritage and the life of my ancestors,” said Marshall. “I celebrate BHM by reflecting on a moment in Black history every morning in February. I make sure to attend, at a minimum, a weekly BHM event… I celebrate by singing the Negro National Anthem every day, and I take time to really reflect on the words.”

Raised in central California, Marshall has fought for diversity since her days as the first Black cheerleader at the University of California, Berkeley. Her strong drive for equality came, in part, from her mother.

“My mother is my role model. She taught me faith, resilience, optimism, perseverance, and the value of a strong work ethic,” Marshall said. “She instilled in me the beauty of compassion and taught me the importance of lending my head, hand, and heart to others.”

Other leaders who influenced Marshall include Chuck Smith, a legendary pastor, and Priscilla Hill Ardoin, a professional who works in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space. Marshall’s influences have motivated her to break down barriers, and she doesn’t plan to slow down any time soon.

“My vision is that our workplace, including our court, is a place where every voice matters and everybody belongs,” said Marshall. “My vision is that fairness and equality undergird the work we do in the NBA and are table stakes to live, work, and play with us.”

Marshall furthers her vision by also mentoring and championing other Black women.

“I’m hyper-focused on ensuring that while I might be the ‘first’ in many things, I won’t be the last. I spend time helping others crystallize their dreams, document goals, and develop a game plan,” said Marshall. “Fortunately, I have the ability to place Black women in leadership positions, and I do not hesitate to put them in positions that they are qualified for.”

As we celebrate the past during BHM, Marshall believes it is also essential to look to the future.

“My excitement for the future comes from a belief in the spirit, smarts, and inclusive nature of our youth. My hope and optimism for the Black community also stems from a belief in humanity,” said Marshall. “I am excited about the opportunities that are being created, made available, and seized upon for and by the Black community. I’m excited by the recognition that Black culture is American culture, too.”

Probe CX, a customer experience (CX) and digital transformation organization, uncovers the key to success in today’s competitive market: infusing empathy and emotion into customer experiences through intelligent automation.

As Group Executive for the Americas Tracey Hinkle spearheads strategic growth initiatives, market development, partnership strategies and operational excellence, propelling the organization towards new horizons.

How does Probe CX help its clients build value?

In today’s ever-evolving landscape of customer experience, the pursuit of innovation and operational effectiveness is paramount. At Probe CX, we play a pivotal role in reshaping how businesses interact with their customers, positioning ourselves not merely as a solution provider but as an agent of transformation.

Probe CX operates at the convergence of cutting-edge technology and human-centric strategies, challenging and redefining traditional paradigms of customer engagement. Through the implementation of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence-driven and sentiment analysis, we empower businesses to decipher intricate customer behaviors and anticipate their needs.

Our suite of services, including customer journey mapping, tailored CX strategy development, and robust implementation plans, enable businesses to deliver highly personalized customer experiences.

By furnishing businesses with actionable insights and strategies customized to their unique requirements, we facilitate growth, foster customer loyalty, and optimize operational efficiencies.

What differentiates Probe CX within your industry?

What distinguishes Probe CX from other industry players is our unique blend of innovation, expertise, and unwavering commitment to excellence. Our approach transcends mere technology deployment; it revolves around a deep understanding of both businesses and their customers.

We prioritize understanding our clients’ objectives, ensuring that our solutions seamlessly align with their overarching vision. At Probe CX, we are strategic partners deeply invested in our clients’ success. Our commitment to ongoing evolution ensures that we stay ahead of industry trends, consistently delivering value.

What benefits does Probe CX enjoy by doing business in the Dallas Region?

What we find most enjoyable about conducting business in the Dallas Region is the dynamic and thriving business ecosystem that perfectly complements Probe CX’s operations. The combination of innovation, diversity, and a forward-thinking mindset aligns seamlessly with our core values.

But it’s not just the flourishing business environment that we appreciate. The Dallas Region’s cultural richness and the collaborative spirit of its community create a conducive atmosphere that promotes both growth and creativity within our organization.

Why did Probe CX become a DRC member?

Probe CX team members in one of our office locations.

Probe CX’s choice to become a member of the DRC reflects our dedication to actively participate in and enrich the local business community. We believe in contributing to the vitality of the region, and the DRC’s extensive network, resources, and strong advocacy for business growth resonate with our goals.

Our membership with the DRC not only helps us thrive but also enables us to make a meaningful contribution to the regional economy, fostering a mutually beneficial partnership.

How has Probe CX changed in the past five years?

Over the past five years, Probe CX has undergone a significant transformation. We have expanded our service portfolio to five countries with over 19,000 team members, embracing emerging technologies to enhance our offerings. Our client base has also grown to over 700, reflecting the effectiveness of our solutions in driving tangible business results.

Our ability to embrace innovation and adapt to changing market dynamics has been pivotal in our journey. As we navigate the evolving landscape of customer experience, we remain steadfast in our commitment to empower businesses, redefine industry standards, and cultivate enduring relationships in the dynamic Dallas business environment.

By Jarrad Toussant, Senior Vice President of Education & Workforce, and Elizabeth Caudill McClain, Senior Vice President of Talent Strategies

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) officially launched its 2024-2026 strategic plan, “Building Tomorrow Together,” in January. Our senior leaders penned blogs about each of the four focus areas of the new plan, the track record of success they are building on, and what they will focus on in 2024.

Jarrad Toussant, Senior Vice President of Education & Workforce
Elizabeth Caudill McClain, Senior Vice President of Talent Strategies

The DRC has long made the case that the economic success of our region is dependent on the quality of our talent pipeline, from early childhood through K-12 and higher education to a career.

We’ve tackled many initiatives and advocacy endeavors in pursuit of a stronger talent pipeline, and we’ve made great strides that have led to major expansions in our Education, Talent & Workforce strategic work for the 2024-2026 strategic plan with the aim to serve our members while also benefitting our region.

A historic budget surplus presented the 88th Texas Legislature in 2023 with an unprecedented opportunity to invest in our educational institutions. The DRC’s Education & Workforce team, in close collaboration with our Public Policy team, spent significant time at the Capitol advocating for investment during the regular session and the subsequent special sessions —and it paid off.

The legislature passed nine key bills amounting to $4.5 billion invested in Texas’ education systems, including an investment in pre-K-12 curriculum reform and a new higher education research funding stream to support innovation in the region. Our recently published DFW Higher Education Review backs up our claim that Dallas-Fort Worth is the No. 1 region for higher education in Texas and showcases the sort of innovation this investment will support.

In a big win, the legislature passed House Bill 8, which allocates $700 million to community college funding and marks a transformational shift in the way Texas funds community college systems to a focus on student and employment outcomes. The bill’s passage marked the culmination of a two-year effort by the DRC and our members.

The DRC’s Good for Texans campaign helped pass an optional property tax exemption for qualifying child care facilities, which we believe will help provide more sustainability and lower costs for parents and caregivers. This is yet another tool in our belt as we work toward expanded access to quality child care for our communities.

