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Whether you are reading this story on a phone, a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop computer, that very act can be traced back to the ingenuity of Jack Kilby. In the late 1950s, while working as an engineer at Texas Instruments in Dallas, Kilby developed the integrated circuit, or microchip.
“If you think about the modern electronics industry, anything from cellphones to the electronics in your car, none of that would have been possible without the invention of the integrated circuit,” says Art George, an editorial adviser to Dallas Innovates who recently retired from a 30-year career at TI. “It has spawned an incredible legacy.”
That legacy lives on today through Kilby Labs, three innovation centers that allow small teams of engineers to explore new ideas that wouldn’t have a home in one of TI’s traditional business units. There are Kilby Labs in Silicon Valley, India, and TI’s corporate headquarters in Dallas, and Texas Instruments is hardly the only local corporation to devote time, space, and resources to innovation.
“If you think about the modern electronics industry, anything from cellphones to the electronics in your car, none of that would have been possible without the invention of the integrated circuit. It has spawned an incredible legacy,” says Art George.
Dallas-based AT&T’s Foundry has started more than 200 projects—organized in “sprints” to quickly determine their viability—since its launch in 2011. Grapevine-based GameStop launched the GameStop Technology Institute in 2014 to create affiliations with technology firms and universities that could lead to benefits for consumers. Dallas-based Neiman Marcus’ iLab was created to encourage collaborations that lead to innovation. Plus, a number of companies not headquartered in North Texas also have their innovation centers here, including CBRE Labs and Samsung Research America.
North Texas is the headquarters of 21 companies on the latest Fortune 500 list, including Irving-based Exxon Mobil, which also earned a spot on Thomson Reuters’ list of Top 100 Global Innovators. The latter list also includes Ericsson, BlackBerry, and NEC, foreign companies that have their U.S. headquarters in North Texas. They’ll soon be joined by Toyota USA, which is building a new base of operations in Plano, as are FedEx Office and Liberty Mutual Insurance.
“Dallas is a true conglomerate. There are a lot of cities that are very focused on one or two particular industries, and you can’t really say that’s true for Dallas,” says Paul Kimbel, senior director of Dallas’ Microsoft Technology Center. “You name the industry, and we have a good representation across there.”
Companies are lured to North Texas by the relatively low cost of living compared to cities on the coasts, the lack of a state income tax, and the central location that makes virtually anywhere just a direct flight away from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Another factor that makes the Dallas-Fort Worth area such a strong location for enterprise is that it’s a natural landing spot for the state’s college graduates, a large percentage of whom choose to remain in Texas.
“Dallas is a true conglomerate. There are a lot of cities that are very focused on one or two particular industries, and you can’t really say that’s true for Dallas,” says Paul Kimbel.
“When you look at the number of colleges and universities in a 300-mile span around the DFW area,” Kimbel says, “you’re able to bring in talent pretty easily and quickly, not only with UT and A&M but also UNT, the University of Dallas, SMU, Texas Tech, TCU—all really great, well-known schools in their various fields. And so you have a large college-educated population that can come and work here at the same time and not have to leave their location to find good-quality jobs.”
This is just a bird’s eye view of the many innovative things happening with DFW’s enterprise landscape. Be sure to check back for more stories.
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