Each year, the Dallas Regional Chamber hosts a forward-looking discussion on business, economics, and political trends affecting North Texas. The 2018 summit, held Nov. 15, was presented by Polsinelli.
Topics discussed at the summit included important trends, issues, and challenges that regional executives could face in the coming year.
The event included a fireside chat with David Seaton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fluor, and Susan Warren, Dallas Bureau Chief of Bloomberg News.
“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
– Julius Hobson
Warren also moderated a panel of economic and political experts including Ray Perryman, President and CEO of The Perryman Group; Cullum Clark, Director, Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative and an Adjunct Professor of Economics at SMU; and Julius W. Hobson Jr., Senior Policy Advisor at Polsinelli.
In this article, Hobson offers insight from the nation’s capital on key takeaways from the panel discussion, including finding success, embracing a tech-forward workforce, and rebounding from the in light of Amazon’s decision to place HQ2 in New York and Virginia.
Here’s what Hobson had to say
Q: Polsinelli was the presenting sponsor of this year’s Year Ahead Summit. What is Polsinelli’s role in Dallas’ business environment and with the Regional Chamber? How is the firm looking ahead and tackling issues like the economy, rising trends, and the current political environment?
A: Polsinelli’s Dallas office, with more than 50 professionals, has grown by tenfold in less than a decade. The Dallas office’s robust local presence provides a gateway to our national, full-service law firm that delivers the highest caliber of legal work and client service, infused with deeply held Midwestern values. Our firm is strongly committed to supporting businesses ranging from entrepreneurial, innovative start-up companies to middle-market leaders across a wide range of industry sectors.
The Dallas office has been a proud supporter of the Dallas Regional Chamber and its important initiatives for many years, including serving as the presenting sponsor of the Year Ahead Summit for the last three. Polsinelli offers nationally regarded practices that match up well to some of the most vital industry sectors and business needs in the Dallas region like Health Care, Intellectual Property, Corporate and Transactional, Real Estate and more to best meet the needs of our North Texas clients and advise on the issues that matter most to them. We are constantly evolving, learning and growing to stay at the forefront of the most relevant topics impacting the community.
Q: The panel discussion involved a look at the facing Dallas Regional executives in the year ahead. What are those challenges? What are the political and social issues that need to be improved for long-term economic growth and success in Dallas, and how can innovators bring those improvements to the area?
A: Looking toward 2019, I anticipate Dallas Regional business leaders will face several important challenges throughout the year—especially now that there’s a divided government in Washington. Additionally, the Federal Reserve Chairman has recently indicated that the Federal Reserve is going to increase rates in December, which will have an adverse effect on the currently booming economy. However, in a recent speech, Chairman Powell was ambiguous as to whether the Fed planned to raise rates in 2019.
Any changes in health care legislation, particularly as it relates to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, will have important implications for the Dallas economy, since the city is a major player in the industry. Anything that affects the finances of hospitals will be felt across a broad range of industries in North Texas.
Because Texas is a major oil- and gas-producing state, the Dallas economy will also feel the impact of a decline in oil prices, though thankfully, not as deeply as other Texas cities or as much as in the past. Also, immigration will continue to be a hot button topic for the region, especially since we are at almost full employment, with many immigrants filling and retaining jobs. Lastly, there has been a significant decrease in the number of international students coming to the U.S. for higher education and advanced degrees, which will have a long-term impact on the nation’s ability to lead innovation and growth, since many of those students serve in critical roles with high-tech companies and other pioneers in the modern economy.
To address these challenges and issues, North Texas leaders should promote and prioritize better communication with the administration through national and state elected officials about what’s important to the North Texas community. It’s critical the community’s representatives stay active in political discussions and make diligent efforts to communicate North Texas’ needs to the delegation. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.
Q: What is Dallas doing right to attract and retain global corporations? What could be improved?
In contrast, we recently learned that Amazon’s HQ2 is not headed for Dallas. What lessons were learned from Amazon’s decision? How can we apply those in the future?
A: Dallas learned a lot through its proposal for Amazon’s second U.S. headquarters, and I believe the city presented a very competitive option. Many of those lessons can be used to continue attracting major corporations to North Texas.
For instance, a collaborative effort between local business leaders and elected officials, with clear communication on what incentives will be offered for relocation, is essential for maintaining the impressive influx of new corporate headquarters. Promoting the post-secondary education institutions in North Texas is also crucial for setting the area apart from peer cities. Demonstrating the region can provide consistent, home-grown talent is key. Along the same lines, a major focus area should be improving the education system in North Texas, because corporations look for and highly value strong public-school networks.
City leaders should tout the corporations attracted to the area within the last five years to illustrate why businesses are moving to the region and try to get them involved in endorsing North Texas when possible. Similarly, promoting North Texas’ esteem as a technology hub is important, to differentiate Dallas from the historically dominant oil industry. North Texas’ technology prowess has really been built up over the last several years, and the area can offer a skilled, capable pool of employees.
Overall, the diversified economy with a wide variety of industries is a key part of the success of the area, and will be attractive to prospects.
Q: There’s no doubt we’re living in a time of an increasingly tech-based workforce. Can you speak to the importance of education for developing, attracting and retaining highly skilled employees? Do you have recommendations for finding and developing these people?
A: Education in all forms is always a good, long-term investment, and so is training students from a young age. It’s deeply important that business leaders and other community stakeholders work with the North Texas public-school system to prepare more students who can attend college and pursue highly skilled opportunities. In today’s job market, you almost always need a degree beyond a high school diploma, and even more importantly, you need to understand how to operate a computer for almost every industry or job imaginable.
From my perspective, there’s two parts to building a more robust, tech-based workforce pipeline. The first part is promoting and connecting students to higher education institutions and programs as soon as possible. The other part is working with the administration to provide an easier and faster process for international, post-secondary students to remain in the U.S. after they graduate from college. Many of these students look for opportunities to gain employment in the U.S. but have difficulty. Since our administration has a tight and slow process in place for issuing work visas, many of these highly educated and skilled individuals are forced to move elsewhere, meaning we lose access to a significant portion of the workforce we train.
Q: What else should readers know about panel topics like the economic outlook for 2019, the current political environment’s effect locally, and the aftermath of Amazon’s HQ2 decision?
A: As expected, there is a lot of concern surrounding the economy. Many experts have predicted that we will have a downturn after this period of great growth, but we don’t know when it’s going to happen. I’m a strong believer in monitoring the Federal Reserve and credible prediction sources because it’s important to stay informed for both professional and personal purposes.
Also, with all the uncertainty surrounding the divided government at the national level, local leaders need to push more for bipartisan agreement on issues that can affect the North Texas area. Similarly, leaders need to collaborate with state government leaders in Austin and advocate for state policies that help promote the region.
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