Everything In Texas Is Big—And Getting Bigger

The Lone Star State has been the busiest exporter among U.S. states for 16 consecutive years, shipping out $264 billion in goods in 2017.

By the BF Staff
From the September/October 2018 Issue

If Texas were a nation, it would rank as the 10th largest economy in the world based on GDP, ahead of Australia, Mexico, Spain, Russia and many others.

Texas maintains its position as the nation’s #1 exporter—a title the state has held for 16 consecutive years. In 2017, Texas exported $264 billion in goods to destinations all over the world with Mexico, Canada, China, Brazil and Korea as its top trading partners.

Behind Texas’ strong economy are 48 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, AT&T, Sysco and American Airlines, more than 1,400 foreign companies such as Toyota, BAE Systems, Siemens and Shell Oil and 2.4 million small businesses.

Texas has the second largest civilian workforce in America—13 million Texans. Its top-notch schools feed a strong pipeline of talent into the state and out-of-state workers continue to flock to Texas to take advantage of diverse job opportunities and quality of life amenities.

Texas’ central location and state-of-the-art transportation network provide timely access to domestic and global markets via air, land and sea. The Lone Star State has 10,539 miles of freight rail, more than any state and more than 313,000 miles of public roads, also more than any other state. Texas’ 382 airports, including 26 commercial airports, make up the second-largest state airport system in the United States. The state’s two largest airports, Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW) and George Bush Intercontinental in Houston (IAH), are major domestic and international hubs. Texas’ two intermodal facilities, Fort Worth’s Alliance Airport and San Antonio’s Port San Antonio, integrate high-capacity industrial airports, Class I rail terminals and direct interstate highway access. Texas is also home to American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, two of the largest airlines in the world.

With 16 seaports, including 11 deep water ports with channels at least 30 feet deep, Texas ranks as the top U.S. state for manufacturing exports and shipment value. Of these ports, 32 are designated as foreign trade zones (FTZ), allowing the flow of goods without formal customs entry, import quotas or most other restrictions.

The largest Gulf Coast container port, the Port of Houston has led the nation in waterborne foreign trade for 19 consecutive years. The Port of Corpus Christi, the Port of Brownsville, the Port of Beaumont and the Port of Port Arthur also consistently rank in the top 10 in the U.S.


Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has been critical to fueling Texas’ prolonged leadership in this country’s economic growth. Almost 600,000 Texas jobs (more than in any other state) were created by foreign companies, providing an important economic impact to cities like Irving, Texas, the third-leading city in Texas for foreign capital investments.

Irving is well served by the regional light rail line, the DART. DART rail connects Irving-Las Colinas to Downtown Dallas, DFW Airport and Love Field.

Irving’s success in attracting and retaining foreign and domestic global companies has made the city an internationally recognized global gateway and business address for foreign and U.S. companies alike.

More than 150 foreign-owned companies have a presence in Irving and Las Colinas, the city’s urban center, with 22.5 million square feet of office space. These companies are based in Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Korea, Mexico, Switzerland and the UK, with the largest number of foreign companies, more than 40, coming from Japan.

Irving-Las Colinas also has the most Fortune 1,000 headquarters per capita in the U.S. Six Fortune 500 companies as well as five Fortune 1000 companies have their global headquarters here. Fifty-four Fortune 500 companies have made Irving-Las Colinas their corporate address. All total, these global giants and approximately 8,400 other companies have made Irving-Las Colinas the second largest employer center in North Texas, with a workforce of more than 200,000.

Why has Irving-Las Colinas been successful in attracting and retaining so many global corporations?

Among all the attributes that make an Irving-Las Colinas business address top choice for global corporations, diversity may be an unexpectedly important differentiator.

Diverse Employee Base. Irving-Las Colinas is the seventh most culturally diverse city in the country, and is famously known for having the most diverse zip code in America (75038). This ethnic and cultural fusion is a highly desirable quality for employers looking for a diverse workforce.

Transit-Oriented Developments (TOD). TODs are a growing trend in vibrant, livable, sustainable communities and Irving-Las Colinas is creating the largest TOD in the nation. TODs are the melding of compact, walkable, mixed-use communities centered around transit systems that make it possible to live and work in an environment without dependence on a car.

Millennials are attracted to the convenience of this live, work, play, walk and visit environment. Irving-Las Colinas has model Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs) such as the $1 billion Verizon Hidden Ridge mixed-use development project, anchored by Pioneer Natural Resources’ Global Headquarters, and Gables Water Street mixed-use project with 60,000 square feet of shops and restaurants and hundreds of lakeside housing options.

