Fort Worth: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Fort Worth has traditionally been a diverse center of manufacturing, and the city had demonstrated strong economic growth since the 1980s. However, an economic slowdown in the sector accounted for job losses for the first time in many years between 2001 and 2003. Forecasts call for an increase of manufacturing jobs, supplying 32,048 new manufacturing jobs between 2004 and 2025 for an annual growth rate of 1.2 percent. Government sector jobs are expected to show continued growth, and the transportation, communication, and utilities sector is forecasted to show growth as well. Mining business in Texas is driven by oil and gas production and has shown losses as oil prices dip.

Major employers in the area are American Airlines, Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems, Bell Helicopter Textron, Radio Shack Corporation, SABRE, Pier 1 Imports, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe. Emerging economic sectors in the new century include semiconductor manufacturing, communications equipment manufacturing, corporate offices, and distribution.

Between 1990 and 1996 defense downsizing resulted in the loss of 44,000 jobs in the Fort Worth area. That development set Fort Worth's economic diversification effort into motion. A plan was adopted called "Strategy 2000, Diversifying Fort Worth's Future," which had as its goal the creation of a healthy, diverse, less defense-dependent economy supported by business development, emerging technologies, international trade, and a world class workforce. Tech Fort Worth, an off-shoot of "Strategy 2000," is a business incubator that works with the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center to foster new start-up companies. Tech Fort Worth opened a new facility in 2004 with over 160,000 feet of office space, laboratories and conference rooms.

Tourism is an important contributor to the local economy. According to the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, in 2004 there were 8.7 million visitors to Fort Worth, who spent $1.2 billion in the city and even more in the surrounding areas.

Items and goods produced: aircraft, communication equipment, electronic equipment, machinery, refrigeration equipment, containers, clothing, food products, pharmaceuticals, computers, clothing, grain, leather

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

Fort Worth offers many incentive programs to develop and redevelop the city. As of 2005 Fort Worth had nine active Tax Increment Finance (TIF) districts. There are two Enterprise Zones in Fort Worth, with fee wavers, tax refunds, and other assistance provided by both the city and state. Under a policy adopted in February 2000, the City of Fort Worth, on a case-by-case basis, gives consideration to the granting of property tax incentives to eligible residential, commercial, and industrial development projects. It is the objective of the city of Fort Worth to encourage applications from projects that (a) are located in enterprise zones or other designated target areas; or (b) result in a development with little or no additional cost to the City; or (c) result in 1,000 or more new jobs, with a commitment to hire Fort Worth and inner city residents. Fort Worth has two state-designated Urban Enterprise Zones.

State programs

Texas is a right-to-work state. The Texas Enterprise Zone Programs offer tax abatement at the local level, and refunds of state sales and use taxes under certain circumstances to businesses operating in enterprise zone areas. The state of Texas primarily targets its incentive programs toward smaller and rural communities.

Job training programs

The state of Texas provides training funds through its Smart Jobs program, which offers up to $2,000 in matching funds for training employees who will work for new and expanding Texas companies that pay at or above the state average wage. Job training funds are made available through the federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Employers using WIA participants can be reimbursed for up to 50 percent of the cost of training new employees. Fort Worth Works is a program run by the city to help both employers and job seekers by coordinating job fairs and placement agencies, and eliminating barriers to low-income workers. The Texas Department of Commerce has a work force incentive program for industrial start-up training and funding. Local state-supported educational institutions provide the training. The program provides up to $1,000 per trainee.

Development Projects

The National League of Cities awarded Fort Worth the James C. Howland Award for Urban Enrichment for innovative redevelopment in 1995, and the building boom continues. In 2004, Pier 1 Imports moved into its new $90 million 440,000 square foot headquarters, employing more than 350 people. In 2005, work began on the city's new 37,000 square foot recreation center which will be completed by the end of the year. A $65 million renovation of the 37-story landmark Bank One Tower is being redeveloped into 294 luxury residential condominiums and 60,000 square feet of space for shops, restaurants, and boutique office space. Omni Hotels will build a $90 million, 600-room hotel next to the Fort Worth Convention Center, to be completed in 2007. Also in 2005, the Montgomery Ward building and warehouse, a 1928 Mission Revival-style structure, becomes an urban retail center after a $50 million redevelopment.

Other plans underway in 2005 were for construction of a 5-story, 221,000 square foot expansion of the JPS Hospital, including a new emergency department, surgery department, and sky bridge connector to the existing hospital, to begin mid-2005. So7, a residential and retail development near Trinity Park, will add an additional 150,000 square feet of retail space as well as additional condominiums and apartments.

Economic Development Information: Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, 777 Taylor Street, Suite 900, Fort Worth, TX 76102-4997; telephone (817)336-2491. Fort Worth Economic Development Office, Office of the City Manager, Third Floor City Hall, 1000 Throckmorton, Fort Worth, TX 76102; telephone (817)871-6103

Commercial Shipping

A central location combined with superior air and ground transportation resources makes Fort Worth an ideal location for distribution. The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has a huge economic impact. Its Foreign Trade Zone, U.S. Customs Office, and U.S. Port of Entry status afford business and industry easy access to many important services. Nearby Alliance Airport is used solely by distribution and manufacturing firms to reach national and international markets, and is home every October to its International Air Show. Several local and long distance carriers provide commercial motor freight service. For firms with their own trucks, support services are abundant. A full complement of rail services is available in the city where Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the largest railroad in the nation, is headquartered.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

The Dallas/Fort Worth area is a major trade center and distribution hub as well as the state's telecommunications center. It is the sixth-ranked metropolitan area in the nation for Fortune 500 companies, of which 17 have headquarters in the area.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Fort Worth metropolitan area labor force, 2003 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 776,900

Number of workers employed in . . .

mining: 3,900

construction: 43,700

manufacturing: 96,700

trade, transportation and utilities: 187,300

information: 71,800

financial activities: 45,800

business and professional services: 81,500

educational and health services: 84,500

leisure and hospitality: 76,300

other services: 31,700

government: 107,800

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $17.18

Unemployment rate: 5.0% (December 2004)

Fort Worth: Economy

Largest employers (2003) Number of employees
American Airlines 28,500
GameStop 20,000
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics 16,800
Fort Worth Independent School District 10,300
Bell Helicopter-Textron 6,000
City of Fort Worth 5,700
Radio Shack 4,300
Tarrant County Government 4,200
Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital 3,800
Cook Children's Medical Center 3,800

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Fort Worth is low compared to other major cities in the United States.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Fort Worth area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $189,855

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 92.4 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: none

State sales tax rate: 6.25% (food and prescription drugs are exempt)

Local income tax rate: none

Local sales tax rate: 2.0%

Property tax rate: $.8650 per $100 of assessed valuation (assessed valuation = 100% of market value)

Economic Information: Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, 777 Taylor Street, Suite 900, Fort Worth, TX 76102-4997; telephone (817)336-2491.