The kind of success that Irving-Las Colinas has had in attracting about 150 international corporations and 15 Fortune 1000 corporations doesn’t just happen. Beth Bowman, the president and CEO of the Irving Economic Development Partnership, says “it takes a strategic plan and a collaborative structure that allows a quick, responsive, one-stop-shop approach to relocation inquiries.”
That’s why the Irving Mayor and City Council accepted the Irving Economic Development Strategic Plan in 2017. A five-year road map for the city’s economic growth, it’s a collaborative effort by the Irving Economic Development Partnership (IEDP).
The IEDP, which consists of the City of Irving, the Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce, the Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Las Colinas Association, implements the plan that “identifies industries and domestic and global markets with corporate relocation potential that will contribute to our community’s sustainable growth and business success,” Bowman says.
Bowman says the IEDP pulls out all stops to reach its targeted companies. Outreach includes everything from communications via its website, print, and social media to mission trips to leveraging existing Irving-Las Colinas companies and their strategic relationships.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed things in terms of process, Bowman says it hasn’t been significant, just different. Working remotely from home (using the latest in secure communications technology), she says the team is working “creatively and productively under this new norm, as are our prospective relocation projects and their teams.”
Bowman says the partnership feels “fortunate to have a healthy amount of prospective deals in our development pipeline,” adding “some of [the] larger projects are taking slightly longer than originally projected.”
Beth Bowman on Challenges, Opportunities, and Growth in Irving
In a Q&A, Bowman discusses challenges and opportunities in the current market, as well as sectors where she anticipates growth for Irving. “The pandemic has spared no one in this crisis, but we feel confident that we’re in a better recovery position than most geographic regions due to the economic development momentum we enjoyed prior to the outbreak,” the CEO says.
What new challenges and opportunities are you encountering in the current market, in terms of relocations and company expansions?
Because of the current restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which limits our travel, personal contact and relationship building, live tours, and one-on-one visits with site selectors, we’ve had to become more creative and use virtual tools for our outreach efforts and to tell the Irving-Las Colinas story.
Additionally, we’ve refocused on expansion and retention efforts. We’re seeing more companies investing in their existing footprint by creating friendlier, fluid office spaces for a distance work environment that we anticipate will continue to evolve.
Also, having access to a diverse, skilled workforce is a high priority for all prospective corporate relocation and expansion projects. We are fortunate that because of our central location, we have access to more than 3 million skilled workers within a 30-minute commute of our city.
We have also developed Transited-Oriented Developments (TODs) that provide work, housing, recreation, entertainment, and retail, all in a beautiful lakeside setting within walking distance or convenient DART stations. Irving-Las Colinas can offer the lifestyle choices that people want today, which attract corporations looking to recruit and retain talent.
Is it more common for you to find a company or for them to find you as part of a relocation or site acquisition?
It’s a combination of both, but when you achieve a certain level of success, it creates its own momentum, reputation, and exposure. Irving-Las Colinas is known for its business-friendly public policies, its amenities that attract and retain workforce talent, its central location adjacent to DFW International Airport and near Dallas Love Field, affordable housing, modern infrastructure, efficient commuter transportation in a highly desirable live, work, play, visit, and walk environment. Irving-Las Colinas is a masterpiece of master planning, and that elevates our recognition and attracts the kinds of corporations that we feel will be successful in our community.
Is the pandemic changing the role of the state or incentives in attracting new businesses to Texas? Are there reasons for optimism for the rest of 2020 and going into 2021?
It’s too soon to say, but certainly, every city is anticipating and adapting to a significant shortfall in tax revenue. Irving-Las Colinas relies heavily on restaurant, entertainment, hotel, and convention revenue, which have been particularly hard hit by the city and state’s business closures and reduced capacity. The pandemic has spared no one in this crisis, but we feel confident that we’re in a better recovery position than most geographic regions due to the economic development momentum we enjoyed prior to the outbreak, which we think will serve us well as we continue to work with prospective relocation opportunities.
Where do you see the most opportunities right now? In what sectors do you anticipate growth?
Today, the industries with the greatest growth potential in our area are healthcare, technology, cybersecurity, e-commerce, and the accompanying warehouse and distribution facilities they require. We also recognize that diversifying our business industry community provides additional security from cyclical disruptions.
Additionally, we think there is potential in businesses looking for a diverse, inclusive environment to operate their businesses and welcome their workforce. As the 14th most diverse city in the U.S. (Niche.com), we believe our diverse population is one of our biggest assets.
How is your city responding to the challenges your business community is facing because of the pandemic?
Our job is to help local businesses survive the closures and restricted openings by accessing all available federal funding programs and to help market, promote, and support businesses in any and every way possible.
Additionally, we know that when site selectors are scouting locations, they want a community with access to a skilled, diverse workforce in an inclusive, safe community, so community engagement remains an important part of our efforts. We’re also focused on providing the tools and support to make Irving-Las Colinas an entrepreneur start-up business generator. We are constantly thinking outside the box for creative solutions for an environment that is uncertain for the foreseeable future.
A version of this story first published in the Summer 2020 edition of the Dallas-Fort Worth Real Estate Review.
Sandra Engelland contributed to this report.
Read more on how DFW is a place for the future from these commercial real estate experts:
‘North Texas Has a Lot Working in Our Favor’
Mike Berry, President, Hillwood
‘There Will be New Opportunities’
Shane Shepard, Economic Development Director, City of Lancaster
‘It Is Reasonable To Expect That the Area Will Fare Especially Well’
Ray Perryman, The Perryman Group
Site Selection Group Partner Sums Up the DFW Commercial Real Estate Market in 8 Words
Lee M. Wagner, Partner, Corporate Real Estate Services, Site Selection Group
Inquiries by economic development agencies “are up by a significant multiple over this period last year”
Joel Pustmueller, Managing Director, Brokerage, JLL
‘We’re Seeing More Companies Investing in Their Existing Footprint’
Beth Bowman, President and CEO of Irving Economic Development Partnership
‘We Believe Cities Like Frisco Will Benefit by the Return of Growth To the Suburbs’
Jason Ford, Economic Developer and Vice President, Frisco EDC
The Future Is Bright for Dallas-Fort Worth Corporate Relocations and Consolidations
Jeff Ellerman, Vice Chairman, CBRE
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