New data from last year suggests efforts by the DRC and our community partners to strengthen the region’s talent pipeline are working. Since 2012, the number of young adults in Dallas County earning an associate degree and a living wage has increased by 10 percentage points and 6 percentage points, respectively. Improvement in these areas is a key goal of our Dallas Thrives initiative, which aims to break the cycle of poverty by helping more young adults attain a living wage.

We’re deeply proud of the progress we’ve made through our strategic commitment to education and workforce, and we’ll continue to strive for progress in these areas under the 2024-2026 strategic plan—but with a new formalized commitment to talent.

In response to feedback from DRC members, we’re elevating and prioritizing how we support companies’ efforts to implement processes and systems that get them the talent they need. This includes connections to and resources for recruitment and retention strategies and upskilling and reskilling current members of the workforce.

Of course, the DRC’s Leadership Programs are a key part of this strategy as they provide the programs and coaching necessary to develop the leaders our companies need while priming them to serve the needs of our region—a win-win for the Dallas Region.

With support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, we’ll soon launch a new Talent Pipeline portal, which will provide unique analytics to help support better talent pool development and access in the health care and IT sectors—which both experience challenges in recruiting quality talent in our region.

To further support the talent pipelines for IT and health care, the DRC will relaunch our widely regarded regional industry marketing campaigns, “Say Yes to Health Care in Dallas” and “Say Yes to Tech in Dallas”. This relaunch will introduce new outreach and remarketing content targeting young adults in the Dallas region to increase exposure to high-wage, high-demand occupations.

We’re also reshaping our Talent Attraction Council to be the Talent Task Force, allowing us to expand our work and support to our member companies to include talent retention and development.

Our teams will be working closely together to maintain and grow the education and workforce support you’ve come to expect from the DRC while growing our strategies for talent recruitment, retention, and development to make sure our companies have high-quality educated workers while helping ensure all current and future workers of the Dallas Region have the chance to lead a fulfilling life and career.

By Matt Garcia, Senior Vice President of Public Policy

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) officially launched its 2024-2026 strategic plan, “Building Tomorrow Together,” in January. Our senior leaders penned blogs about each of the four focus areas of the new plan, the track record of success they are building on, and what they will focus on in 2024.

Matt Garcia, Senior Vice President of Public Policy

For the past several years, Texas, and particularly the Dallas Region, has enjoyed a level of growth and prosperity not seen in many other parts of the country. Our state’s business-friendly climate and the region’s diverse industries can take much of the credit for this—but it takes work to make sure companies and people alike have what they need to thrive now and into the future. That’s what the DRC’s Public Policy team works toward each day.

Our focus on Public Policy under the DRC’s 2024-2026 strategic plan fortifies our commitment to advocating for policies and outcomes that preserve Texas’ economic advantage and support a prosperous life for Texans.

We came into 2024 with some important wins under our belt that set us—with our members, partners, and elected officials at all levels of government—up to keep building for a bright future for us all.

The regular session of the 88th Texas Legislature saw 32 DRC priority bills passed, many of them detailed in the DRC’s Legislative Index. Importantly, the DRC successfully helped pass a critically needed, new, transparent, and accountable statewide economic development incentive program to help attract more companies and jobs to the Dallas Region.

Lawmakers utilized the state’s historic budget surplus to pass several pieces of legislation to make investments in our state’s future, putting the final decision for these investments in the hands of voters with November’s constitutional amendment election. The DRC launched the Good for Texans campaign to help pass eight important propositions—and they did. Together, these propositions enhance our quality of life, grow our economy, improve our infrastructure, and lower our property taxes.

We also advocated for $20 million for a new Regional Law Enforcement Training Center on the campus of UNT Dallas and additional funding for the behavioral health hospital operated by UT Southwestern. Each of these measures provides critical support to the health and safety of our region.

The list of wins and impacts goes on—because the DRC knows we can’t sit on the sidelines when it comes to public policy. We tracked each of the 246 days spent in the legislative session in 2023 to make sure nothing went unnoticed, and we engaged the business community every step of the way through sold-out events, including one with Gov. Greg Abbott, and our largest-ever Austin Fly-In.

Legislators want to hear from companies about the impact of their work. Our legislative wins were direct results of that engagement by our members, who are our best advocates.

Our work, with support from our members, has helped us build credibility in the public policy sphere, which positions us to keep making good progress under the new strategic plan.

In 2024, we’ll relaunch our Infrastructure Task Force to continue to promote investments in infrastructure. This is a direct result of feedback we heard from our members during our weekly calls throughout the legislative session in 2023.

Through the task force, we’ll be working beyond the traditional roads and bridges to various needs to support our state’s continued growth, such as water and broadband. We also know that technology policy is exploding because of new industries like artificial intelligence, the need for more data centers and increased energy capacity which we will be proactive and influence throughout the next several years.

In 2024, we’ll maintain and intensify our focus on civic engagement with a new iteration of our Voter Engagement Toolkit, which helps people get informed and engaged through an unbiased education on the voting process.

Additionally, we’ll be working on a new initiative that encourages individuals from the Dallas Region to represent and serve on boards and commissions throughout the State of Texas to voice the concerns of the Dallas Region. Until now, there has been no strategic effort to involve more people from our region in this way statewide.

Dallas is the fastest-growing region in Texas, and we are doing our part to make sure that the economic environment stays consistent and attractive to the business community. We are thinking strategically about our future and preparing for the continued growth of the region to support prosperity for all Texans.

By Latosha Herron Bruff, Senior Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) officially launched its 2024-2026 strategic plan, “Building Tomorrow Together,” in January. Our senior leaders penned blogs about each of the four focus areas of the new plan, the track record of success they are building on, and what they will focus on in 2024.

Latosha Herron Bruff, Senior Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement

2023 was a year of great impact for diversity, inclusion, and community engagement in the Dallas Region. As we look back at the progress made and look forward to our goals, I can confidently say you will see intentional commitments to diversity and inclusion in all things the DRC does under our 2024-2026 strategic plan.

Last year, the DRC hosted eight Southern Dallas County Vision Tours, which are designed to showcase the region as one of the Dallas Region’s greatest business opportunities. In 2023, our Vision Tours resulted in more than $2 million in direct economic impact and investment across Southern Dallas County.

Southern Dallas County will be home to Canadian Solar’s manufacturing plant in Mesquite and Trina Solar’s manufacturing plant in Wilmer, both announced in 2023 with help from the DRC. Combined, these projects initially promise 3,000 well-paying jobs and $450 million of capital investment.

We also launched our Southern Dallas County Economic Development guide in 2022. The first of its kind, this guide aggregates all the relevant news stories around Southern Dallas County to tell you who is coming and what is being built, so you can have everything at your fingertips.

Our Southern Dallas County Economic Development Guide has the latest on who and what is coming to Southern Dallas County.

This past year, the DRC also leaned into the work of addressing food insecurity and food deserts. We worked with Tom Thumb, our City of Dallas leaders, and our Economic Development team to bring Tom Thumb and The Shops at RedBird together to build a new, 50,000-square-foot store opening in 2025. We are incredibly happy about this development, which promises to not only increase access to fresh food but also train and hire from the community. This is a transformative project that we hope will spur other opportunities.

