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Fort Worth May Have A Branding Problem For Young, Educated Adults

When recent college graduates are weighing their options of where to search for jobs, a few cities top the list: Charlotte, Denver, San Francisco and Seattle. Dallas, New York, Portland, Oakland and Washington, D.C., get the most out-of-state graduates. Fort Worth does not seem to be appealing to college grads.

Crater Lake Consulting's Karen Berlin Cooperstein and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price
Crater Lake Consulting's Karen Berlin Cooperstein and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price

“I love Cowtown, but putting myself in the shoes of some young civil engineer, where does he want to move? Maybe not some place called Cowtown,” Trademark Property Co. senior vice president of development Edward Manuel said at Bisnow’s Fort Worth State of the Market event Thursday. Fort Worth needs to determine its brand and lure talent to town based on a more appealing brand, Manuel said.

Developers face those branding challenges as they seek to create something new in a redevelopment, and the city faces the same challenge as it tries to lure corporate relocations.

“We’ve always said ‘hang on to your roots,'” South Fort Worth president Paul Paine said. “Bring in the new, hold onto the old and weave it together.”

M2G Ventures, the development firm founded by twin sisters Jessica Worman and Susan Gruppi, has done this well, Paine said. 

M2G purchased the OB Macaroni factory built in the 1860s last November. Gruppi and Worman knew they would embrace the building’s history in the rebuild. 

“OB Mac came with its own history. That’s one where we would be remiss not to tell the story about it,” Gruppi said. And that is the case with much of the Near Southside, Gruppi said. “Near Southside knows who it is and it has an identity. We use that as our leading driver for leasing space.” 

That identity is not only what makes Fort Worth special, but also what separates it from Dallas. Mayor Betsy Price said as she travels with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, she loves to tell other cities around the world about the Stockyards.

Many factors are the same in Dallas and Fort Worth, including a business-friendly climate, entertainment and low cost of living, but Fort Worth has a unique culture with its "Cowtown" mentality, Price said. 

Trademark Property Co. SVP of development Edward Manuel, Kelly Hart Attorneys At Law's Chad Key, Woodmont's Erik Coslik, Hillwood's Sam Rhea
Trademark Property's Edward Manuel, Kelly Hart Attorneys At Law's Chad Key, Woodmont's Erik Coslik and Hillwood's Sam Rhea

“We know the quality of life here is great, but we’re more than cows,” Hillwood Properties executive vice president Bill Burton said.

Burton said the way the city pitches itself is critical.

“Different cities and companies are all wondering, ‘where do my people want to live?’ and educating them [about Fort Worth] is an enormous component of that,” he said.

Price said what is good for Dallas is good for Fort Worth and vice versa. But Dallas and its suburbs keep catching corporate relocations. 

“From an office standpoint, we missed the cycle,” CBRE senior vice president David Walters said.

When big and small users came to North Texas looking for space, Fort Worth had to pass because it had so little available.

“Dallas is creating new cities, and it’s hard to create that kind of momentum,” Walters said. “Our time will come again.”

Walters estimates there is 1.2M SF or 1.5M SF of office space available in Downtown Fort Worth

Our panelists saw opportunities for growth. 

Between TCU, TCC, UTA and the other colleges in the area, universities could be a powerful story and source of an educated workforce, but they are not right now, Burton said. He would like to see improvements to the public school system and the area’s higher education to get a more educated employment base staying in the area.