Arlington’s growth over the past three decades has been remarkable. With a population of 400,000, the city has affirmed its position as the pivot point in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area. Home to the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA, which was designated a Texas Tier One research institution in 2021), Arlington offers a highly educated workforce as well as some of the state’s most sought-after entertainment, including the Texas Rangers (baseball), the Dallas Cowboys (football), and Six Flags Over Texas (theme park). The city’s economic growth has also been surprisingly resilient, even as many communities in the US struggled with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, some of the city’s assets remain underutilized and some residents have not fully participated in Arlington’s prosperity.
In April 2021, city leaders engaged TIP Strategies to revisit the economic development strategic plan prepared by the firm in 2014. The prior plan presented a vision of Arlington as a globally connected city that is attractive to companies and residents by building on the international recognition afforded by its many assets. The 2021 update utilized key elements from the 2014 plan that were still integral to Arlington’s success, while also recognizing significant milestones that occurred in the intervening years. Along with UTA’s designation as a major research center, these milestones include voter approval in November 2020 of a quarter-cent sales tax enabling the city to form the most highly funded economic development corporation in the state, the approval in 2021 of a proposal to build a citywide open-access fiber network, and Arlington’s selection by global electric vehicle charger manufacturer Wallbox as the site of its first US facility. In addition to a review of commercial real estate trends and an update of the city’s target sectors, the plan included guidance for the investment of revenues generated by the newly established quarter-cent sales tax. The funding framework laid out four avenues: a targeted areas fund (for development and redevelopment projects), an opportunity fund (to support small businesses owned and operated by women and people of color), a deal-closing fund (to offer incentives for companies representing immediate opportunities for investment), and an innovation fund (to drive catalyst projects that support innovative companies, health sciences research and development, and Smart City initiatives). Another important change in the 2021 plan was a recognition of the need for more explicit action addressing equitable growth and its intersection with the city’s economic development efforts.