Over the past year, the DRC hit a stride with how we connect business and public safety, which contributed to successfully advocating for lawmakers’ investment in the Regional Law Enforcement Training Center at UNT Dallas—work we proudly did alongside our Public Policy team.

We also pressed for more inclusive communications. The DRC released the first Spanish translation of the Voter Engagement Toolkit to promote civic engagement across communities, and Dallas Innovates published its first-ever bilingual story about an entrepreneur in Southern Dallas County.

I’ve just shared a lot worth celebrating—and I’m proud to say it’s not an exhaustive list. In 2024, we will build on this momentum and tackle new opportunities that promise to help make the Dallas Region’s business community more diverse and inclusive.

We’ll launch a campaign to help dispel the myths about and reshape the narrative around Southern Dallas County—which are among our greatest challenges when it comes to driving economic growth there.

In early 2024, the DRC will release a first-of-its-kind Disability Inclusion Toolkit to be a resource and a guide for all our member companies to understand how they can bring more inclusion to the workplace around disability. One in four employees has a disability, whether seen or unseen. We must make our spaces comfortable so people can feel like they can disclose a disability, and we need to make sure our companies are prepared to create an environment where people can thrive, no matter their ability. This year, we’ll transform the State of DEI into the Inclusion Conference all about disability inclusion.

All our DICE accomplishments are possible because of the Tomorrow Fund, which fuels the work we do. The Tomorrow Fund directly supports our focus areas of work. We call it the Tomorrow Fund because a lot of our work considers the future of the region and what we can do to make it the best it can be for all people. Without your investments, there’s a lot we can’t get done.

As 2024 begins, our team has already begun doing the work to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to grow and thrive in the Dallas Region.

To learn more about the DICE team’s work, visit our website and explore our new strategic plan.

By Mike Rosa, Senior Vice President of Economic Development

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) officially launched its 2024-2026 strategic plan, “Building Tomorrow Together,” in January. Our senior leaders penned blogs about each of the four focus areas of the new plan, the track record of success they are building on, and what they will focus on in 2024.

Mike Rosa, Senior Vice President of Economic Development

Over the past three years, the DRC and the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Region have built great momentum in economic development and secured several major wins—which sets us up nicely as we formalize our focus on Prosperity & Economic Development under the DRC’s 2024-2026 strategic plan.

Our region continues to lead the nation in job growth, with 602,000 net new jobs over the last five years. That’s 59,000 more jobs than second-place Atlanta and third-place Houston combined.

In 2023 alone, the DFW Region saw 55 companies locate or expand here—a pace we’ve kept for the last several years. We are particularly proud 22 regional cities landed at least one of these wins in 2023, meaning that the whole region has a share of the prosperity we are seeing. Cities in our region are winning by doing a great job of contributing to our collective success.

Nine of these projects landed in Southern Dallas County, including the new Canadian Solar and Trina Solar plants—each of which is projected to contribute 1,500 jobs to the nearly 300,000 tech jobs now in DFW.

Our region’s brand on the life sciences and biotech stage was elevated in 2023 when we earned two major federal designations in as many months. The DRC proudly provided key economic development, research, and policy support for Texas’ successful bid to bring the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, known as ARPA-H, Customer Experience Hub to Dallas’ Pegasus Park. The win validates, amplifies, and accelerates the DRC’s focus on growing the life sciences and biotech sectors as we move into 2024.

Shortly after the ARPA-H news, the White House and the U.S. Department of Commerce designated Dallas as a tech hub, the only winning bid in Texas. The DRC’s Research & Innovation team, led by Senior Vice President Duane Dankesreiter, was instrumental in showcasing our region’s potential for growing our nation’s semiconductor production.

Our work over the past several years has positioned the DFW Region as a destination for business and innovation—and our strategic work in Prosperity & Economic Development for 2024-2026 will help us make certain the ecosystem that makes that possible is sustained and thriving.

We’ll work to ensure local companies and talent enjoy an ecosystem that promotes innovation while helping them grow and prosper. We want to hear from our members and partners throughout the region about what they need from an economic development perspective to continue to grow.

We’ll also work to ensure we’re meeting with local companies to assess their needs and growth potential. To do that, we’re going to add two new marketing trips in our own backyard to meet with companies already here, in addition to our trips to California and New York.

Of course, we’ll continue to work on the corporate recruitment that’s important to our region. We recognize the importance of working with our Education, Talent & Workforce team to ensure that both local and incoming talent are prioritized. Without a healthy workforce, economic prosperity wouldn’t be possible. We also already have our eye on developing economic policy for the 2025 legislative session.

Finally, a hallmark of a strong economy is the ability to grow innovation from your own dirt. To support this, the DRC will continue to foster innovation opportunities and increasingly look to bring startups and universities into the fold. Building on the successes of 2023, life science and biotech present important opportunities to cultivate the future economy in the Dallas Region.

We are hitting the ground running in 2024 and look forward to working with our DRC members and community economic development leaders every step of the way. Whether you’re new to the region or a seasoned member of our community, we’d love to work with you to advance Prosperity & Economic Development in the Dallas Region.

By Catie George, Manager, Communications & Storytelling

More than 1,200 business leaders and elected officials attended the Dallas Regional Chamber’s (DRC) biggest event of the year Wednesday, Jan. 17. The 2024 Annual Meeting, presented by the Dallas Mavericks, celebrated the DRC’s progress over the last year and looked ahead to opportunities for the business community.

“This is our chance. This is our once-in-a-lifetime chance to work together to make real progress against our biggest challenges and change the future for many in our community for generations to come. Let’s use this sweet moment in time to make things better,” said DRC President and CEO Dale Petroskey, speaking to the Dallas Region’s record economic prosperity evidenced by 55 corporate locations and expansions in 2023 alone and Dallas leading the nation in job growth.

Past DRC Board Chairs with Admiral William H. McRaven.

The 2023 DRC Board Chair Rafael Lizardi, CFO of Texas Instruments, showed attendees a video featuring top DRC members recapping key successes of the past three years as he closed out his tenure. The Annual Meeting featured a keynote conversation with retired U.S. Navy four-star Admiral and five-time New York Times bestselling author William H. McRaven, who discussed his philosophies and lessons about leadership and service in a conversation with Bob Pragada, CEO of Jacobs and 2022 DRC Board Chair.

“When in command, command. When you’re in charge, you have to make tough decisions,” shared McRaven. “You have to take in all the best information you can, you have to assess things, but at the end of the day, as a leader, it’s your decision. You can’t be constrained by too much fear.”

McRaven shared stories about the military operation he led to eliminate Osama bin Laden, his career as the Chancellor of the University of Texas System, and how business leaders might draw lessons from his career.

“One thing you learn in the military, and I know it’s true in corporate America as well, is you find the best people you can and surround yourself with them,” McRaven said. “Whenever I was in a tough situation, somebody had always been in that situation before. Go find that person who has that experience. Bring them in, listen to them, talk to them. All the books and all the training in the world, nothing wrong with that, but there’s nothing quite like experience.”

