Progress: Chamber sees successes in 2019; just wait for 2020!

Henry Florsheim, Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce.

The year 2019 was an active one for the Chamber and for Wichita Falls. 

Several of our industrial employers expanded, including dozens of new jobs at Eagle Railcar and Tryer Processing. We’re deep into the implementation stage of the community-wide strategy to grow the city, with much of our efforts focused on growing the talent pool and improving the quality of life for our citizens. 

The Wichita Falls Talent Partnership has developed several programs designed to better connect specific groups to the business community, including military spouses and interns;  an entire series of events and programs have been implemented to strengthen ties between Wichita Falls and Sheppard Air Force Base at all levels. 

Finally, Bike Wichita Falls successfully landed a Bronze-level Designation as a Bike-friendly Community from the American League of Bicyclists. 

If you thought 2019 was busy, wait till you see 2020!  Towards the end of last year, we recruited Pamlico Air to move to Wichita Falls and purchase the former Stanley Tools building. 

The company has hired a local contractor to remodel the building, with plans to move in and hire several hundred employees over the next few months. 

Next, DuPlooy Trucking is in the process of consolidating three operations into one headquarters in Wichita Falls, while adding another hundred jobs to the economy.

The Chamber is developing a new young professionals initiative, a diversity council, a social media summit, and a downtown business recruitment program. 

Our military efforts will continue to evolve, including a Hiring Our Heroes Career Summit later this spring.  In addition, after nearly 60 years in the same spot, the Chamber is moving. 

Our new location on the first floor of the Hamilton Building at the corner of 8th and Lamar will feature a larger board room, a more modern space, a unique mural painted by a local artist and a much more welcoming, visible entrance. 

We’ll be easier for our business community and visitors to Wichita Falls to find us, and we can’t wait to show off the new space to everyone. 

Another important issue coming up is the 2020 census.  So much is riding on an accurate count – federal funding, corporate location decisions, even the perception of our city. Many signs point to population growth, including increased sales tax collections, new home construction, and traffic counts. 

Getting an accurate population assessment is vital to both practical business decisions and how our citizens feel about our city.

Possibly the most important item on the horizon involves our schools.  WFISD leadership will make their plans for a facilities election official in the very near future, and then our citizens will have a choice:  move us forward, or leave us behind. 

In my opinion, developing modern school facilities is the most important piece of our strategy.  No matter what else we do, if we don’t have modern, functional schools, we’re in trouble. 

I have faith that our citizens understand this and will make the right decision for the entire community.

Henry Florsheim is president and CEO of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Leader of the Pack – Chamber Chatter

With an unemployment rate of 3.1% and many of our employers struggling to find enough people, growing our talent pool is vital to our economic success.  No matter how many incentives we offer a company, if they can’t find workers, they won’t come.   That’s why our new strategy focuses so heavily on workforce development, and that’s why we’re creating the Wichita Falls Talent Partnership.

The next step in the process is to hire a director for the Partnership.  We’re looking for someone who can bring together a diverse group of stakeholders and push them forward to create effective programs.  We need a facilitator, a communicator, a leader.  Someone who can serve as the face of the initiative.  Is this you?  If so, send your cover letter, resume, and references to jobs@wichitafallschamber.com.  For more information on the initiative and the position, visit www.fallsfuture.com.

PS – We manage four different websites for various purposes.  Info about Chamber services, personnel, and member benefits can be found at Wichita Falls Chamber Our economic development efforts center around Land In Wichita FallsChoose Wichita Falls is where you can find info about all the great programs and events going on around town.  And finally, Falls Future is the place to learn more about the community-wide economic development strategy we’re implementing.    Read up!

Yes Virginia, there is an Amazon

Last week I attended the Southern Economic Development Roundtable, an annual gathering of 60 or so economic developers from around the South. The agenda is determined by the participants and focuses on challenges we all face and interesting projects we’d like to discuss. Fortunately for us, the most interesting economic development project to come about in quite some time was represented in the room.
Stephen Moret, a friend of mine from our days of doing economic development in Louisiana, is the CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the guy who landed 25,000 jobs from Amazon. Here are some interesting notes from his presentation:
  • Over 500 people worked on Virginia’s proposal.
  • The cost of setting this facility up in Virginia is over $1 billion more than it would have been in Atlanta, the next competitor down on the list.
  • The DC area produces more IT graduates than anywhere else in the country.
  • The region’s ability to provide tech talent was the deciding factor.
  • Other companies in the region felt like this was a positive development for them, as opposed to competition.
  • The cash portion of their incentive proposal was important only to make Amazon feel wanted.

What can we learn from this? 

With an unemployment rate stuck near 3.0%, our ability to develop and provide workforce is key to the future of Wichita Falls. No matter how much money we throw at a company, if they can’t find the workers, they won’t be successful here. For us to win, we have to solve this problem.
The good news is that our aggressive strategy will help us get there. Check out www.fallsfuture.com to learn more.
Let’s build something extraordinary!