Like many other business organizations, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce will be involved in the next session of the Texas Legislature.
But this year, the Fort Worth Chamber is making it – and advocacy in general – a bigger priority.
The chamber has recently hired a new head of advocacy, Kyle Jacobson, who was previously with the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce.
“I think there’s a huge opportunity for us to be even more influential in Austin than we are already,” said Brandom Gengelbach, CEO and president of the Fort Worth Chamber.
The chamber previously outsourced the role, but it decided to make the position a priority and hired Jacobson as a full-time staff member, Gengelbach said.
“He’ll be back and forth between here and Austin, representing the interests of our membership,” he said.
One of the issues the chamber and Jacobson will focus on is economic development incentives.
“With the expiration of the Chapter 313 incentive at the end of this year, we know that they’re going to be looking at some sort of replacement, although we know it won’t be in the same form as the 313,” said Gengelbach.
The Chapter 313 incentive is designed to attract new businesses by offering them a 10-year limitation on their appraised property value for a portion of the school district property tax. In exchange for the value limitation, the business agrees to build or install new property and create jobs in the school district, according to the Texas Comptroller’s office.
The legislation authorizing Chapter 313 incentives was actually born in Fort Worth and authored in part by former state Sen. Kim Brimer. The legislation was spurred by a decision by computer chip giant Intel Corp. to not build in Texas because of high property taxes in 2002.
Texas remains popular with business and is very good at attracting capital investment, but the state needs to ensure it doesn’t take all that for granted, Gengelbach said.
“We need to recognize that the incentive piece is a big reason for our success,” he said. “It’s something that other states are nipping at our heels, wanting to take some of our growth.”
The Fort Worth Chamber is not alone in supporting some new local incentives. The Texas Association of Business, a statewide business advocacy group, is also supporting some sort of local economic incentives, particularly for companies focused on advanced technology, bioscience manufacturing, semiconductor, manufacturing, and energy-related projects, according to the organization’s “2023 Key Legislative Priorities” publication.
The Fort Worth Chamber is also focusing on Texas’ system of taxes, primarily property taxes, a subject that is expected to be key to the legislative session.
“We know there’s going to be opportunities to look at property tax relief this session,” said Gengelbach. “We want to make sure that the system in place ensures that there’s no type of disproportionate tax burden on any particular sectors of the economy.”
According to the Texas Tribune, state lawmakers have already filed many bills looking to provide property tax relief for Texas property owners.
The chamber is also focused on workforce readiness and talent, two areas that are often at the top of the list for chamber members, said Gengelbach.
“We do about 400 business interviews a year, where we go out and talk to local employers,” he said. “And finding a good, well-trained workforce is the No. 1 issue that employers cite as needing help with to be more successful as a business.”
The chamber will also be watching bills that have to do with growth, such as water supply and other infrastructure, Gengelbach said.
“Those aren’t really sexy issues but very important as fast as this state is growing,” he said.
The state has done a great job of creating the right environment for businesses to thrive, Gengelbach said .
“Being able to be a state where there’s less regulations and more freedom for business to operate, certainly is a competitive advantage over other parts of the country,” he said. “And we want to keep it that way.”
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.