Veterans in the audience were honored via a special shoutout by DRC COO & CFO Angela Farley.

“In honor of Admiral McRaven, we are using today’s event to recognize and celebrate the impact of our country’s active-duty reservists, veterans, and their families. We know many of you have served your country, and we so appreciate your service and all you do to make the business community stronger every day,” said Farley.

Combined Arms, NextOp, and the University of Texas at Arlington’s Veteran Business Outreach Center exhibited  at the event to help the business community understand how they can hire and meaningfully engage veterans.

In addition to the keynote conversation between McRaven and Pragada, the new 2024 DRC Board Chair Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, shared her charge for the coming year.

“We harness our power and seize the moment to create a blueprint for building a prosperous future for all,” Marshall said. “So, in the spirit of positivity and optimism, my call to action is to seize the moment. Now is our time. Now is the time to close the chapter on the tale of two cities and create one Dallas.”

Admiral William H. McRaven and Jacob’s Bob Pragada

Marshall’s call to action included focuses on education, narrowing Dallas’ wealth gap and health disparities, corporate social responsibility, and a goal to make the Dallas Region the “most inclusive place in the country.”

Both Marshall and Petroskey spoke to the issue of opportunity gaps that exist within companies, communities, and educational institutions.

“We won’t be the kind of community we should be or can be until everyone has the same opportunities,” Petroskey said before introducing the DRC’s 2024-2026 strategic plan called “Building Tomorrow Together,” the roadmap to improving the quality of life for all people in the Dallas Region.

“One thing we’ve learned being in Dallas is that when we want to take on an opportunity or a challenge, nothing can stand in our way,” said Petroskey.

Watch this video to learn about the 2024-2026 strategic plan in the words of DRC leaders or visit our Priorities pages. Read blogs by DRC senior vice presidents to learn about significant achievements of 2023 and their priorities for 2024: Prosperity & Economic Development; Public Policy; Education, Talent & Workforce; and Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement.

The 2024 Annual Meeting was presented by the Dallas Mavericks. The speaker sponsor was Hillwood. Platinum sponsors were American Airlines; Jacobs; and McKesson.  VIP reception sponsor was KPMG. Happy hour sponsor was PwC. Gold sponsors were Axxess; Deloitte; EY; Texas Instruments; and Thompson Reuters. Silver sponsors were Amazon; Capital One Bank; FORVIS LLP; Haynes and Boone; LLP; JBJ Management; The Men and Women of Hunt Consolidated, Inc.; Oncor; Southwest Airlines; Toyota Motor North America; The University of Texas at Arlington; and Wells Fargo. Bronze sponsors were Amegy Bank of Texas; Arcosa; Bank of America; DHD Films; Grant Thornton LLP; Locke Lord LLP; Texas Capital Bank; The University of Texas at Dallas; and Verizon.

By Annette Addo-Yobo, Manager, Leadership Programs

Are you curious about the secret recipe that turns ordinary leaders into extraordinary trailblazers? Join our LEAD YP leadership development program to unravel the art of cultivating personal greatness. Through a hands-on curriculum, LEAD YP deepens young professionals’ understanding of their leadership style and primes them to grow into leaders who champion the Dallas Region.

LEAD YP alumni at the DRC’s 2024 Annual Meeting.

Here are three reasons why LEAD YP is your next step in professional and personal leadership development:

1. Training

LEAD YP provides monthly training on personal leadership, branding, coaching, and feedback. Each month, a unique class day gives participants insight into a different aspect of the work the Dallas Regional Chamber does to help make the Dallas Region extraordinary, and it highlights ways they can contribute to these efforts.

2. Connection

LEAD YP members will connect and build relationships with other like-minded individuals and young professionals in the Dallas Region who are both lifelong learners and emerging leaders. This opportunity is well-suited for people just beginning in their careers, those seeking more professional connections, or anyone hoping to make like-minded, new friends!

3. Service

Graduates of LEAD YP will have the opportunity to serve on the Young Professionals Advisory Council at the Dallas Regional Chamber to develop their skills further and have an impact on young professionals in the Dallas Region.

Applications close Wednesday, Feb. 14, so apply today and don’t miss out on an incredible opportunity to join the next generation of change-makers. For questions regarding LEAD YP, contact Annette Addo-Yobo at aaddoyobo@dallaschamber.org.

By Catie George, Manager, Communications & Storytelling

Following the brutal death of James Byrd in 1998, the Leadership Dallas Alumni (LDA) Board of the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) wanted to bring people of different backgrounds together. They founded America’s Dinner Table (ADT) to encourage communication about race relations, educate attendees, and empower people to develop diverse relationships.

“Similar to [the murder of] George Floyd, this was the impetus for a group of business professionals to say, ‘What is it we can do to make real change in our community?’” said Latosha Herron-Bruff, Senior Vice President of Inclusion & Community Engagement at the DRC. “And they wanted to start with how we can have conversations about race and racism.”

The first ADT dinner was hosted on Oct. 7, 1999, and was originally known as Dallas’ Dinner Table. 25 years later, ADT is still making significant changes now as a national initiative, one dinner at a time.

“If we’re not having conversations with people who look different than ourselves or having conversations about the underlying issues that are a part of everything that we work on, then we’re never going to make progress to increase quality of life,” said DRC Senior Vice President of Talent and Workforce Elizabeth Caudill McClain. “We can’t work together on issues facing our region if we’re not sitting down, breaking bread, and connecting to each other, specifically around issues of race and disparities.”

Every year, ADT hosts a signature event for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This year, the virtual experience will explore the concept of how we should be living out Dr. King’s dream. There is no charge to attend this event.

“We ask the DRC staff to participate in the MLK Day event. It’s a safe space for people to have open, curious, and courageous conversations around something that is not always easy to talk about,” said Herron-Bruff. “We should be honoring Dr. King’s legacy by continuing the work. This should be a day on, not a day off.”

These dinners focus on gathering a small group of diverse participants to participate in a conversation led by an expert.

“They have people who are trained and certified to have these facilitated conversations to bring a deeper understanding of each other, to help people have an exercise in empathy,” said Herron-Bruff.

This kind of experience is important anywhere, but especially in a city marked by historical segregation like Dallas.

“I believe that we can’t talk about economic prosperity or quality of life without talking about race or the history of the region because the climate we’re living in was built off of that history,” said Caudill McClain. “I see the conversations that happen at ADT as critical steps to get the work done because we are addressing and identifying root causes of issues while also building relationships between people to build trust and move the needle forward.”

Since its founding, ADT has stayed involved in the DRC’s work. Later this year, ADT will participate in a Leadership Dallas class day. The connection with the LDA board also makes ADT one of the special organizations formed out of the DRC’s leadership pipeline.

“LDA has over 2,400 alumni, and time and time again, we see people go through the LD program and then build community impact initiatives,” said Caudill McClain. “They go through LD, they form a connection to the community, and then make lasting change. LDA works hard to connect the past and present for the good of the future, and ADT is a perfect example of a future that is better because of LDA’s leadership.”

