Innovation in economic development marketing:

How TxEDC Embraces Change to Drive Economic Development

Photo of Dave Parsell
Dave Parsell
July 24, 2023

Home to 30+million people–and an economy so broad it regularly competes on a global scale–the nation’s 28th state is as recognizable on a map as it is front-and-center in international conversation.

Some speak to its resources. Others speak to its history. But today, much of the conversation surrounding Texas is oriented around its future.A future that was expedited by unforeseen circumstances. A future that has the power to launch economic development–as an impetus for innovation and future industry practices–to new heights.

The Context

The year is 2020. The country – like most countries around the world – is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools are closed. Businesses are limited. Families are gripped with uncertainty and businesses across all industries are bracing for downfall.

By spring the following year,  Texas Governor Abbott declares the lifting of most every pandemic-related restriction – the largest state’s governor to do so. The impact is great: children can flourish in classrooms and businesses can resume operations. Talent can source new opportunity and industry can boom uninterrupted.

As Alexandra Suich Bass of The Economist notes, “The pandemic response has definitely given a boost to Texas’ popularity.”

And while that was true for the opinions of those already in the state, it was also true for those observing from afar. For the hundreds of thousands of people who saw Texas’ prioritization of business – and picked up everything to be a part of it.

The Surge

From the middle of 2021 to the end of 2022, Texas’ population increased by 470,708. That influx of newcomers was unprecedented. It was unceasing. And while it could’ve given the state reason to pause, citing concerns about an altered fabric (“Don’t California my Texas!”) or a strained housing market, instead, Texas refused to falter.

Instead, Texas used that stream of change as marketing fuel.

The Entity

The Texas Economic Development Corporation (TxEDC) is the private side of the public-private partnership in coordination with the Office of the Governor, Economic Development and Tourism Department (OGEDT) is tasked with marketing the state to business leaders around the world. As the recipient of eleven consecutive Governor’s Cups and eighteen consecutive “Best State for Business” awards, its efforts aren’t just impressive.

They’re improving.

Vying for attention in a landscape that grows more competitive every year, TxEDC has been driven by a strategy that prioritizes progress. A strategy that leans on the state’s distinctive character while using its commitment to malleability to prove its staying power.

To Michael Chrobak ,  Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of TxEDC, there are two steps to earning the attention of business leaders. First: tell the right story. Second: tell it the right way.

The Story

Mention “Texas” in any corner of the world and odds are, you’ll get smiles of recognition. The state is known for its personality (outgoing) and its aesthetic (grand) – but while its larger-than-life character is charming, it’s not reason enough for decision-makers to take notice.

That’s where the story comes in.

A clear-cut narrative that proves just why Texas is, as Chrobak says, “truly the best state for business,” the story is built on three tenets: infrastructure, innovation, and people.

Let’s talk infrastructure: “More public roads than any other state, more miles of rail than any other state, two of the largest airports in the U.S. and  two dozen more commercial  airports,” he lists off, outlining the connectivity. But if that ability to get almost anywhere in the world in 24 hours or less isn’t gripping enough… well, then, there’s the innovation.

“Texas has always been a pioneering state, and Energy 2.0 in Houston is a great example.” Entering this year as the #1 state for renewable energy and the #2 state for solar, it’s proven itself to be a fearless supporter of trade diversification – and a relentless leader in advancement.

Finally, the pillar Texas is most known for: its people. A population that’s as famed for its hospitality as it is its diversity, the state offers a backdrop of community that beckons to everyone. And that livability, in tandem with its business-first spirit, is why the state is so alluring.

“People want to live in Texas,” he says. “And when you have the combination of businesses wanting to be here and people wanting to be here, magic happens.”

The Delivery

Connectivity. Leadership. Lifestyle. The tenets of Texas’ value are undeniable – but as Chrobak and the TxEDC team know, having them is much different than conveying them. Which is why they put so much stock into their delivery. The goal was to tell the story of Texas loudly. The centerpiece was the website.

