I'm proud to support this work and have these conversations in which every large city must engage:
Updated: Dec 27, 2022
As we look to bring more higher-paying industries to Fort Worth, we have to look at how we fund our overall economic development. I'm proud to support this work and have these conversations in which every large city must engage:
Fort Worth considers beefing up economic development funding
The city of Fort Worth wants to attract companies that could bring more jobs to the area, but first it needs to become more competitive with the amount of funds it dedicates to economic development.
Fort Worth has the least amount of funds dedicated to attracting businesses compared to other cities in the area such as Arlington, Irving and Dallas, according to a report issued to City Council on Feb. 15.
Now, the council will consider a plan to create additional funds for economic development in order to be more competitive. The plan under consideration calls for the city to dedicate money from expiring Tax Increment Financing Districts, a portion of money dedicated to a certain area to improve infrastructure of an area, for economic development under the proposal.
Robert Sturns, the economic development director for the city of Fort Worth, said one of the priorities is to create “deal closing money” to financially lure businesses to the city.
“We’re actually behind the 8-ball, I’ll just be frank with you,” Sturns said to the council in a meeting on Jan. 4.
Under the plan, the city will increase the level of its economic development incentive fund by tapping into funds upon termination of several TIF districts.
This potential annual allocation of funding could raise the annual incentive fund balance to somewhere between $15 million to $18 million over the next five years, according to a presentation to the City Council on Feb. 15.
These are new revenues flowing to the city and there would be no financial impact to existing operations, according to the staff report.
“You’ve got to think about who we’re competing with, not only in DFW, but also nationally,” said Michael Crain, who represents District 3 on the council. “What’s Denver doing? What’s Nashville doing? What’s Atlanta doing? We’re looking at this on a lot broader scale. How can we make ourselves more competitive across the country, across the globe, to bring more jobs and investment into the community.”
Last year, 21 headquarters moved to Dallas-Fort Worth, but none landed in Fort Worth proper, according to information from the Dallas Regional Chamber.
“We’re fully supportive of what they’re doing, and it’s great for the city to be thinking outside the box on developing new programs that can support existing and new businesses coming into town, so we applaud their efforts,” said Chris Strayer, executive vice president of Economic Development at Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.
The city has seen growing interest from businesses considering coming to Fort Worth, Strayer said. In 2019, the city processed 85 requests for information or for proposals from companies or their representatives, he said. That grew to 121 in 2020 and to over 150 last year. “We’re getting more looks from around the world,” he said. “We’ve really raised the profile of Fort Worth to be more competitive with a lot of the communities across the country, but also more competitive inside of those industry clusters that we target.”
In 2017, the city hired consulting firm TIP Strategies to come up with an economic development plan. The pandemic and the accompanying economic shifts prompted some changes to that plan, Jon Roberts, managing partner for the agency, said. However, the intention is the same: Make Fort Worth competitive in attracting businesses.
“The biggest risk we faced in many ways in Fort Worth was that Fort Worth would be seen as nothing more than a suburb of Dallas,” Roberts said in a City Council meeting in January.
Fort Worth and other large cities have a disadvantage when it comes to economic development. Cities over 500,000 people can’t take advantage of a sales tax that goes to economic development, the document said. Because of this, larger cities have to get creative with how to raise money dedicated to development.
Fort Worth has earmarked $2 million this year for “deal closing” money, which is used to provide relocation assistance and other costs for companies looking to move to the city.
It also has an additional $5.9 million from selling a piece of land. Still, it’s pocket change compared to the other cities that have dedicated deal closing money.
In Texas, Dallas has $2.4 million allocated this year along with a $40 million bond package and $7 million in American Rescue Plan funds it will spend over the next three years. In Arlington, the city has $17 million raised from a sales tax referendum passed in November 2020 to fund its Arlington Economic Development Corp. In Collin County, Frisco has an economic development war chest of $27 million, according to the staff report.
In other states, the competition is even more fierce. Atlanta has $60 million in dedicated funds and free land. That leaves Fort Worth competing with cities and states that have more dedicated resources. Lately, companies have been finding other areas appealing.
Last year, Fort Worth was on the short list to land an attractive, cutting edge company, electric truck maker Rivian. The company was considering a site on the west side of town in the Walsh development and Fort Worth and the state came up with an incentive plan valued at about $500 million. The plant ended up in Georgia following a full-court press from that state.
The Fort Worth Chamber’s Strayer notes that attracting new businesses and supporting existing businesses goes beyond just incentives.
“We’re looking at work force, we’re looking at real estate, we’re looking at infrastructure,” he said. “There’s so many things that go into the decision-making criteria for a company, and we want to make sure that we’re competitive and strong on each one of those. This is one of those things that the city and City Council felt passionate on, and I applaud what they’re doing. We’re excited they’re thinking outside the box on it.”
Not all council members voiced full support for the plan to increase the economic development funds when it was first discussed in early January.
Cary Moon, District 4 council member, mentioned that he feels comfortable with the city’s current offerings to attract businesses.
