A day after the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce announced a major change to how it approaches economic development that will be led by a state leader with ties to Gov. Greg Abbott, the governor himself delivered a message touting the economic strength of Texas.
Abbott also asked for help in passing legislation he said would benefit local communities.
“We must have the legislature pass new economic development tools in Texas,” he said.
The lack of economic development tools can lose the state economic development projects, Abbott said.
Among those tools are tax-break incentives.
Abbott cited a decision by semiconductor manufacturer Micron to locate in New York instead of Texas due to larger incentives provided by that state.
“The competition is very stiff,” he said. “This is not something we can take for granted.”
Abbott asked chamber members to reach out to their state legislators to ask for help in setting up new economic development tools during this legislative session. One of the state’s economic development tools, known as Chapter 313 agreements, lapsed at the end of last year and business leaders and heads of economic development across the state are appealing to the Texas Legislature to adopt new incentives. Chapter 313 agreements allowed school districts to provide some tax relief for new projects.
The proposed new economic development tools would also feature economic incentives but would correct shortcomings in accountability and transparency that many complained about with the Chapter 313 agreements, according to the Texas Association of Business, which is supporting new legislation.
“If they get a couple hundred phone calls today, that will begin to move the needle,” Abbott said.
Legislators receive calls from people who don’t want the state to provide incentives, Abbott said.
At the same time, Abbott touted the state’s $2 trillion economy that he said makes Texas the ninth-largest economy in the world and the biggest job-creating state in the nation.
“Gov. Abbott has said this message from day one that, ‘Texas is open for business, and business is coming,’” said Rosa Navejar, chair of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and president of The Rios Group. “We just need to keep that trend moving forward. To bring in more businesses that creates more jobs, that helps create quality of life.”
On Tuesday, the Fort Worth Chamber announced a major change to its approach on economic development. The chamber announced it was forming an economic development partnership like many other cities. The chamber has hired Robert Allen, current head of the Texas Economic Development Corporation, to lead the new effort. Allen had also previously been deputy chief of staff for the governor.
“As great as Fort Worth is, I know that Robert Allen will take Fort Worth to new heights when it comes to economic development,” said Abbott.
Navejar said bringing Allen on board is a game-changer.
“Other cities have done this. They did it 20, 30 years ago, and it’s time for us to do that so that we’re all on an equal playing field,” she said.
Abbott said that part of the state’s current economic strength has led to an unprecedented budget surplus and that it will pay off with lower property taxes.
The legislature keeps increasing the amount of property tax relief it will provide as the budget surplus continues to grow, Abbott said.
That too, will make the state more attractive to business, he said.
The governor also said he wants to pass legislation that will reduce regulations on business.
The reason many businesses leave California is not high taxes, he said, but the costs of burdensome regulations.
Abbott was speaking at the Fort Worth Chamber’s Leaders in Government program presented by Kelly Hart & Hallman at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel.
Disclosures: Fort Worth Report board member Marianne Auld is the managing partner of Kelly Hart & Hallman. Hillwood is a financial supporter of the Fort Worth Report. 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.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: Robert Allen’s previous title has been corrected.