Future-proofing: Tomorrow Fund Investors talk innovation

By Catie George, Manager, Communications and Storytelling

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) hosted a Tomorrow Fund Investor Breakfast, presented by Holmes Murphy, in its offices Wednesday, Sept. 13. The event, hosted quarterly, is for investors in the DRC’s Tomorrow Fund, which powers the DRC’s mission work.

“We work each day to help make the Dallas Region better tomorrow than it is today,” said DRC President and CEO Dale Petroskey. “That’s why we call it the Tomorrow Fund… We host these breakfasts to connect you—our Tomorrow Fund investors—with the people, companies, and concepts that help shape the future of our region.”

The Q3 event honored innovation’s role in the Dallas Region.

“The sign that we’re a prosperous region is that we’re able to grow businesses from our own soil and innovate businesses,” said Petroskey on the importance of innovation in the Dallas Region. “And innovation is what’s going to set us apart even further from every other market in the country.”

The featured speaker of the meeting was Paul Puopolo, Executive Vice President of Innovation at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW International). Puopolo shared how DFW International has approached innovation and made the case for other companies to do the same, starting with appointing a dedicated person and/or team to develop innovative solutions within a company.

“The biggest challenge for companies is managing today’s challenges while keeping up with the unpredictable future. You need leaders in the organization and people who can think not only about the present value of your company but the future value — and that is not easy to do,” Puopolo said. “But innovation and a full innovation function that can help you future-proof your organization, that can help you build business resiliency, is what we do [at DFW International].”

Puopolo warned against the temptation to view innovation as a side project, or not prioritize it, within a company.

“If everybody says that they’re innovative, then nobody’s responsible for innovation,” said Puopolo. “Research shows innovative cultures lead to competitive advantage. It’s not hard to see that, but you have to have good leadership. You have to have people who are willing to take managed risks at your organization, and you have to have a sense of urgency. You can’t just wait. These technologies are moving so fast.”

Puopolo gave an example regarding the ideation of autonomous vehicles in DFW International and spoke to how developing innovative technologies requires looking ahead at infrastructure to support them.

“We doubled down on autonomy two years ago. We saw that the future of mobility is going to be autonomous. It’s going to be connected, it’ll be electrical, and it’ll probably be some form of shared,” said Puopolo. “An interesting thing about autonomy is that it needs a network. We invested in the 5G network last year because we saw all this technology coming, and it needs a different network. And so, private 5G network is what we’re rolling out, and that was critical for us to be in the autonomous and the mobility space.”

Following Puopolo’s presentation, the DRC’s Vice President of Economic Development – Life Sciences, Kelly Cloud, shared an update on the DRC’s campaign to recruit more companies and jobs in the life science and biotech sector to the Dallas Region – an effort that capitalizes on existing strengths.

“We have the seventh most life science and biotech jobs in the U.S., the fourth most engineering jobs, and we have one of the most diverse economies. There’s a lot of translational talent there,” said Cloud.

She emphasized that the Dallas Region life sciences ecosystem is established and waiting to help those who want to take advantage of it.

“There’s a lot of people who have their head down, working very, very hard on their discovery and their innovation, where they don’t come up for air and realize there is a whole ecosystem here that wants to help you and wants to support you and wants you to grow,” said Cloud.

Also during the event, the DRC presented Canadian Solar with a Building Tomorrow Together Award. The company announced in June its first U.S. manufacturing plant will be in Mesquite – creating 1,500 jobs for Southern Dallas County. On Monday, Sept. 11, Trina Solar – a competitor company of Canadian – announced plans for a major photovoltaic plant in Wilmer, also in Southern Dallas County.

Canadian Solar’s Director of Special Projects Rusty Schmit sees a competitor moving in nearby as a net positive for the Dallas Region.

“The great news is Texas is becoming the solar capital of the country,” said Schmit. “And the fact that more companies are coming is going to help develop the supply chain and help us succeed.”

Read more about Canadian Solar and Trina Solar’s plans and why they are good for the Dallas Region.

To invest in the Tomorrow Fund and support the DRC’s strategic efforts to improve the quality of life for all people in the Dallas Region, contact memberinfo@dallaschamber.org. Investing in the Tomorrow Fund grants you access to quarterly investor breakfasts.