From Together, We Are Building a Bigger, Better Texas

‘Economic Development is a Team Sport in Texas’

With Cruz at the helm, the Lone Star State keeps winning national titles.

“Texas is home to 31 official ports of entry that serve as gateways to global trade. Each port, whether an airport, land port, or seaport, serves domestic and international economic activities across multiple industries.”
— Adriana Cruz, Executive Director, EDT
by Ron Starner

hen it comes to building an economic development powerhouse organization, no one does it better than Adriana Cruz. As executive director of the Texas Economic Development & Tourism Office within the Office of Governor Greg Abbott, Cruz has presided over an effort that has delivered a national championship-level performance year in and year out.

When Governor Abbott appointed Cruz to this post in late 2019, the state was coming off an impressive run of economic development wins. Over the last four years, Cruz has taken Texas to an even higher level. In the following interview, we asked Cruz to detail that effort and explain what it takes to consistently deliver a best-in-class track record.

Texas recently won its 12th straight Governor’s Cup award from Site Selection magazine for landing the most corporate facility investment projects in the nation. What factors do you think are most responsible for this sustained run of success?

CRUZ: We are so proud to take home once again the Governor’s Cup for the most corporate relocation and expansion projects in the U.S. — now for the 12th year in a row. As the eighth-largest economy in the world, Texas offers boundless economic opportunity for companies of all sizes and industries, and we continue to attract corporate facility investment projects from across the country and around the globe. Economic development is a team sport in Texas, and our relationship with our local and regional economic development organizations is critical.

Our winning streak can also be attributed to a number of competitive business factors that are unique to the Lone Star State. Texas is ranked as the state with the Best Business Climate in the nation, the second-largest workforce in the nation — a productive, diverse and highly skilled talent pool. Combined with no corporate or personal income tax, a reasonable regulatory environment, and a pro-growth mindset with an exceptional quality of life, Texas has what companies need to be successful. When businesses succeed, all Texans succeed.

Foreign direct investment has a lot to do with Texas’s track record of best-in-nation accomplishment. How does Texas consistently beat out other states and countries to win some of the most prized FDI projects on the planet?

CRUZ: Foreign direct investment (FDI) is a major driver of economic growth in our state. In fact, Texas has been the No. 1 destination in the U.S. for FDI capital investment over the last two decades. Major investments such as Samsung’s $17 billion semiconductor fabrication plant in Taylor, GlobalWafers’ multi-billion-dollar silicon epitaxy plant in Sherman, and JCB’s new construction equipment manufacturing facility in San Antonio are just a few examples of transformational FDI projects that have recently come to Texas.

Global brands are attracted to Texas thanks to our central geographic location, robust infrastructure networks and easy access to global markets via land, air and sea, not to mention the best workforce in the nation.

What lessons did Texas learn from the deep freeze impacts of a few years ago, and how has Texas adapted since then?

CRUZ: Texas is focused on ensuring businesses have the resources they need to stay in operation through any weather event, and we are constantly working to prepare the state’s electric grid for the future. During the 87th Legislative Session, the Texas Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law important legislation to help lessen the impact of natural disasters on the power grid. Senate Bill 3 enhances the reliability and resilience of the electric grid. This law requires electric companies and gas facilities to weatherize their facilities, allowing the continuation of power production during extreme weather events; creates the Texas Electric Supply Chain Security and Mapping Committee to map the state’s electric supply chain; directs the Public Utility Commission of Texas to take measures necessary to ensure the reliability and affordability of the grid; establishes the Texas Energy Reliability Council to improve communication between industry and state agencies; and implements a state power outage alert system.

Additionally, House Bill 3648 strengthens the Texas power system by helping ensure that critical natural gas facilities maintain electric service during energy emergencies. Since Governor Abbott signed these bipartisan laws, no Texan has lost power because of the state grid. In the 88th Legislative Session, Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment creating the Texas Energy Fund which allocates up to $10 billion primarily dedicated to the construction or expansion of dispatchable-reliable energy generation. These measures help strengthen the reliability and resiliency of the Texas grid to keep our residents safe and keep businesses open throughout extreme weather events.

University of Texas in AustinUniversity of Texas in Austin, where Adriana Cruz received her degree.
Photo: Getty Images

What role will renewable energy play in the future of Texas’ economy?

CRUZ: Since the discovery of the Spindletop oilfield in 1901, Texas has been a global leader in energy production. Texas is the largest energy-producing state in the nation and is recognized as the energy capital of the world — for both renewable and traditional sources. Renewables, fossil fuels and alternative sources all play a key role in the state’s energy sector.

Texas is the nation’s leading producer of oil, gas and wind-powered generation and now utility-scale solar. We are also leading the way in new technologies such as hydrogen, carbon capture, biomass and small modular reactors. This is thanks in part to the state’s unique geography, available space, abundant natural resources, robust transportation systems and highly skilled labor force. Our all-of-the-above energy approach has led to continued growth across all of Texas’ energy sectors. This strategy is important not only in fueling our state’s economy, but also in helping our nation achieve energy independence.