“When those companies make that decision to go elsewhere, other than Fort Worth, sometimes I feel like they are losing more than we are,” Moon said in a Jan. 4 council meeting. “Because we have put forth a good opportunity before them and Fort Worth creates great opportunities for businesses, particularly ones in the industries that we’ve been focusing on.”
Other council members like District 7’s Leonard Firestone said there needs to be urgency to get money in the budget. Mayor Mattie Parker agreed. “The reason why we keep getting our butts kicked, is because that’s the competitive edge that they have over a city like Fort Worth,” Parker said. “They’re going to come to Texas. The question just becomes what place in Texas are they coming? And that’s oftentimes where we lose out.”
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.
Residents balk at plans to turn former Lockheed Martin site into neighborhood
by Sandra Sadek | March 13, 2022 9:00 am
A 65-acre site where Lockheed Martin once developed top-secret military planes could be transformed into a sprawling residential neighborhood.
Nearby residents are skeptical of those plans, even after the developer adjusted them.
“It is what it is,” Chapel Creek neighborhood president Gary Hogan said. “People who have lived here long term, they’re just afraid that if the developer gets the zoning, and he goes ahead and builds it, we’ve only got his word.”
Residents fear high-density development will bring additional pressure on an already strained infrastructure and school system. As west Fort Worth is expected to exponentially grow over the next decade, those same residents say developments are popping up on every street corner. But they would rather see improvements to the infrastructure and amenities already there before adding more housing.
Site plans for the 335-unit development on the corner of White Settlement Road and Academy Boulevard show 70% of the units will be rental townhomes, with the remaining 30% being single-family homes for sale. The plan will also accommodate seven commercial lots.
Austin-based developer Core Spaces has yet to purchase the property or present the plan to the City Council. If purchased, the developer would need to request a zoning change once it applies for a permit before the council.
The site is valued at $1.3 million, according to the Tarrant Appraisal District. The developer did not disclose the price of the land to the Fort Worth Report.
Hogan organized a Feb. 10 meeting between concerned residents in the area and Core Spaces. The developer agreed to reduce the density by adding single-family homes alongside the townhomes.
In a statement to the Report, Matt Pagoria, vice-president of land acquisition at Core Spaces, said the company has been in contact with residents throughout the process, gathering constructive feedback. The company does not have a timeline for filing paperwork yet, Pagoria said.
Residents worry the addition of high-density housing will exacerbate the pressure already felt on the roads and schools in the area. The city of Fort Worth describes high-density as multifamily dwelling units with a maximum of 32 dwelling units per acre.
For nine years, Michael Bush has lived in the Vista West neighborhood, fewer than 10 blocks from the Lockheed Martin site. Many residents would prefer to see additional amenities like restaurants, parks, or even a grocery store, he said.
“We have one grocery store that’s right there at the corner of I-820 and White Settlement Road. You have a lot of fast-food restaurants. There are really no decent restaurants to sit and eat,” Bush said.
Since 1987, Carolyn Baker has lived in the Westpoint neighborhood, a couple of miles south of the site. Multifamily, high-density development will add pressure to nearby White Settlement ISD schools that are already running out of space, she said.
In November, White Settlement ISD, the school district that serves that area, proposed a $115 million bond package to address enrollment growth by adding more classrooms at all elementary schools and some additional facilities. The bond failed by 13 votes.
Baker also echoed her neighbors who worry the rental housing will bring crime and become low-income housing. Many pointed to the Las Vegas Trail as an example of what might happen if rentals come to this side of town and are not kept up.
“I am fine with the higher price point because it hopefully keeps the riff-raff out,” Baker said. “We’ve had other developers come in here and want to slap up apartments and make their money and leave.”
This area near White Settlement is 67% white, with less than 10% of the population living under the poverty line. Census data also shows 84% of housing in the area is single units and the median household income is $72,964.
In contrast, Las Vegas Trail is 51% Hispanic and 17% Black, with 38% of the population living under the poverty line. Multifamily units make up 64% of all housing there and the median household income is around $32,000, according to the census.
The site is located in Fort Worth City Council District 3, which council member Michael Crain represents. Crain said he understands residents want more parks and amenities, but there are already several nearby. The city does not plan to purchase the land and make it into a park.
However, Crain assured residents that new development proposals will be required to have a certain amount of green space per city ordinance.
“I want whatever does go into that to fit with the neighborhood and fit with what the neighborhood would like to see out there,” the council member said.
As the city continues to grow, the demand for affordable housing has increased. The average rent in Fort Worth has increased 17% since March 2020. Overall average rent in the city is currently at $1,355, according to Apartment List.
“People automatically think poor people, but you and I both know that there’s a gap in between what people can really afford and the houses out there,” Crain said. “That’s not really attainable for a lot of people like your teachers, your policemen, firemen.”
Residents like Bush and Baker said they are aware of the rapid growth in the area and that it can’t be slowed. They only want to make sure it is well planned ahead of time so the infrastructure can support it.
“It’s not that we’re opposed to growth or opposed to people moving in. It’s just the planning seems backward to us,” Bush said. “They’re just pumping all these homes and apartments and rentals in and then not worrying about where they’re going to go to school, get their food, how to get to work.”
Fort Worth Report fellow Sandra Sadek may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.