Joint DRC and Texas Association of Business roundtable highlights economic competitiveness challenges

by Matthew Berger, Director, Communications

It’s no secret the Dallas Regionand Texas – have been thriving in recruiting businesses, manufacturing, and top-tier talent over the last decade.

If the region and the state legislature stay complacent, though, we may lose our edge in future recruiting efforts.

Several of top business leaders, economic development professionals, and subject matter experts working in the Dallas Region came together May 25 for a Texas Competitiveness Roundtable at the Dallas Regional Chamber to discuss how to keep the region growing in the years to come. In attendance were State Senator Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) and Texas Association of Business (TAB) President and CEO Glenn Hamer.

Both Sen. Johnson and Hamer were complimentary of the region’s leadership in business and economic development, with Sen. Johnson saying the region is “the leadership center of the state.”

DRC President and CEO Dale Petroskey opened the program by discussing the economic uncertainties Texas is currently facing.

“So much of our success is because of the great track record of economic wins our region has seen over the past decade-plus,” Petroskey said. “But other states like Ohio and Georgia are ramping up their business recruitment initiatives at the same time as Texas is winding one of its own initiatives down. Without this tool in our toolbox…Texas will lose its competitive advantage when it comes to attracting investment and driving growth.”

The Chapter 313 program, also known as the Texas Economic Development Act gives school districts the ability to limit the amount of school taxes a company pays to a level that’s consistent with other major taxpayers, and it brought $217 billion in investments (70.8% of which went to manufacturing projects) to Texas, according to Alex Cooke, Senior Vice President of Consulting Services at TIP strategies. The state legislature did not renew the program during its last session, and it will expire in 2023.

Cooke, who has been working with TAB to analyze Texas’ economic competitiveness and vulnerability to supply chain disruptions, gave a presentation on strategies to create reshoring opportunities throughout the state – including through programs like Chapter 313 that can bring in large manufacturing projects.

However, Cooke noted the urgency of equipping Texas’ workforce for advanced manufacturing jobs. Through 2029, Deloitte projects that Texas will lead the country in manufacturing job openings. However, Texas lags far behind other states in the number and quality of apprenticeship programs available to students and workers – an increasingly untenable situation, he noted, given the supply chain issues and importance of semiconductor manufacturing highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Making wise investments in Texas’ infrastructure also led the discussion following Cooke’s presentation. Texas is set to receive $35.44 billion from last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes $26.9 billion for highways, $537 million for bridges, and at least $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state. Using some of this funding – or some of the more than $24 billion Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has said the state will have available at the end of the current budget period – on projects like improving ports of entry will help Texas avoid billions in economic losses due to border delays.

Petroskey closed the conversation with a reminder to stay focused on the future.

“We’re all so lucky to live where we do – the fastest-growing economy in Texas, which is the fastest-growing state economically, in the No. 1 economy in the world. But we need to do all we can to keep our success going,” Petroskey said. “The DRC is going to continue building partnerships and supporting discussions on how to keep Texas competitive, and on how to make our communities the best place in the United States to live, work, and do business.”