The Website

Quick facts. Bold fonts. Red, white, and blue.

Open the TxEDC site and immediately, you’re faced with the confidence Texas is known for. But click on the state-shaped menu tab, and you’re exposed to so much more: page categories ranging from geographic regions to business sectors, breaking the colossal state – and its economic playing-field – into bite-sized pieces.

That regionalization isn’t a fluke. It’s a tactic put in place to simplify the learning curve for an audience – composed of top executives and site-selectors – that’s eternally pressed for time.

Chrobak and the TxEDC team know that, in order to achieve buy-in, they have to untangle complexity. Which explains how they first became acquainted with Localintel – another simplification tactic – and why they ultimately chose to embed its economic development tools throughout the website.

Creating clear snapshots of the region by offering a visual layer of data-driven storytelling, Localintel tools empower users to engage – and get the insights that matter most to them.

Whether they’re looking to see workforce growth or per capita income comparisons (Economic Advantages tool), the current number of domestic connections at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport or the drive-time across interstate highways (Logistics & Accessibility Advantages tool), they’ll be able to find the data they need. But more importantly: they’ll be able to understand it.

“That’s hugely important, the feeling of, that’s exactly what I was looking for,” Chrobak says. “Localintel helps us deliver that time and time again.”

The Flexibility

From turning the population increase into a marketing advantage (“we’re one of the fastest growing, and youngest, populations in the country”) to embracing a brand refresh to keep Texas’ value loud, proud, and relevant, TxEDC is clearly unintimidated by change.

By design. At the core of TxEDC – and Texas leadership, more generally – is the notion that change isn’t just good, but necessary to stay enticing to new organizations with new needs.

In its outreach, that ethos is prominent: Texas offers a business climate like no other because, in addition to its storied value, it owns a devotion to improving. Because it has progress-focused practices – like using feedback from executives to adjust policy – entrenched in its operations.

While already a differentiator, what really sets that context apart is the personal touch it comes with (which is oh-so-very Texas). From private introductions on LinkedIn to in-person missions overseas to regular check-ins years down the line, TxEDC pledges personalized, end-to-end attention – so decision-makers can see the type of openness that’s waiting for them.

The Impact

The success TxEDC has seen in the past decade is indisputable. But in the world of economic development, achievement yesterday doesn’t necessitate achievement tomorrow. So, the organization stays nimble – ready to meet decision-makers not where they were, but where they’re going.

With eyes on the global, virtual presence, that commitment is already paying off.

“We’ve seen tremendous uptick in leads generated by our site, in visitors to our site, organic search is up,” Allen says. But: those positive metrics don’t indicate the end of the game.

“We’re looking weekly at which pages are performing, and if it doesn’t perform,” he explains, “we replace it or let it go.” Because just like TxEDC is working to storytell through data, it’s also looking to secure data that tells a story back.

“Data doesn’t lie,” he says. So, as they strive to develop the most pertinent product, they’re constantly leaning on it to rejig and reimagine – giving their audience the most impactful version they can.

The Future

Texas emerged as the first state post-pandemic to get all its jobs back. It’s won foreign investment – like Samsung’s – that’s broken ground. If it were to compete as a standalone economy, it would rank 9th in the world. If it were up against U.S. states, it would surpass them.

Without a doubt, Texas is an immense competitor. But it’s also a leader paving the way. A leader that wields the power of flexibility in its marketing and its operations – and a leader that’s never too proud to try something new.

Describing the impact Texas has on the global stage, Chrobak says seven words.

So goes Texas, so goes the world.

By daring to be ambitious, by remaining staunchly unafraid of change, TxEDC has set the tone for economic development – but it’s also opened the door for competitors. Showing them how to stay malleable in a market that’s always changing. Showing them how to stay connected to their roots through it all

We trust you’ve found this article useful. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us should you have any questions.

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