Diverse Lifestyle Amenities. Employers also want to relocate in areas that attract a skilled workforce and because of its abundance of appealing lifestyle activities, Irving-Las Colinas is unmatched for its options:

  • Outdoor Sports: Irving-Las Colinas has 43 parks and over 2,000 acres of hiking/biking trails, public and private golf courses, and water activities. Additionally, the City is adding dozens of miles of protected bike lanes and sidewalks over the next decade, and expanding and revitalizing the current seven-mile trail system throughout the area.
  • Entertainment: The new Toyota Music Factory includes an entertainment center with an 8,000 seat state-of-the-art Live Nation indoor and outdoor amphitheater, a multi-screen cinema and an outdoor event plaza. Pollstar Magazine recently named Toyota Music Factory the 9th most attended amphitheater in the world.
  • Dining & Shopping: Dozens of cafes and restaurants in Las Colinas and 150,000 square feet of retail and services, all within walking distance of up-scale residential living.
  • Housing: Hundreds of apartments, condos, lofts and homes within walking distance of the entertainment center and employers

What makes Irving-Las Colinas so attractive to companies of every size and industry is in no small part due to the significant investment the City has made in a modern transportation infrastructure.

The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is the largest light rail system in the country, and connects Irving-Las Colinas to downtown Dallas and DFW International Airport. Irving-Las Colinas currently has five stations in the city and plans for two additional stations for future TOD developments. The DART Orange Line connects Downtown Dallas to DFW Airport through Irving-Las Colinas. The Trinity Railway Express connects Dallas & Fort Worth with a stop in Irving’s Heritage Crossing District, in the southern part of the City.

In addition to the DART light rail, the Las Colinas Area Personal Transit System (APT) is a people mover connecting four major office buildings in Las Colinas to nearby retail and restaurant locations.

For those who prefer to commute by car, the city has four major thoroughfares and five interstate highways making connectivity to the rest of North Texas and beyond seamless.

As a result of the city’s significant investment in a modern infrastructure, transportation, and lifestyle amenities, Irving-Las Colinas has become nationally recognized as one of the best places to live and work.

WalletHub rated the city the 5th hardest working city in America and the 9th best city to start a career. Right-Click called Irving-Las Colinas the Top City for IT young professionals, and Bloomberg Businessweek ranks Irving-Las Colinas in the Top 50 Places to Live. It’s the third largest city per capita for tech startup companies.

Irving-Las Colinas has one of the highest job growth rates in the country, and an unemployment rate that hovers around 3.0% or lower than state and national rates.

Irving-Las Colinas’s growth and reputation as an international business address is due to many factors: its unmatched, convenient location; a diverse population; the complementary blending of commercial, residential, recreational and retail land use; a visionary, business-friendly city government; and a commitment to a new lifestyle and work environment that attracts talent in one of the most competitive geographic markets in the country.

For more information contact Kyle Touchstone, Vice President of Economic Development, Irving Economic Development Partnership at ktouchstone@irvingchamber.com or (214) 217-8484.


According to many businesses, the biggest obstacles encountered in the process of relocation or expansion are finding available land, employees, and achieving financial stability. The Odessa Development Corporation (ODC) has resources at their disposal that can help make a business’ relocation to, or expansion in, Odessa, TX a smooth process all around. These resources include an extensive property database and possible economic development sales tax incentives.

Space or property for relocation or expansion can be difficult to find. The ODC has precise resources to make that step in the process easier. This database includes properties in the city of Odessa, but also within Ector County, and could help a prospective businesses find a property for their relocation or expansion that they were not aware was available. To access the ODC’s property database, simply visit odessatex.com or contact anyone in the Economic Development Department at the Odessa Chamber of Commerce.

Odessa has the resources to train its citizens for careers in medicine, manufacturing, agriculture, and more. The city of Odessa holds multiple vocational training centers and an endlessly open job market, which makes its workforce an invariable commodity in the midst of a varying economy. Businesses who relocate to Odessa face significantly fewer hiring challenges than they might in other cities.

Odessa is strengthened by one of the lowest unemployment rates in the United States at 2.9%, as well as some of the highest wages in the country for skilled workers. While population and community growth moves upward, unemployment numbers are slowly shrinking in Odessa. The community experiences frequent relocation of new businesses, world class facilities, and vocational training programs in association with those businesses.

The Odessa community is the Odessa Development Corporation’s biggest aid in achieving its goal of creating an expanded and thriving economy.

In 1989, the legislature of the State of Texas passed into law an economic development sales tax. With this revenue, and with city council approval, economic development corporations like the ODC and others across the state of Texas can use incentives to support projects that enhance and grow their respective cities. This sales tax is in turn a huge benefit for the citizens of these communities.

This initiative is what allows the ODC to invest in the future of Odessa. It gives ODC the ability to offer competitive incentives to companies that are creating jobs and driving innovation in the lone star state and around the world. ODC offers incentives to local businesses and to those outside the area based on the number of new jobs created, annual payroll, and the amount of capital investment, among other requirements.

There are plenty of reasons to relocate your business in Odessa, but the local and Texas economic development incentives are the ones that can positively affect your bottom line.

Odessa is unique. The city offers a quintuple Freeport Exemption from all taxing entities on goods in transit. Just one more reason that Odessa is the right place for your business. This business incentive is designed to exempt some or all of a company’s inventory from property taxes. Businesses involved in the export of tangible property such as goods, wares, and merchandise may be eligible for the Freeport Exemption. For your business to be eligible, all property must be assembled, stored, manufactured or fabricated locally and then exported out of the state within 175 days. Other possible incentives include infrastructure improvement grants, property tax incentives, vocational training, and recruiting and screening of employees.

