Objective: Enhance, expand, and connect services to help existing businesses of all sizes grow and thrive in Wichita Falls.
Business attraction activities in the preceding Key Initiative represent just one way to grow export-oriented jobs. Best-practice communities also engage in business retention and expansion (BRE) activities to ensure that their existing firms have what they need to remain and grow in the community. This is particularly important as various estimates over the years have identified existing business expansions as the leading source for job growth within regional economies.
The Chamber provides BRE services in Wichita Falls on behalf of its community partners. Chamber economic development staff conduct regular site visits with local employers to assess whether firms may be primed for an expansion or at risk of leaving the market and providing direct assistance accordingly. The program also helps uncover needs and challenges that are consistent among employers, which can inform strategic adjustments. The development of the Employee Relocation Incentive Program (see Key Initiative #4) is an example of an effort that arose from employer feedback in BRE visits.
This Key Initiative entails providing a range of “existing business care” for businesses in Wichita Falls. This includes continuing to operate a best-practice BRE program. It also involves engaging and serving smaller firms that cannot be contacted through BRE site visits. This is important in the Wichita Falls region, where companies with fewer than 20 employees account for nearly one in four total jobs. Accordingly, the Key Initiative recommends an online survey to contact smaller firms, potential incentives for existing firms of all sizes, and the expanded use of pre-construction meetings to simplify the development process for a wider variety of expansions and investments.
1. Continue to operate a best-practice business retention and expansion (BRE) program
- Continue to task the Chamber with executing a BRE program on the community’s behalf
- Conduct annual visits with all major employers and maintain regular working relationships with key business executives, plant managers, etc. as needed
- Assist firms considering expansions in Wichita Falls and/or firms that are at risk of relocating
- Leverage BRE findings to guide Falls Future 2.0 implementation activities and inform other policy decisions and investments
2. Develop an online business satisfaction survey to broaden feedback
- With key public and private partners, develop an annual or bi-annual survey open to all businesses in Wichita Falls, focusing especially on firms that are not engaged through BRE site visits
- Utilize survey findings to guide support services and identify additional opportunities and challenges
3. Consider establishing incentives for existing export-oriented businesses based in Wichita Falls
- Through the proposed incentives review (see Recommended Action #2 in Key Initiative #5), evaluate the feasibility of creating incentives for export-oriented that have been based in Wichita Falls for a minimum number of years that are adding headcount and/or making capital investments
- Incentives could include tax incentives, fee waivers, or grants for small businesses; offerings should be designed to help retain firms in Wichita Falls and catalyze job and investment growth that may not have occurred otherwise
4. Expand the use of pre-construction meetings to simplify the development process
- Support the City of Wichita Falls in enhancing customer service experiences and streamlining municipal processes as outlined in its 2021 Strategic Plan
- Continue to utilize “one-stop” pre-construction and permitting meetings for major commercial and industrial developments and pursue additional capacity to offer such meetings to a wider variety of projects (e.g., reducing the minimum threshold of jobs or investment)