How are you managing the rapid growth of data centers across the state?

CRUZ: Texas is a popular location for new and expanded data centers. In fact, Cushman & Wakefield’s 2024 Global Data Center Market Comparison ranked Dallas-Fort Worth No. 4 among established data center markets in the world. Here in Texas, we are focused on ensuring our critical infrastructure can support the growth of the data center industry as AI and other cloud-based technologies continue to drive our online lifestyles. Texas continues to attract these high-tech operations because of our location and our robust infrastructure, as well as a low incidence of significant weather events, topography, availability of tech talent, and ease of travel to both coasts. We are preparing for significant growth in the industry over the next decades across the state.

What role do the ports play in Texas’ economy?

CRUZ: Ports are a major driver of our booming economy and critical infrastructure for continued economic growth. In fact, our ports play a significant role to help Texas remain the No. 1 exporting state in the nation for the last 22 years in a row. Texas is home to 31 official ports of entry that serve as gateways to global trade. Each port, whether an airport, land port or seaport, serves domestic and international economic activities across multiple industries.

The Lone Star State is home to the No. 1 port in the U.S. for waterborne foreign trade — the Port of Houston — and the No. 1 inland port along the U.S.-Mexico border — Port Laredo. Texas ports play a distinctive role in the state’s robust transportation network and bolster state and local economies.

Port of HoustonPort of Houston
Photo courtesy of Port of Houston

The Texas Medical Center is hailed as a model for life sciences expansion across the country. What’s next for the Texas Medical Center and the rest of your state in life sciences growth?

CRUZ: Texas is one of the country’s leading hubs for biotechnology and life sciences. This is thanks to our world-class institutions, including the Texas Medical Center (TMC), in addition to our highly skilled talent and focus on innovation. TMC in Houston is the largest medical complex in the world and conducts more clinical trials than any other single site in the world. Already a research mega-site, TMC is partnering with three state universities to develop a state-of-the-art research collaborative campus called TMC3, which will help keep Texas on the cutting edge of discovery and innovation in medicine. TMC celebrated the opening of the TMC3 Collaborative Building and the launch of Helix Park in 2023 — a new campus fully dedicated to streamlining the commercialization of life-changing innovations in medicine and technologies.

Texas is home to more than 6,000 life science and research firms and more than 105,000 workers in related fields. In addition to TMC, Texas is a national leader in cancer research with the work done at the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the second-largest cancer research and prevention program in the world according to CPRIT.

Dallas was selected last year as one of three national hubs for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), a new federal agency pursuing game-changing breakthroughs in science and medicine. For decades, Texas has been an epicenter for groundbreaking medical research, and thanks to world-class institutions across the state, we will continue to build the future of biotech, life sciences and medicine here in Texas.

You’re hosting a World Cup semifinal at AT&T Stadium in Arlington in 2026. What does this mean for your state?

CRUZ: We are so grateful and excited to have the opportunity to host the World Cup semifinal in Arlington. The World Cup is a major international sporting event, which we expect will bring an unprecedented number of visitors to North Texas with an expected economic impact of more than $1 billion. In addition to hosting the semifinal, Arlington will host a total of nine games, with Houston hosting seven games. Overall, 16 matches will be held in Texas — the most of any state. 

The Texas Rangers won the World Series last year, and the Texas Longhorns made the College Football Playoffs. How has this success helped your state?

CRUZ: As a UT alumni, I am partial to our Texas Longhorns (Hook ’Em!); however, as Texans we are proud of all our Texas sports teams and cheer them on for continued success. When a team like the Texas Rangers makes history — winning their first ever World Series title — it fills all Texans with a sense of pride. Texas as a whole also wins as it helps put the Lone Star State in a national and global spotlight.

What is Texas’ ace in the hole when it comes to corporate recruiting?

CRUZ: Texas does economic development like no other state in the nation because we are like no other state in the nation. Our approach is a collaborative one — economic development is a team sport in Texas. There are several other advantages that help us to be successful in corporate recruitment. The people of Texas are our greatest asset, and one of the key reasons companies choose to come to Texas. With the largest population growth in the U.S. for the past 18 years in a row, Texas continues to be a talent magnet that offers a job-ready workforce across every region of the state. Texas is younger and growing faster than the nation as a whole. Not to mention, we are the “stickiest” state, meaning 82% of people born in Texas choose to stay here, far more than any other state. Thanks to an exceptional quality of life and comparatively lower cost of living, Texas continues to be a top destination for people relocating from other states. It’s clear that Texas is not only the best place for companies to find the talent to meet all their needs, but Texas is the best place for residents to live, work and raise a family. 

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.


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