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.