Wichita Falls continues to rank for positive reasons

Wichita Falls continues to appear at the top of lists of best places in America. Websites like Smart Asset, Niche, Forbes, and Business Insider are showing Wichita Falls favorably. Read the following 4 rankings and what each had to say about us.

In July, the community ranked #1 Best place for working parents in 2020, #12 Most Frugal & Friendly Places to Retire in the US., #1 Cost of living, and most recently ranked #12 for The Best Cities in the South to Live in after the pandemic.

Ranks #1 – Working Parents: Smart Asset

“Wichita Falls, Texas, ranks in the top eighth of cities in the study for five metrics: high school graduation rate, median annual housing costs, percentage of the labor force working 50 weeks or more per year, average commute time and average annual child care costs.

Part of Wichita County, it has the highest high school graduation rate (97%) of any city in our top 10 and the sixth-highest rate for this metric overall.”

SmartAsset created this list of the best cities for working parents by looking at the 600 largest cities in the U.S. Of those cities, 581 had complete data across the following eight metrics:

Ranks #12 – Frugal & Friendly – MSN Lifestyle

“The nightlife is surprisingly vibrant in this small city of 100,000. You’ll also find warm Texas weather and a low cost of living in Wichita Falls.

The median income is $45,500, and the town is a two-hour drive from Dallas. If you may be doing a lot of driving to the Big D, you’ll want to shop around for affordable car insurance.

A major attraction in downtown Wichita Falls is the more than 100-year-old Newby-McMahon Building, a slender four-story building known as the “world’s littlest skyscraper.” The city is relatively safe, and there are two local hospitals and 10 health care centers.”

MSN sized up cities across the nation to find warm, welcoming locations that are inexpensive and have plenty of amenities for retirees.

Ranks #1 – Cost of Living – Niche.com

“Wichita Falls is a city in Texas with a population of 104,494. Wichita Falls is in Wichita County and is one of the best places to live in Texas. Living in Wichita Falls offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes. In Wichita Falls there are a lot of parks. Many families and young professionals live in Wichita Falls and residents tend to lean conservative. The public schools in Wichita Falls are above average.”

Niche rankings are based on rigorous analysis of key statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and millions of reviews.

Ranks #12 – Best place to live in the South after Pandemic – Business Insider

“Wichita Falls’ population density is 57.7 people per square mile, the sixth-smallest population density among metro areas in the South. This metro area’s cost of living is 12.4% less than the national average.”

Business Insider recently came up with their list of the best US cities to live in after the pandemic. To do this, they used a variety of metrics from government and academic datasets. This includes looking at the share of jobs that can potentially be done remotely, the pre-coronavirus unemployment rate, and housing costs.

Let’s hope for more positive rankings as we continue to strive for a better Wichita Falls through community and economic development.

Wichita Falls Community Strategy

There are 7 catalysts in our community strategy which lead us to something extraordinary.

The catalysts are Modern Schools, Sheppard Air Force Base Integration, Talent Partnership, Wichita Falls Maker Hub, Bike Friendly Community, Downtown LIVE- WORK-PLAY, and Economic development best practices. As our volunteer action teams work to push us towards the level of success we want to see in each catalyst, we will begin to notice more positive outcomes in all areas attractive to people looking for a community like ours to move to, start a business, or get to work.

See our community strategy here: FallsFuture.com

Dallas-based Panda Biotech considering Wichita Falls for major investment

Wichita Falls is a finalist for a groundbreaking industrial hemp processing facility from Dallas-based Panda Biotech, LLC.  

“Wichita Falls is one of several potential locations under consideration by Panda Biotech as the home of the Panda Texas Plains Hemp Gin. This state-of-the-art facility will feature two 10-ton/hour decorticating lines that will process industrial hemp for fiber and hurd. Once operational, the facility will be the largest of its kind in the world. The incredible support from the City, County, Chamber of Commerce, and the Wichita Falls Economic Development Corporation has positioned Wichita Falls as a leading candidate.  The company looks forward to finalizing its decision soon,” stated  Scott Evans, Executive Vice President, Panda Biotech.

Last week the Wichita Falls Economic Development Corporation (WFEDC) preliminarily approved an incentive package worth up to $2.8 million to attract the project.  On Tuesday, July 7th, the Wichita Falls City Council will vote on the proposal, initially presented to the WFEDC by the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce.   

