here are so many options in Texas outside of the Golden Triangle.”
So says “Super” Dave Quinn, interim community and economic development manager for Fairview, Texas; erstwhile economic development professional in the Texas communities of Frisco, Bastrop and Levelland; proud member of the Texas A&M Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of 1997; and all-around champion of his state. The story of how he and partners Jim Gandy and Jason Adams founded Day One Experts consulting and launched the Texas Economic Development Connection reads like a Texas pulp novel:
“On a chilly winter day in Frisco, Texas, three guys met at a barbecue joint,” they write. “An hour later, a company was born on a piece of butcher paper stained by beef ribs and jalapeno sausage.”
Texas Economic Development Connection is a team of certified economic developers working in cooperation with governmental agencies, chambers of commerce, and economic development organizations (EDOs) across Texas to support small businesses ready to expand or relocate to the Lone Star State. “We help companies identify opportunities in Texas cities and stand ready to help them begin their journey to becoming a Texan,” they say.
Quinn says communities in every direction have industrial properties and potential. Elon Musk and Samsung make the news and that’s good. “But there is so much more Texas offers,” he tells me, “especially for small business owners with 10 to 15 employees, or 40 to 50 employees.”
Quinn has glimpsed the promise of such an approach since 2004, when he was chairman of the High Ground of Texas, a regional economic development marketing coalition covering 60-plus counties in West Texas. It’s marketing promotion. It’s targeted outreach. It’s a bit of journalism too. When we spoke, he was on his way to interview a CEO of a company expanding to Texas who was passing through the DFW area, for use later in his “Gone to Texas” podcast. Meanwhile the data accumulates from a roster of Texas Economic Development Connection communities that numbers 44 in just the second year of the organization (see map).
“Each year we’ll get better with data-driven approaches,” Quinn says, targeting certain key words and seeking out conversations with leaders like that traveling CEO. He recalls talking to Karen Neola, who moved her gourmet pet food manufacturing company My Perfect Pet from the San Diego area to Sulphur Springs, Texas.
“How compelling is the business case to make you move from San Diego?” he wonders aloud. “But Texas was the only way she could see to do it and be able to scale her business. It’s a small businessperson who says, ‘I’m passionate about my business.’ ”
Another story emerges from an “itty bitty town” on the east side of Dallas called Wiley, where a top-of-the-line video and motion graphics studio called Already Been Chewed (do you sense a cuisine theme?) is going gangbusters.
“These stories exist all over Texas,” Quinn says, “but they don’t always get told.”
Visit texasedconnection.com and you’ll find some of them, spread across 12 regions of Texas from Upper East Texas to the High Plains to the Alamo Region. There are some 700 EDOs in Texas. Because some places get lost in the shuffle, says Quinn, “the concept was a place people could go to help narrow their options quickly and efficiently. We very simply make the connection. We’re a sounding board. And it doesn’t cost the business owner anything. The partners in the organization pay for all of this. We put information in a shared file, send it back to the business owner and say, ‘Here are all of your responses. We can help you answer questions, but you have their contact info and can go directly to them.'
“With boots on the ground,” Quinn says, “we find people searching for opportunities to grow.”
Search the website and the real-world towns of the Texas Economic Development Connection and you may find the sorts of people you’ve been looking for all your life. Then it’s time to get to work writing your own story.