To learn more about the DRC’s Leadership Programs, visit our website.

By Chatashia Brown, Manager, Diversity, Equity & Community Engagement

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, observed on the third Monday of January, marks the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. 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 and is marked by education about the work of Martin Luther King Jr., the struggle against racial segregation and racism, and as well as community service.

Best Practices for Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Workplace

      • Invest in DEI Training and Efforts
            • DEI training, conversations, and resources are all great ways to celebrate MLK Day in the workplace. Although this can and should be offered year-round, the holiday serves as a great opportunity to share your corporate values with employees and consumers.
      • Encourage or Offer Service Opportunities
            • If your organization gives employees paid time off to volunteer, or organizes volunteer activities during work hours, remind employees of those opportunities. Read more about how companies can celebrate MLK Day
      • Educate Yourself and Others about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement
            • Learn more about Dr. King’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, MLK Day, its history, and its present-day manifestation. You can find books and speeches written by Dr. King here: Books & Bibliography – The King Center

Events

Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. It is one of the most important holidays celebrated among Eastern and Southeastern Asian Cultures, including in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean communities. Tied to the lunar calendar, the New Year typically begins with the first new moon that occurs after/near the end of January and spans the first 15 days of the first month of the lunar calendar—until the full moon arrives. Those celebrating consider it the time of the year to reunite with family. Some host religious ceremonies honoring ancestors. Family members may receive red envelopes containing money. Dances, fireworks, lantern festivals, and traditional foods are also prevalent throughout the celebrations.

Best Practices for Celebrating Lunar New Year in the Workplace

      • How we speak about cultural celebrations matters
          • Lunar New Year is not just a Chinese holiday but is celebrated by many countries that speak different languages and are of different ethnicities. Using the phrase “Lunar New Year” rather than “Chinese New Year” is more inclusive of the vast ethnicities and cultures that celebrate the holiday.
      • Respect the diversity of traditions and customs
          • Lunar New Year is celebrated differently by different groups of people, which means not everyone follows the same rituals or beliefs. Additionally, not all Asian people celebrate the holiday or recognize the zodiac. It is important to recognize the diversity within ethnic and cultural groups rather than treating them as a monolith.
      • Incorporate Asian designers, vendors, and partners in your efforts.
          • With COVID-19 impacting small businesses, especially Asian-owned businesses, Lunar New Year is a great time for companies to partner with Asian-owned businesses to help create economic opportunities for Asian business owners. Read more from Kanarys on how to celebrate the Lunar New Year in the workplace.

Events

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 Americans who struggled to achieve full citizenship in American society.

According to the 2022 American Community Survey, the Black or African American population in DFW represents 16.3% of the total population, or 18.2% if combined with one or more other races. The Black or African American labor force participation rate is slightly higher than the average with a labor force participation rate of 70.7%, compared to the average of 69.5%. Despite a strong labor force participation, The Black/African American community faces a higher unemployment rate of 6.3%, compared to the average of 3.8%. According to the 2021 Annual Business Survey, 3.5% of the employer firms in DFW are owned by Black or African American entrepreneurs.

Best Practices for Celebrating Black History Month in the Workplace

      • Celebrate Black History Month with everyone
            • Black History Month is a great time to organize events and activities that highlight the diversity and richness of Black culture, such as book clubs, film screenings, panel discussions, or art exhibits. These events and activities should be widely advertised to all employees, regardless of their race or ethnicity, to foster a culture of inclusion, respect, and appreciation for the humanity, culture, and complex individuality of the Black community.
      • Direct resources to Black-owned businesses
            • Organizations can support Black-owned businesses and organizations by purchasing their products or services, partnering with them, or donating to their causes. Featuring them on your website, social media, or newsletter can also amplify their visibility and impact. For a directory of Black-owned businesses, you can visit the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce’s website.
      • Read & Watch

Events

BEST PLACE FOR WORKING PARENTS® DALLAS IS PRESENTED BY

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) named three local companies as recipients of the 2023 Best Place for Working Parents® Dallas Innovator Awards.

      • Micro/Small Business (under 200 employees): BCL of Texas
      • Medium Business (between 201 and 999 employees): Grant Thornton LLP
      • Large Business (more than 1,000 employees): Parkland Health

The Best Place for Working Parents® Dallas, presented by PNC Bank, is a local partner of the Best Place for Working Parents® national initiative. The program recognizes family-friendly workplaces in the Dallas Region through a proprietary business self-assessment and aims to raise awareness of the importance of family-friendly benefits and policies for employers and workers.

The Best Place for Working Parents® Dallas Innovator Awards recognize companies whose family-friendly offerings go above and beyond the requirements for a Best Place for Working Parents® designation.

“Our mission is to lead the Dallas Region to become the best place to live, work, and do business for all people, including working parents,” said Dale Petroskey, President & CEO of the DRC. “We are proud of these three companies for demonstrating the Dallas Region’s commitment to being family-friendly and setting an example for employers throughout North Texas.”

In the standard Best Place for Working Parents® self-assessment, companies are evaluated against peer businesses of similar size and industry based upon their family-friendly offerings in 10 research-backed policies, including paid parental leave, child care assistance, and flexible working conditions, among others. In 2023, more than 120 Dallas Region companies received the Best Place for Working Parents® designation.

Innovator Award applications were evaluated carefully by an anonymous panel of judges, who scored each submission based on the comprehensiveness, innovativeness, and impact of the company’s family-friendly policies and benefits. All Dallas Region companies with the Best Place for Working Parents® designation were invited to apply for the Innovator Awards.

BCL of Texas, a statewide nonprofit that supports community wealth-building through homeownership and entrepreneurship, earned the distinction of Micro/Small Business Innovator. For a small nonprofit organization, BCL offers a comprehensive set of family-friendly benefits, headlined by a “children-in-the-workplace” policy that allows working parents to bring children of any age to the office to alleviate the burden of childcare breakdowns. This policy, introduced in 2018, helped BCL navigate workplace and school disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am proud of the work BCL has done to develop systems that support the work-life resiliency of our staff,” said Raquel Valdez Sanchez, Chief Operating Officer at BCL of Texas. “As a community non-profit, we want our employees to know that we are an extension of their support system, and want them to be the best working parents they can be both at home and in the office.”

Grant Thornton LLP, one of America’s largest providers of audit and assurance, tax and advisory services, earned the Medium Business Innovator distinction. The firm’s Dallas office offers a Working Parents and Allies Business Resource Group to provide peer support, resources, and best practices for Grant Thornton’s working parents. The firm also provides a back-up care benefit for employees whose care arrangements for either a child or dependent adult fall through, as well as a flexible lifestyle spending account for all employees that working parents can utilize for dependent care costs.

“This tremendous honor is a tribute to our caring Dallas teammates, especially the leaders and members of our Working Parents Business Resource Group,” said Doreen Griffith, Grant Thornton’s market managing partner in Dallas and a member of the firm’s Partnership Board. “They ensure all of our working parents have a voice at the highest levels of our organization,  which has helped our firm implement a robust suite of benefits and programs that reflect the evolving needs of our people and their families.”

