Education as Economic Development in Mayor’s State of the City Address
During her fifth State of the City address on Tuesday, Mayor Betsy Price shared highlights from the past year, including in the areas of health, community engagement, and infrastructure. Shifting into her vision for the future, the Mayor emphasized the critical role of education in facilitating the long-term economic success of Fort Worth. “Education is economic development,” she stated.
This message certainly resonates with local corporate, nonprofit, and philanthropic organizations already working together with the Mayor’s office, the Fort Worth ISD, and other civic and community groups to make quality education an expectation for every child in Fort Worth. The Mayor encouraged the community to join together to support career and technical education training, as well as early education.
Before detailing the framework for her vision moving forward, Mayor Price recounted some of the year’s most notable accomplishments, including:
Fiscally Responsible Leadership…
- The Mayor emphasized her team’s effort to maintain a balanced budget and was proud to announce that the City will see no tax increase in 2016.
- The Mayor and City Council have placed a priority on balancing Fort Worth’s rapid population growth (expected to reach 1 million by 2025) while maintaining the city’s signature “small town, front-porch community feel.”
A Healthy & Engaged Workforce…
- Mayor Price and the Council are working to make Fort Worth “one of the healthiest cities in the United States” by fighting obesity, but also by viewing health as an economic development issue. As the Mayor stated, businesses know the price of poor health on their workforce’s productivity.
- Accomplishments in 2015 included 20 local restaurants that are Blue Zones Project Approved™, and 8,000 personal Blue Zone Project™ pledges by individual citizens of Fort Worth. The FitWorth initiative helped to effect a 4% decrease in overweight and obese children in FWISD. Now, 30,000 children are tracking key indicators to improve their health, including fitness, nutrition, and sleep habits.
- City leaders in corporate, civic and non-profit sectors are building a “sense of place” around the health, vitality, and engagement of Fort Worth’s citizens. To this end, the Mayor’s office leverages face-to-face and online avenues for connecting with the community – including digital and traveling town halls, and citizen surveys to garner feedback.
Continued Economic Growth…
- Business development successes in 2015 included the relocation of two corporations from California (with a formal announcement expected in March), and the expansion of companies like Facebook and Galderma in Fort Worth.
- Tourism is 22% of the budget and supplies 20,000 jobs, with an almost $2 billion impact on the local economy.
- Progress on a new arena will help to accommodate increasing interest in marquee events such as the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, which attracted a record 1.2 million visitors this year.
- New offerings, like the recently formed Fort Worth Film Commission, will attract fresh business opportunities. At the same time, the City will preserve the heritage of historic landmarks, like the Fort Worth Stockyards, that draw millions of visitors each year.
When addressing her vision for 2016 and beyond, Mayor Price underscored the importance of education in driving the city’s growth. She emphasized the need for business and community engagement, as well as the necessity of improving from where we are today.
The Mayor stated that education “must improve and be strong” in order to ensure a productive workforce and enable Fort Worth to thrive in an increasingly complex market.
Key education facts and comments from the Mayor included:
- 81% of Fort Worth residents have a high school education. 19% of citizens live at or below the poverty level and do not have a high school diploma.
- She encouraged the community’s support of early child care and our children’s education from “cradle to career.” The Mayor acknowledged Fort Worth ISD’s full-day Pre-K program, and recognized the work of the Early Learning Alliance to raise standards and training for early education teachers.
- She said that Fort Worth must be “smart and strategic” about policy decisions surrounding education moving forward.
The Mayor made clear her hope to create opportunities for all children in Fort Worth to learn and grow, stating, “No child’s zip code should determine their future success.”
The Miles Foundation applauds the Mayor’s focus on education, as we too believe that starting early with a quality education is the key to Fort Worth’s economic success. We appreciate and support the Mayor’s approach of bringing together a diverse community of stakeholders to develop evidence-based solutions for promoting the learning and life success of all of our children.
Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald commented during his presentation that it is the “blessing of our leadership,” including Mayor Betsy Price, that “makes Fort Worth’s future shine bright.” We wholeheartedly agree.
Congratulations and thank you to Mayor Betsy Price and her team for their tireless work and achievements to date. We look forward to continuing to work toward a brighter future together.