“The company is considering a very short list of locations for this project.  Approval of incentives does not guarantee that we land this project, but it does increase our chances. This cutting-edge facility would put Wichita Falls on the map,” stated Chamber President & CEO Henry Florsheim.  “The Panda Texas Plains Hemp Gin will have an enormous potential to attract members and suppliers who will be needed to support a facility of this size.  This project would not only diversify our industrial base, but could also add tremendous value to our region’s agricultural economy.”

For questions about this project, please contact Wichita Falls Chamber CEO Henry Florsheim at 940.723.2741 or henry@wichitafallschamber.com.

Who is Panda Biotech?

Panda Biotech, LLC is a first-mover in the emerging U.S. industrial hemp fiber, hurd and cellulose industry. The company is currently developing large-scale, industrial hemp gin facilities.

Panda Biotech’s executive leadership has extensive experience developing, financing, constructing and operating large-scale industrial facilities including natural gas, solar, hydroelectric and biomass energy projects. They have developed 22 projects since 1982 representing approximately $12 billion in invested capital. 

The company has contracted with a leading, international equipment manufacturer for the construction of the largest hemp decorticator in the United States and believed to be the largest in the world. The 10-ton/hour decorticator is the first of two planned for Panda Biotech’s flagship industrial hemp processing facility to be located in Texas. At full production, the two decorticating lines for processing textile-quality, high-grade fiber, premium hurd and cellulose are expected to generate $30,000,000 per year for Texas agricultural producers.

Once the project is built, Panda Biotech will engage key stakeholders in agriculture and academic institutions to expand the use of industrial hemp across industries. 

Benefits of industrial hemp fiber and cellulose

Industrial hemp used for manufacturing applications is highly valued for its natural durability, rapid growth and environmental sustainability. The processed fiber and cellulose from industrial hemp can be used in the production of a multitude of products including textiles, a wide array of building materials, paper products, automobile composites, nanomaterials, bio-plastics and finishing products such as caulking, sealants, varnishes and paints. In addition, research indicates that hemp-based supercapacitors offer a less expensive alternative to materials currently used in rechargeable batteries for applications such as smartphones and electric cars. As a result, industrial hemp is poised to transform numerous multi-billion-dollar industries.

In May 2020, Panda Biotech donated 60 tons of free hemp fiber seed to help jumpstart Texas’ industrial hemp fiber industry. Texas A&M AgriLife was commissioned to conduct a research study on the data collected from growers across the state of Texas who participated in the seed promotion. They will also prepare a formal report that will be shared with the study participants.

Chamber’s mural a beautiful addition to a vibrant art community

The Wichita Falls Chamber unveiled its mural on June 22nd in the lobby of its new location in the Hamilton Building on the corner of 8th & Lamar.  Artist Aaron Campbell showcased her vision after months of hard work to the excitement of all in attendance.

“I am so proud to finally reveal my first solo mural to the city. It’s been such a great opportunity to grow and learn from. I’m grateful to the Wichita Falls Chamber for agreeing to work with me and giving me this project. They have been so supportive of me and I am excited to be a part of their expansion. I could not have done it without the partnership of the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture as well. They are such a boon to the young artists of Wichita Falls. I hope that everyone who sees this mural will see the benefit the arts bring to our community and how important it is to the artists that are given the support they need to thrive. Please continue to support local businesses and stop by the Chamber to see my work.”

Aaron Campbell, Artist/Muralist

Hidden gems inside the mural make it a treat to peruse.

The mural features the iconic falls and contains tiny gems you’ll have to look closely to find.  The Chamber is proud to add this mural for the community to enjoy.

“We knew that we wanted the entrance to the new Chamber to be special, something that would make locals proud and visitors say “wow”.    That’s what we’ve accomplished with this new facility and the mural.  It’s truly an amazing work of art, and the fact that a local artist painted it makes it all the more special.”

Henry Florsheim, Wichita Falls Chamber CEO

The Wichita Falls Chamber encourages others to support the local arts. If you’re looking to add a mural, please contact Audra Lambert at the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture at 940-386-4729.

“Artists have a way of capturing our imaginations in a way that allows us to create our own stories. Aaron Campbell’s masterful work is full of stories and I’m proud to see this new addition join the roster of brilliant murals in our community.”

Margie Reese, Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture Executive Director

The Chamber will participate in future After Hours Artwalk events by staying open later to allow visitors to view the mural. In the meantime, the community is welcome to visit the Chamber lobby during business hours Monday-Friday. 

Virtual spec buildings released to encourage new business

The Wichita Falls Chamber partnered with BYSP Architects to create virtual spec buildings for economic development and business attraction. 

