Economic Development has changed; now companies go where people are.  Being different and using Zoom as a way to meet with site consultants is an advantage. Success breeds success with decisions from Pamlico Air and Panda Biotech for manufacturing centers locally in Wichita Falls.
Henry Florsheim, CEO and president of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce was our luncheon speaker Monday September 28, 2020.  Henry is also a Rotarian with the Rotary Club of Wichita Falls.  He was joined by Shay Jones, the chamber's Director of Business Intelligence.
SW Rotary enjoyed guests Dwain Linden and Majid Sharolli as well as Rotarian Noel Filer (also a member of the Rotary Club of Wichita Falls).
Henry shared a wide ranging discussion summarized below.  He notes that Economic Development has changed; now companies go where people are.  The only age group growing in Wichita Falls has been 55 and older.
People pick the city they want to live in, then find their job.
This flips the Economic Development Strategy from meetings to attract businesses, offering incentives and inducements to a strategy to become the city where more people want to be.  If we attract people, then we can attract businesses.
Six months ago, before COVID, unemployment was at a low of 2.9% -- everyone that wanted to work was working.  This made it hard to attract businesses. Need to get more people here.
Mid March 2020, David Leezer, VP of Business Attraction, reach out to a site consultant he knows using Zoom, since face to face visits were suspended due to COVID concerns.  Since that point in time, David has held 40+ Zoom calls with site consultants and interested businesses.  David has been joined in the calls by State and local government officials, others in the Chamber office, and sometimes from others in industry.  Feedback from site consultants is that few other communities are engaging in the fashion.
Four projects have been discussed, with two resulting in commitments – a food manufacturer and a transportation distribution hub.  A couple of others on in consideration.
We are enjoying momentum in businesses choosing Wichita Falls. 
Panda Biotech industrial hemp business has the goal to be largest hemp maker in US serving international markets, e.g. clothing. Panda has equipment on order, for delivery in Nov 2020. Their schedules are for limited production in the first quarter of 2021 and full production one year later in first quarter 2022.  Benefits of hemp agricultural production are two or three harvests per year using less water than other crops. Locally groups of farmers have been working with hemp for 18 months. County Commissioner Barry Mahler can get farmers with  50,000 acres committed to hemp production.
 Pamlico Air added their third manufacturing site for high quality air filters in Wichita Falls. Clayton Homes continues to be interested in manufacturing mobile homes here in Wichita Falls.
What about our future possibilities as MSU talks with Texas Tech about joining the Tech University system -- imagine a Texas Tech research institute for Hemp
All these opportunities change our targeted industries as locally our Aerospace industry is suffering due to COVID’s impact on air travel hurting Howmet, and Pratt & Whitney. 
4 other businesses are interested in business park. Henry noted he has a meeting later this day about improving the infrastructure – utilities and roads.
Change from the old school approach of “getting” industry to today’s recruiting as a city with a workforce – can’t ignore schools, downtown.  Our bond election is a big part of this attraction strategy as its been 50 years since last new high school.
Fort Worth Stockyard development shows downtown is important draw. As downtown lost traffic, people were drawn to Mall, Retail, banks etc.  Downtown resurgence as people want walking distance. Chamber Downtown development support included adding a person focused on bringing out of town people to downtown to help the two employees of Downtown proud mostly consumed with event planning and local communications and promotions.
Underserved population connected to business community.  For instance, military spouses are highly education and can work as interns.  The chamber finds business’s reluctant to hire as military spouse only stay for a couple of year.  Yet when asked how long do the business’s other employees stay on average, the answer was a couple of years!
The Rotary Club of Southwest Wichita Falls appreciated the visit and Chamber update from Henry and look forward to the ongoing growth of our community.