Lucrative financial incentives, site selection, logistics, a qualified workforce, easy access to foreign markets, low cost-of-living and our greatest resource, our people, make Odessa an increasingly attractive place to do business.

When a business is looking to move to a new location, there are a number of factors to consider for employees and their families. The ODC can help you make Odessa home. The staff at the economic development department can put you in touch with the local school district, area community colleges and universities, workforce solutions centers, land developers and residential real estate professionals to make the transition as easy as possible.

The best development corporations in Texas use an annual action plan. The Odessa Development Corporation uses a similar plan of action that helps them proactively recruit businesses and projects that keep Odessa, Texas in the ranks of the best and most economically sound communities in the state of Texas.

Texas as a state is the best at local economic development. It has the resources, the economic development professionals, the can-do spirit, and supports efforts at the local level.

Local business retention and expansion is the heart of growth for any city. Existing businesses are invested in Odessa, and the ODC believes strongly in investing at home. ODC would welcome the opportunity to walk you through the process of applying for Odessa Development Corporation funding. If you have an expansion in the manufacturing or industrial sector that can create new jobs for our city, let us help you realize that vision.

If you’re looking to expand your business or need a new location, contact the Economic Development Department at (432) 333-7880.


In many ways, Marble Falls defies expectations. The city limit signs show a population of 6,077—which is not that far off from the current estimate of 6,707 in Marble Falls proper—but city leaders are often accused of “lying” about the population on the signs because Marble Falls feels so much bigger. In fact, the primary retail trade area population is over 70,000, and daily traffic counts in the center of town surpass 35,000 vehicles per day. The people who live, work, and play in the Marble Falls area support an economy that grew to more than $890 million in gross sales in 2017. Retail trade leads the way, but other industry sectors saw strong, double-digit growth as well. Construction (+15%), manufacturing (+21%), and wholesale trade (+26%) sales illustrate that Marble Falls is more than just a touristy, scenic lake town on the outskirts of the Austin metro area.

Marble Falls has an amazing array of assets, both natural and man-made. Baylor Scott & White opened a $100 million regional medical center in 2015, and a 92-unit Worldmark by Wyndham timeshare project opened in 2017. This year’s additions include a new 110,000-square-foot H-E-B grocery store and a $20-million operations center for Pedernales Electric Cooperative. There is more than $100 million worth of projects in the development pipeline, including some exciting retail redevelopment, two multi-family properties, and a new Downtown hotel and conference center. The total market value of all properties in the city grew by 15 percent in 2018 to more than $1.2 billion.

While the emergence of Marble Falls as the retail and entertainment hub of the Highland Lakes area is a relatively recent development, the community’s draw for generations has been its connection to the outdoors. State parks, a national wildlife refuge, swimming holes, and Hill Country vistas have been joined by golf courses, wineries, breweries, and outdoor adventure parks in the last couple of decades. Beautiful Lake Marble Falls is ideal for skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding, and the Downtown parks along the waterfront are going to be enhanced by a $25 million improvement plan that will begin this year.

Of course, it’s the people who make the place—and Marble Falls is blessed beyond belief. Like many small towns across the Lone Star State, the Marble Falls community is friendly, genuine, and rooted in tradition—but they also have a progressive streak that goes back to the town’s inception. Adam Rankin Johnson, the founder of Marble Falls, deserves credit for the idea of damming the Colorado River when he marked the location of one of the future dams in 1854. The series of dams that form the Highland Lakes provide the infrastructure for one of the premier recreational and retirement destinations in the state. In 1917, Birdie Harwood was elected mayor of Marble Falls; she was the first female mayor in Texas, three years before women had the right to vote. Today, community leadership is regularly praised for their vision and service, winning awards and drawing accolades on a regular basis. Both the city council and school district promote smart growth: each governing body plans to issue debt this fall to develop infrastructure and enhance the community’s quality of place while reducing the ad valorem tax rate. This business-friendly, family-friendlier foresight paves the way for meaningful economic development, with nearly 100 new businesses opening each year for the last couple of years. Marble Falls has a surprising talent pool, including a handful of Ivy League graduates who live and work in the community as a coffee shop owner, an educational administrator, a youth pastor, a school board member, the owner of a craft brewery, and more. In Marble Falls, a person’s background is far less important than their character, and the community embraces those who work hard and give back.

Similarly, a business’s industry affiliation is not as critical as size and fit. Small- to medium-sized companies will likely have an easier time with real estate and employment than very large firms—and the community likes it that way. If the prospects of a charming small town with steady, manageable growth and a surprising set of amenities sounds appealing, give Marble Falls a shot. Whether your interests lead to a greenfield development in the Business and Technology Park or the restoration of an historic downtown structure into a live/work/shop space, opportunities abound in Marble Falls.