Wichita Falls has many fantastic amenities available for economic development, but when it comes to available buildings for potential new businesses, the inventory needed for site consultants and businesses looking to move or expand their operations wasn’t there.

This created an opportunity to work with a local architect firm to create more options for Wichita Falls. Dick Bundy and his team at BYSP Architects worked tirelessly to provide virtual renderings along with timelines for completion.

“Our design team developed standardized buildings to meet the strictest demands of the industrial, manufacturing and distribution world.  By having the design ready and virtually presented, the Chamber of Commerce now has a tool that can show prospects a vision of their future home and the timeline to complete.  In a digital world, this effort provides a powerful tool for Economic Development and immediately shows prospects the progressiveness of our community, “  said Dick Bundy FAIA  with  CEO/Sr Principal BYSParchitects.

The Virtual Spec buildings are designed for the Industrial Business Park, located on HWY 287 at 2800 Fisher Road. Each rendering visualizes the possibilities for a company to stand up a business at 30,000 square feet with the option to expand later to 60,000 square feet or start at 60,000 square feet with options to expand to 120,000 square feet.

The Chamber’s V.P. of Business Attraction David Leezer has begun showcasing this tool to site consultants and the response has been fantastic. Consultants appreciate the visual and the complete information regarding construction costs and timelines.   One said, “the spec building pricing documents/renderings are truly unique and something I have not seen in 6 years of doing this and countless interactions with economic development commissions like yours – they have already been useful in explaining the project to the client.”

Having this tool continues to show Wichita Falls means business and allows us to compete with some larger markets.

“Part of successful economic development is being able to differentiate yourself from your competition. This virtual spec building  program definitely differentiates us,” said David Leezer, V.P. of Business Attraction at the Chamber.

You can see the virtual spec building at https://landinwichitafalls.com/virtual-spec-building/

2020 Workforce Excellence Award Winner

TEDC Announces Recipients of the 2020 Workforce Excellence Awards

The Texas Economic Development Council (TEDC) has announced the recipients of their 2020 Workforce Excellence Awards. Four recipients have been awarded the TEDC 2020 Workforce Excellence Award in their respective population categories.

The Wichita Falls Talent Partnership and Chamber won in the population category of 100,001 and above.

“A couple of years ago, this community developed a new plan to grow Wichita Falls.  Talent development is a key component of the strategy, and the Talent Partnership’s goal is to increase the size of the labor pool and help our employers find the talent they need to function effectively.  This recognition tells me that we’re headed in the right direction.”

Henry Florsheim, President/CEO of the Wichita Falls Chamber.
First meeting of the Talent Partnership Action Team with Director of the Wichita Falls Talent Partnership Taylor Davis.

The Workforce Excellence Award program recognizes exceptional contributions by a Texas community or region that has implemented successful workforce initiatives. Members of the TEDC’s Workforce Development Committee reviewed and scored the applications from the nominees based on five criteria: innovativeness, transferability, community commitment and leverage, measured objectives, and secondary benefits.

“Our TEDC’s Workforce Excellence Award is one of the ways in which our organization honors the outstanding work done by our communities and regions, their leaders, and their economic development professionals in the area of workforce development”

Carlton Schwab, President/CEO of the TEDC

The award recognized the following initiatives created in Talent Partnership’s pilot year:

Military Matters

Job Distribution List, Sheppard Military Spouse Professional Network, Military Spouse Community Tours, and Military Roundtable

Leadership Development

The Circuit – Developed and rebranded a new Young Professionals of Wichita Falls

Talent Recruitment

Relocation Incentive and the Chamber Job Board

Talent Development

Intern Wichita Falls and Custom Workforce Recommendations

“The Talent Partnership has made a lasting impact on our community and has brought new life and hope into our job-seekers, community partners, and employers. We are ready, willing and able to meet the call for workforce reform and talent.”

Taylor Davis, Director of the Wichita Falls Talent Partnership

The 2020 Workforce Excellence Award recipients are:

Population (15,001 to 40,000): Gainesville Economic Development Corporation

Population (40,001 to 100,000): Victoria Economic Development Corporation

Population (100,001 and Above): Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce

Regional Category: Workforce Solutions South Plains including Lubbock Economic Development Alliance, Plainview-Hale County Economic Development Corporation, Littlefield Economic Development Corporation, Levelland Economic Development Corporation, Idalou Economic Development Corporation, Brownfield Industrial Development Foundation and Texas Mutual Insurance Company