Parkland Health, the public hospital system for Dallas County, was named the Large Business Innovator. Parkland’s best-in-class partnership with Annie’s Place offers drop-in childcare services for patients and certain employees of Parkland. In the future, Annie’s Place will offer full-service childcare plans for Parkland team members. Parkland also brings other benefits onsite to ensure access for employees, such as dental cleanings and eye exams.

“Parkland is proud to be on the cutting-edge when it comes to providing benefits and resources that support our team members,” said Felicia Miller, EVP, Chief Talent Officer at Parkland Health. “This recognition illustrates our commitment to addressing the holistic needs of our staff, from health and wellbeing to dependable childcare.”

The DRC is pleased to recognize these three companies for their outstanding support of working parents and encourages Dallas Region employers to follow their example in providing comprehensive, innovative, and impactful family-friendly policies in the workplace.

To learn more about the Best Place for Working Parents® Dallas, please visit the DRC’s website.

By Ben Bhatti, Vice President, Research & Innovation 

I was recently invited to participate on a panel at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Texas Higher EDge Conference. The panel discussion was titled, “Rise of the Machines: How AI is Fundamentally Changing Higher Education and the Workforce.”  

Bhatti, second from left, speaking on the panel.
Credit: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

That may sound like a “Terminator” movie, but the fact is artificial intelligence (AI) is a present reality. Rapid integration of technological innovation continues to reshape industries, putting education and many jobs on the precipice of a seismic transformation—and that’s no Hollywood story.  

I’ve put together some key takeaways from the panel to help our Dallas Region companies and institutions stay on the leading edge as the swift development and integration of AI into various facets of our lives makes the conversation surrounding its impact on education and workforce systems more crucial than ever. 

Drawing on my background in law, policy, education, and technology, predicting trends of rapidly developing technologies, such as AI, is straightforward. At this stage of AI integration, our current scenario demands a nuanced approach that adapts to the integration and proactively prepares the education and workforce sectors for the transformations AI has introduced to society. Everything from the writer’s strike in Los Angeles to the auto workers’ strikes revolved around some aspects of AI and automation. 

AI isn’t merely a disruptor; it’s a catalyst for redefining the skills that will drive tomorrow’s workforce and teaching methods. From my vantage point, it’s clear that the traditional model of education requires change to align with the demands of an AI-driven economy. 

To begin, it’s important to acknowledge that AI isn’t here to replace educators; instead, it amplifies and supplements their capabilities. As a former third-grade teacher, I have experienced what it is to be in under-resourced classrooms. A teacher’s role in today’s classrooms must evolve into that of a facilitator, guiding students in navigating the vast sea of information available and developing aspects of social-emotional development and critical thinking skills. 

AI’s impact on the workforce is a different story. Businesses tend to adapt to technologies quicker than the education sector. They also make short-term decisions to please shareholders, resulting in the elimination of numerous redundant jobs, both historically and presently. A recent report from Goldman Sachs estimates that around 300 million jobs could be affected by generative AI. This translates to approximately 18% of work that could be automated globally—with more advanced economies bearing the brunt of the impact rather than developing markets. 

Legal and policy frameworks are pivotal in defining these new skill metrics, ensuring a balance between innovation and ethical application. 

Furthermore, the equality in educational opportunities provided by AI-enabled platforms presents unparalleled accessibility opportunities. But it also accentuates the digital divide and raises concerns about data privacy, emphasizing the need for robust legislative safeguards around what students are exposed to. As we have all experienced, the impact of smartphones and algorithms of social media platforms have had a mixed effect on society. These relatively young technologies have permanently and irreversibly changed the way humans live and interact with one another. 

Ben Bhatti, DRC Vice President, Research & Innovation

As someone intimately familiar with the inner workings of policymaking, I see an urgent need to craft legislation that nurtures AI innovation while safeguarding the rights and dignity of every individual within the education ecosystem and ensuring companies consider and contribute to retooling our workforce with the necessary skills to succeed in the next iteration of our economy. 

Developing a comprehensive approach that aligns legal framework and policy directives while prioritizing people and innovative educational methodologies to foster an inclusive, adaptive learning and working environment that maximizes human potential rather than producing a fear of AI job replacement is essential to address the merging of AI with education and our workforce. 

This merge isn’t a distant future but a present reality. We must create an agile, inclusive, and ethically driven policy approach to harness AI’s potential for improving our education and workforce. By doing so, we can sculpt a world that thrives in the face of technological disruption while upholding the core tenets of human progress and equity. 

The journey ahead is challenging, but it’s within our capacity to steer the course, ensuring that our education and workforce systems continue to evolve for the betterment of all while integrating innovative technologies, such as AI, as a catalyst for societal empowerment and progress. 

The DRC’s Convergence AI Dallas conference on Thursday, May 2, will dive into all the ways AI is converging with our ways of doing business. I hope to see you there. 

By Catie George, Manager, Communications and Storytelling

The DRC hosted its Year-End Conversation with Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas and JPMorgan Chase & Co., on Tuesday, Dec. 12. Mayor Johnson discussed the beginning of his second term in office as the 60th Mayor of Dallas and his priorities for the remainder of his final term.

“I believe the priorities that I’ve been articulating for five years are the right priorities for the city,” said Johnson in conversation with Ollie Chandhok, Market President and Publisher of the Dallas Business Journal. “I’m just the mayor of town trying to make Dallas the best I can make it for the people who are going to come after me.”

There is no question that the future of Dallas is bright, according to the mayor.

“People are moving here in droves. The region is growing very, very quickly. We are the fastest-growing region in the country, and this city is a big part of that,” said Johnson. “We’re the draw. And it’s just such an honor to be the mayor of a city that’s that easy to sell. That’s my job, I go and sell it. But it’s a great product.”

Having been born and raised in Dallas, Johnson discussed the Dallas Independent School District, of which he is a product, and the importance of the upcoming bond election.

“You can love an entity and still criticize it; they’re not mutually exclusive. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our school system, but we ask more of it, and we are demanding of it,” said Johnson. “If we don’t [demand more], the consequence comes in the form of children who graduate from the school system and are unable to actually have a very robust career.”

Following the Mayor and City Council’s consideration, the $1.1 billion bond proposal must be approved by voters in 2024. The DRC is closely monitoring this election, especially as it concerns important infrastructure improvements.

Johnson also discussed one of his focal points while in office: growing the park system in Dallas.

“I’m a big advocate for the parks because I believe they keep families in the city. I believe it catalyzes economic development. I believe it spurs housing; people want to build near it and live near it,” said Johnson. “They’re an appeal. It’s what people want. It’s what developers are telling us they want. And so that’s why it’s so high [in my priorities].”

During his tenure as mayor, violent crime has taken a dramatic drop, in part due to Johnson’s work with Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia.

