When a jumbo jet touches down at DFW International Airport, passengers often hear the flight attendant activate the intercom and say, “Welcome to Dallas.”
The greeting illustrates an unwelcome truth for Fort Worth community leaders representing the other named city in the DFW brand. Their community lives in the shadows of their Big D neighbor to the east. It’s an identity problem noted in the 492-page economic development plan just released by the city.
Proud Cowtown officials understandably don’t like the part of the report that states a lack of recognition on the national and international scene as one reason “Fort Worth has fallen behind its competition.”
Still, city and community leaders should be congratulated for commissioning this comprehensive exploration that doesn’t candy-coat economic weaknesses. Other cities might have put lipstick on their shortcomings and come up with a typical 30-year plan that gathers dust on a shelf.
Fort Worth is notably identifying challenges and adopting strategies to tackle them almost immediately. The plan calls for results in a five-year period beginning in 2018. That’s next month.
People who love their city and want to have a voice in shaping its growth should take a look at the report. There’s a 17-page executive summary if wading through hundreds of pages makes you feel a little light-headed.
The report equally outlines the ways Fort Worth needs to up its game, and strengths that provide anchors for becoming more competitive.
The deficits include a population that’s growing faster than higher-wage jobs; a tax base that relies on residential values and needs more commercial and industrial investment; and difficulty attracting skilled and educated young people. It calls for doing more to keep vital businesses like XTO Energy, which relocated 1,600 jobs from Fort Worth to the Woodlands near Houston in June.
Among the cities’ strengths are its Near Southside medical district which is home to DFW’s largest concentration of medical jobs.
Consultants suggest developing it into a medical innovation district that would connect healthcare institutions with medical research facilities and the cool, urban vibe developing in the nearby Magnolia corridor.
Consultants believe Fort Worth can grow and promote its arts community and develop more housing and office space downtown.
The aerospace manufacturing presence could be expanded to include more research and design.
Now that the analysis is in, the hard work of transformation begins. City officials need to stay on course by reinforcing the goals and the aggressive timeline for meeting them. They say they’ll need money to do the big things. We look forward to plans for how they’ll raise it.
Mayor Price says she’s already taken one small step in tackling that annoying announcement you often hear when arriving at DFW Airport. She says she’s been talking with American Airlines, which has corporate headquarters in Fort Worth.
So maybe, in the near future, when you touch down at the airport, you’ll hear flight attendants say, “Welcome to Dallas- Fort Worth.”
Or if Amon Carter Sr. were alive and had his way: “Welcome to the home of American Airlines with headquarters in Fort Worth. Dallas is just down the road.”