‘A Sweet Moment in Time’: Dallas Regional Chamber Unveils Its 2024-2026 Strategic Plan During Annual Meeting at Fair Park

More than 1,200 attendees learned about the DRC’s new priorities and absorbed some hard-won wisdom from the man who helped dispatch bin Laden.

Cynt Marshall, 2024 chair of the Dallas Regional Chamber board of directors, urged chamber members to “seize the moment.” DRC President and CEO Dale Petroskey talked about a “once-in-a-lifetime chance” to remedy the region’s inequities. And Rafael Lizardi, Marshall’s predecessor as chair, said, “we got a lot done” in 2023, “but as always, there’s much left to do.”

Indeed, urgency and unfinished business seemed to be the watchwords when the chamber held its 2024 annual meeting Wednesday at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Petroskey, for example, set the stage by recalling that 243 companies have moved their headquarters to North Texas since 2010, while the region has created 600,000 new jobs over the last five years—the most of any U.S. market.

“This pace of prosperity has never happened here before, and it’s not going to last forever,” Petroskey told the meeting’s more than 1,200 attendees. “We happen to be in a sweet moment in time, and we must use that sweet moment in time to close the opportunity gaps that exist here so that everyone has a chance at this prosperity.”

Toward that end, chamber officials unveiled their 2024-2026 strategic plan, which proposes to build on the accomplishments of their just-completed, 2021-2023 plan. Under the latter, they said, the chamber, which was recognized as the National Chamber of the Year in 2022, had achieved gains in four key areas:

  • Economic Development (with 55 corporate locations and expansions in 2023 alone);
  • Education and Workforce (with 17 events and “convenings” last year engaging more than 1,500 business and community leaders);
  • Public Policy (with 32 DRC priority bills passed by the 88th Texas Legislature); and
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (with 75% of Dallas area companies now boasting DEI goals and metrics).

Under the 2024-2026 plan, DRC officials said, they’ll again have aims in four focus areas:

  • Prosperity & Economic Development (with the chamber looking to grow local companies, market the region’s benefits to nonlocal talent, recruit new businesses, and advance innovation);
  • Education, Talent & Workforce (aiming to foster employer-education partnerships, prepare future workers for college and career, upskill and re-skill adult learners, and retain and grow local talent);
  • Public Policy (striving to preserve Texas’ business climate, build an educated workforce from pre-K to adult learners, advocate for the health and safety of all North Texans, and invest in the future through infrastructure investment, for example);
  • Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement (attempting to promote diversity in company leadership, invest in under-championed communities in southern Dallas County, advocate “education for all,” and strengthen public safety relationships).

DRC President and CEO Dale Petroskey and 2024 DRC Board Chair Cynt Marshall talked about urgency and opportunity at the chamber’s 2024 annual meeting. [Photo: Joseph Haubert/DRC]

Presented by the Dallas Mavericks—Marshall is the NBA team’s CEO—the DRC’s annual meeting featured a tribute to active-duty military reservists and veterans, with special tables set up in the Music Hall lobby supporting veterans’ hiring efforts. There was also a keynote conversation onstage between one especially renowned veteran—retired Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, who led the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden—and Bob Pragada, the CEO of Dallas-based Jacobs. Pragada’s a former DRC chair as well as a retired officer in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps.

During their nearly-half-hour talk, Pragada asked McRaven how his military career had translated into his civilian life, especially while serving from 2015 to 2018 as the 11th chancellor of The University of Texas system.

“The one thing you learn in the military, and I know it’s true in corporate America as well, is that you find the best people you can, and you surround yourself with them,” McRaven said. “I know Dr. David Daniel, who was president of UT Dallas, is here in the audience somewhere, and David was the first guy that I hired. Because I knew I needed a strong deputy. And he was absolutely fantastic. I could not have done the job without David.”

From the time of his very first combat mission in Iraq in 2003, McRaven went on, he learned to rely on people with experience. “Whenever I was in a tough situation, somebody had been in that situation before. Go find that person that has that experience, bring them in, listen to them, talk to them,” McRaven said. “All the books and all the training in the world—there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s nothing quite like experience.”

‘This is a generation we need’

Pragada later broached the topic of the “younger generation,” asking McRaven how “we as leaders” can make sure young people are fully aware that they’re the future.

“I was often asked in my time as chancellor, ‘What do you think about the millennials and Gen Z?’ I think my answer always surprised them when I said, ‘I am the biggest fan of the millennials and Gen Z that you’ll ever meet.’ There’s a narrative out there that they’re these soft, entitled little snowflakes,” McRaven said. “I’m going to point out that you’ve never seen them in a firefight in Afghanistan, or going to The University of Texas to make a better life for themselves. This is a great, great couple of generations. You know, the older generation always thinks that the new generation is softer.”

As proof, McRaven cited a letter from his mother that he’d found unopened one day, many years after she’d passed away. She’d written the letter to him on the very day he’d left home to start Navy SEAL training in California, he recounted.

“She starts off, ‘Dearest Bill. You’re heading off to San Diego, and I just want you to know that I don’t think you’re up for this harsh military life.’ She goes, ‘You live a country club life.’ (We lived near a 9-hole golf course.) She goes on and on, and I’m like, ‘What?!’ She writes, ‘Oh, and by the way, you’re spoiled’—underlined!

“So, I think this is a common problem,” McRaven continued, with older generations discounting the generation just behind them. “Honestly, I will tell you, [today’s] kids are just as patriotic and hard-working as our parents and grandparents,” he said. “They’re more entrepreneurial than my generation. I teach a graduate class at UT, and I will tell you they think they can do anything, and good on ’em. Because they think they can save the world and all the problems we have. This is a generation we need.”

In addition to presenting sponsor the Dallas Mavs, the 2024 DRC meeting was sponsored by Hillwood, A Perot Company, which was the speaker sponsor, and platinum sponsors American Airlines, Jacobs, and McKesson. KPMG was the VIP reception sponsor, and the happy hour sponsor was PwC. NewsRadio 1080 KRLD served as the meeting’s media partner. There were a number of gold, silver, and bronze sponsors as well.

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