“What is working is the hotspot policing based violent crime reduction plan that Chief Garcia put in place with he got here,” Johnson said. “But that plan requires more bodies to expand any further than it’s being applied right now. It’s being applied very selectively right now, and the places will be the most efficient and most effective, but we need to apply it to more places that require more officers, more people. So we’ve got to hire more officers and more people.”

Despite staffing shortages preventing full coverage in Dallas, Johnson was hopeful about the state of violent crime in the future.

“Good police work stops a bad criminal after doing something once or twice that they would otherwise do ten times until they get caught. That’s why we need more officers out there to help,” said Johnson. “But nobody is closer than Dallas [in terms of] being back to pre-pandemic numbers when it comes to homicides. I mean, we’ve just made so much more progress than everybody else. We’re competing against ourselves.”

Johnson urged business leaders to stay engaged with civic fundamentals while they enjoy the city’s strong economy.

“This city is rightly perceived as being a very pro-business city, and that has to do with everybody in this room, the folks who are here from the Dallas Regional Chamber and other entities that have made this a very welcoming place for CEOs and corporations,” said Johnson. “I’d say that the main thing we need to do is not lose sight of the basics that people are looking for. Hold your city government accountable, and make sure that we know what you expect of us. We need to hear from you on a regular basis so we can continue to be a pro-business city.”

Thank you to our co-presenting sponsors, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas and JPMorgan Chase & Co.; our gold sponsors, Amazon and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control; and our silver sponsors, American Airlines, DFW International Airport, Forvis LLP, Frost Brown Todd LLP, Locke Lord LLP, Oncor, Santander Consumer USA, Southwest Airlines, University of Texas at Arlington, and Verizon.

To learn more about upcoming DRC events, visit our website.

By Catie George, Manager, Communications and Storytelling

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) hosted the last Tomorrow Fund Investor Breakfast of 2023 on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at series presenting sponsor Holmes Murphy’s offices.

The first Building Tomorrow Together award of the morning was handed out to celebrate the selection of Dallas’ Pegasus Park as the national headquarters of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, known as ARPA-H, Customer Experience Hub.

“We are so pleased to accept this recognition and really thrilled to be partnering with all of you as we think about health solutions that can help all Americans. It’s an important moment to think about how we can build tomorrow together,” said ARPA-H Director Amy Lin. “And I think a lot of the work that we do here at ARPA-H is really zeroing in on that goal. Our mission is to accelerate better health outcomes for everyone, and that includes imagining the future of health and what it could look like.”

ARPA-H will draw on the DRC and its connections to help advance these health outcomes throughout the region. This will build on relationships formed during the DRC’s intensive support of Texas’ successful bid for ARPA-H.

“The way that I see the customer experience hub and ARPA-H affecting healthcare and making it human-centric for generations is amazing and unprecedented,” said Jenny Ligon, Ecosystem Liaison for ARPA-H. “But I believe that all the amazing people that have been brought together to perform this are going to make this a wild success.”

The second Building Tomorrow Together award went to the global investment research firm Third Bridge for its new office location in Dallas.

“While we are proud of the progress that we’ve made in such a short period of time, it’s not lost on us that this recognition gives us a tremendous responsibility for continuing to be in the Dallas Region,” said Vice President of Operations at Third Bridge Ryan Kelly. “Our pledge to those of you in this room, those who may be considering a job at Third Bridge, and those who may be considering a relocation to the Dallas area: We’re ready to play our part in carrying out the DRC’s mission in all facets of growth and look forward to strengthening our relationships with current and future partners.”

The final Building Tomorrow Together award went to the series presenting sponsor, Holmes Murphy, for their steadfast support of the DRC for over 20 years as presenting sponsor of the Tomorrow Fund Investor Breakfasts. Holmes Murphy will be reallocating its investment to other areas of the DRC’s mission-driven work.

“This 20-year relationship between Holmes Murphy and Dallas Regional Chamber has taken various forms,” joked Marc Pinney, Vice President of Employee Benefits at Holmes Murphy. “But what’s important to us is the incredible work that the DRC has done for our city and the region. And as they have grown in prominence as the National Chamber of the Year, we’ve grown along with them.”

To conclude the breakfast, DRC Senior Vice Presidents walked investors through a report on the impact of the Tomorrow Fund in each priority area in 2023 and strategy for 2024.

The Tomorrow Fund makes possible the DRC’s strategic efforts to improve the quality of life for all people while enhancing the business climate and the economy of the Dallas Region. Support the DRC’s mission work and expand your company’s impact on the Dallas Region by becoming a Tomorrow Fund investor.

Thank you to our series presenting sponsor, Holmes Murphy; breakfast sponsors, Bridgepointe Technologies and Crowe, LLP; and corporate sponsor, American Airlines, Inc.

Established in 2005, B&H Engineers specializes in delivering comprehensive design solutions in the fields of Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, and Technology (MEPT) across a diverse commercial marketplace. Our expertise encompasses innovative and cost-efficient design solutions tailored to unique project requirements, ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations to the benefit of all project stakeholders.

How does your company help other businesses become more effective?

B&H Engineers’ designs play a crucial role in overall project success; the significance lies in balancing performance, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness in system selections, details which are often tucked away behind the scenes until issues arise. Our responsibility in design reduces end-user operational costs while enhancing building sustainability by minimizing maintenance and downtimes, meeting or exceeding regulatory agency requirements, future-proofing technologies, enhancing occupant comfortability, and maximizing the overall equipment footprint.

As a company, our commitment to contributing to a project’s overarching success involves integrating these principles into our MEPT designs. We prioritize energy-efficient technologies and systems that address immediate project needs while also contributing to long-term financial sustainability and profitability for the end user.

What differentiates your company from others in your industry?

What truly distinguishes our company within the industry is our unwavering commitment to seamlessly integrating engineering into project teams, a distinction achieved through the effective application of our three C’s: Communication, Collaboration, and Coordination. In contrast to some firms that compartmentalize engineering as a standalone process, we recognize and embrace the interconnected nature of projects, and our approach prioritizes a holistic perspective.

Communication is the linchpin of our strategy, fostering a transparent and clear dialogue among all team members. This commitment ensures that information flows efficiently, preventing misunderstandings and creating a shared understanding of project goals and requirements.

Our emphasis on Collaboration extends beyond the engineering realm, promoting the pooling of diverse talents and expertise from various disciplines. This collaborative synergy transcends conventional boundaries, enriching project outcomes with multidimensional insights.

Integral to our approach is Coordination, where meticulous planning and execution take center stage. By coordinating every facet of a project, we minimize the likelihood of disruptions and enhance overall efficiency. This approach is particularly crucial in preventing surprise costs, mitigating setbacks, and addressing challenges promptly, thereby contributing to successful project delivery.

Our dedication to a holistic approach means that we view engineering not in isolation but as an integral part of the larger project ecosystem. This outlook allows us to adapt to dynamic project requirements, respond promptly to challenges, and deliver results that go beyond traditional engineering outcomes. Through this comprehensive and collaborative approach, we enhance the technical aspects of our work and contribute to a more cohesive and streamlined project delivery. Ultimately, our clients benefit from versatile solutions that address the intricacies of their projects while maintaining a high standard of communication, collaboration, and coordination.

