Economic development is not just about headline-grabbing deals. It’s also about growing a well-trained workforce.
That is where Tarrant County College’s Corporate Solutions and Economic Development office comes in. The new department is located at TCC Northwest Campus in north Fort Worth and wants to provide established companies with tailor-made training for their employees.
“We go out and we engage with CEOs and executives of businesses in the region to really ask one question, and that’s, ‘What are your workforce needs and what can we do to assist you?” said Shannon Bryant, TCC executive vice president of corporate solutions and economic development.
The corporate solutions center is a sprawling 35,000-square-foot facility on the third floor of TCC Northwest Campus. The location is key, Bryant said. The center sits on the runway at Alliance Airport, and is surrounded by a variety of companies, including Hillwood.
The Corporate Solutions and Economic Development office has an entirely new team and is just starting to get to work, Bryant said. Companies have started to use the center to hold meetings and luncheons.
Behind the scenes, staffers have been working with companies to set up specialized training.
For example, Bryant, who has been in her job for two years, pointed to one company that needed a customized titanium welding training program. TCC set up the program and started training workers at the Learning Opportunities Center. Another company had TCC create a customized mentorship program for a new vice president.
“Supporting existing companies is always going to be a priority of the community because we want our companies here to be successful — we want them to grow here and be happy here,” Chris Strayer, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s executive vice president of economic development, said.
Kellie Brunn, the co-owner of two Fort Worth-based companies, recently had her team go through a series of leadership training. TCC worked with her to find the right lessons she wanted to teach.
“We’re a small business, so our resources are limited with time and money to afford time off for our whole team,” she said. “It had to be something that was worthwhile and meaningful.”
The training went off without a hitch, and Brunn is exploring more classes for her team.
“They delivered exactly what they promised to deliver,” Brunn said.
Bryant serves as TCC’s economic development liaison and meets with Hillwood when it is looking at bringing companies to Alliance. She also worked closely with the local chambers of commerce.
When she meets with companies, Bryant’s focus is on workforce development.
“I’ve worked with site selectors for a very long time, and you can go to any city and get tax abatements and get dollars for training,” said Bryant, who previously led a workforce development program for Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. “This work on the customization side really makes all of the difference because it’s really meeting the employer where they are vs. just building some kind of standardized program that goes across all industries.”
The specialized training TCC can create for companies is one way to differentiate Fort Worth from other communities, Strayer said. Fort Worth has to stay out in front of trends — such as building electric cars — and be prepared for them, he added.
“As industry is changing and training is changing and skill sets are changing, we know that we are set up for that, and that we are not going to have to build these things into the future when the need is already there,” he said. “We want to be set up before it gets here.”
Providing training to employees also is about giving underserved populations a shot at climbing up to decision-making positions. Some companies’ leadership do not reflect their workforces. Bryant discusses that with employers and how they are ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion are part of their discussions with their workers. That approach, she said, can help companies keep more of their employees — and lift everyone up.
“It starts with one company, one conversation and one engagement at a time,” Bryant said.
Bryant wants companies to rethink how they view their employees. It’s not about their output, but how workforce development can start to transform a community.
“It’s not just that person, but it’s their family,” Bryant said. “It’s really about that trajectory of success and empowering people and empowering companies to say, ‘Look, I no longer look at my people as a cost. I look at them as an investment.’”
Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.