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

Doing business in the Dallas Region is a perfect synergy of global talent recruitment potential and endless business opportunities. Dallas, a global business hub, offers an ideal backdrop for unparalleled business opportunities within the booming Texas economy. This optimal setting allows our company to thrive and our team to flourish professionally and personally.

Why did you decide to become a DRC member?

Our decision to join the DRC was driven by the desire to participate in an established, highly regarded, collaborative community of Dallas/North Texas businesses. This strategic membership allows us to learn, share, and grow alongside like-minded professionals. Additionally, the DRC’s efforts in economic development, policy work, and recruitment via Say Yes to Dallas align with our commitment to contribute meaningfully to the region’s business landscape. This platform elevates our engagement, enabling us to play a part in the collective success of the Dallas business community.

How has your business changed in the past five years?

Over the past five years, B&H has experienced remarkable growth and expansion, establishing ourself as a key player, particularly within the SBE/MBE/MWBE sector. Our business has seen exponential growth, providing valuable opportunities for education, experience, and career advancement for our dedicated employees. We’ve significantly broadened our client base, now spanning diverse sectors such as education, healthcare, hospitality, retail, municipal, federal, commercial, and private industries.

This strategic diversification has equipped us with a well-rounded portfolio, enhancing our resilience in the face of market fluctuations. This success has not only fortified our position in the current market but has also created a strong foundation for a sustainable future.

By Catie George, Manager, Communications and Storytelling

The 88th Texas Legislative Session and four subsequent special sessions left a lot to cover at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s (DRC) Wrap-Up Event on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Takeaways from key policy areas were discussed by state and local officials and business and community leaders to give attendees an overview of all the work accomplished this year.

Education & Workforce luncheon panel

The event began with a luncheon focused on Education & Workforce, which discussed several key wins from the legislative session.

“The legislature invested $700 million into higher education. We had additional investments made in a new entity called the Texas University Fund, which will be a $3 billion endowment that will help emerging research universities achieve their goals and increase research at their respective systems,” said Dr. Mark Ruden, President of Texas A&M University-Commerce.

While there was much to celebrate, there is still progress to be made, especially regarding teacher pay.

“Compensation is one key piece of the puzzle. We have seen the desire to expand the teacher incentive allotment for educators in Texas. This is the program that allows Texas’s top third of teachers to be paid according to their impact on student learning,” said Kate Greer, Managing Director of Policy & State Coalition of The Commit Partnership. “This is a really powerful tool to reverse the trends we’ve seen, which is our highly effective, best teachers moving out of poverty-dense areas.”

However, panelists were hopeful for how education may fare in the next legislative session.

“In the future, it would be great to come away from a legislative session where we could say all of education, the entire spectrum of it, from early childhood through the twelfth grade and then to post-secondary, had a winning legislative session. And hopefully, we can do that in 2025,” said Texas Association of Community Colleges President Ray Martinez.

Economic Development discussion

After the luncheon, a second panel focused on Economic Development.

“Here in Texas, locals lead the charge when it comes to economic development,” said Executive Director of the Kaufman Economic Development Corporation Stewart McGregor. “You go to other states, and it’s very much the top-down approach where the state is heavily involved in projects, making things come together and happen.”

Carlton Schwab, President and CEO of the Texas Economic Development Council, emphasized the importance of the local aspect of the Dallas Region’s economy in comparison to other places.

“Economic development is a decidedly local endeavor in our state,” said Schwab. “Our economic development success over the last four years was because of having really great locally elected leaders supporting economic development and great professionals in this state implementing economic development activities and programs on behalf of their communities,” like the passage of HB 5, which creates a new transparent and accountable statewide economic development incentive program.

The following Health Care panel began with a discussion on additional funding for the new behavioral health hospital serving the Dallas Region and operated by UT Southwestern. The multi-session project was originally funded by the 87th legislature but had to be revisited because of increased construction costs due to inflation. The current closest behavioral health hospital is in Terrell, over 35 miles east of Dallas. This new hospital will also help alleviate the current stress put on our healthcare systems by mental health patients.

“When we look at the amount of people who are incarcerated in Dallas County Jails right now, over half of those people are facing significant mental health challenges that led them to be incarcerated, and there are no services while they are incarcerated to help them address those issues,” said Representative Venton Jones. “So instead of putting people in prison beds, we’ll be putting them in hospital beds, providing them needed services.”

Health Care panel

Equity in health care was a large focus of the panel.

“It’s one thing to have coverage, it’s another thing to have access, and we’ve got to work on it in a very balanced approach,” said Steve Love, President and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council.

Panelists agreed working through the issue of equity in health care means making it a clear priority in the legislature.

“Zip code is more important than your genetic code; where you live has everything to do with determining your health and well-being,” said David Tesmer, Chief Community and Public Policy Officer of Texas Health Resources. There are a lot of individuals in underserved communities that, if we provided coverage and access, would be able to buy food, to put gas in their cars. They’re making decisions now that say, ‘health care is number five or seven or eight on my list.’ Health care has to be an important part of this state’s priorities.”

Ultimately, health care is only going to be addressed if Texas lawmakers are encouraged by constituents to address it.

“If you want a healthier state, if you want access to health care, then you have to vote. Health care needs to be the issue you vote on,” said Representative Julie Johnson. “The business community is powerful. Your voices are meaningful, but you have to use them. And when you do use them, really good things can happen. You have such credibility; you have such opportunity and clout. You have access to political funding. You have all kinds of ways to influence the legislative process and the electoral process if health care is important enough to you.”

In the concluding Quality of Life panel, Senator Royce West and Dallas Police Department Lieutenant Julio Gonzalez discussed the new regional law enforcement training center that will be housed at UNT Dallas and the positive effects it will have on the Dallas Region.

Senator Royce West speaking with the DRC team.

“The fact of the matter is that we’re fortunate to have a better relationship now between law enforcement in Dallas and its citizenry,” said Senator West. “But we have to make certain that what’s going on in Dallas is duplicated around the state. We have to make certain that we continue to support law enforcement in Dallas and across the state.”

Lt. Gonzalez emphasized that having a regional facility will help improve standardization throughout the region and the state, to Senator West’s point.

“If you get pulled over in Burleson for a traffic violation, your experience with law enforcement should be roughly the same as if you get pulled over in Fort Worth or Dallas,” said Lt. Gonzalez. “When you have a regional academy providing training to various law enforcement agencies, it standardizes the training, and that’s important to the community.”

At the end of the half-day event, Senator West was presented with a Building Tomorrow Together award. Usually reserved for businesses, the award recognizes the positive impact he has had on economic development and his service to the Dallas Region.

Thank you to our Education & Workforce Luncheon sponsor, PNC Bank; our panel discussions sponsor, Fidelity Investments; our Building Tomorrow Together Reception sponsor, Holmes Murphy; and our silver sponsor, Haynes and Boone.

To learn more about the Public Policy work the DRC is doing, visit our website.