Parker County anticipates a wave of commercial and residential development, and leadership has intentions to make the area an economic powerhouse as infrastructure rolls out on previously unavailable land.
“When I talk to my site consultant friends and other companies across the country, we talk about the opportunity for land development in this area. It’s the new frontier,” said Chris Strayer.
The Parker County Economic Development Council recently appointed Strayer as the organization’s new executive director. The county, which is located west of Fort Worth, hosts about 11,000 acres of land in its eastern portion that lies within the region’s path of growth.
The Walsh development has helped drive infrastructure to land that previously wasn’t open for development, such as contention for a manufacturing plant for Rivian Automotive Inc.
Today, about 60% of Parker County’s workforce heads to Tarrant County to work, many at places like Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant. The Parker County EDC will work to bring in more commercial development and manufacturing to give residents the opportunity to work where they live.
Parker County grew by about 6% last year, among the highest growth rates of any county within the United States.
Several significant parcels that were longtime family holdings have seen activity that may soon create new development. Among these was Dean Ranch, which sold for a whopping $107 million.
The entities that acquired Dean Ranch have big plans for the historic property that straddles the border between Fort Worth and Aledo, with visions featuring both residential and commercial development. Dallas developer PMB Capital Investments has expansive plans for land that lies in both Tarrant and Parker counties, including Veale Ranch.
Swathes of land hold the potential for industrial and manufacturing uses.
Over the past few years, broad trends have impacted the industrial market. Before, many firms wanted leasable space, Strayer said, but since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic companies have begun prioritizing owning their own sites, taking down land and building their own facilities.
“When you look at eastern Parker County, that’s a lot of land that people can acquire and build their own facilities on,” he said.
There’s additional ranches to the west of Weatherford, and Mineral Wells has an airport that represents a hidden opportunity, he said. The Mineral Wells Regional Airport lies a significant distance from the North Texas urban core and could host R&D for the aviation and defense industries.
Going forward, the Parker County EDC will have conversations about how these opportunities and development should play.
Strayer spoke with the Dallas Business Journal about growth in Parker County and how development will play out across thousands of acres.
Tell me about the conversations you’re having about growth in the county, especially in the eastern sections.
It’s 11,000 acres-plus, but if you look at it you’re not going to have 11,000 acres of industrial development. You’re going to need housing, multifamily, healthcare, retail, office space, education.
As we look at eastern Parker County and Alito and Willow Park and Hudson Oaks and Weatherford, we’re working together to figure out where everything is going to go. The growth is going to come, but where is it sustainable? Where do we put things so transportation isn’t impacted? So the schools aren’t impacted greatly? We need to make sure everybody benefits from the development that’s going on.
That’s the conversation that we have to have. That’s the conversation the community wants to have, and we’re going to be working through that.
Are there any specific industry types you hope to attract, or is it too early for those statements?
Right now, it’s all of the above, because we haven’t had enough time to really think about it. But think about the sort of companies that have looked at Walsh. That mega-site is mostly in Parker County. What’s looking there?
Obviously, batteries and EV assembly. We’ve seen a lot of conversations, not necessarily for that site, but around the country on semiconductors and solar.
I can’t say we’re selecting one industry to go after because there have been so many industries looking at the area and we don’t want to limit ourselves. But we do reserve the right to pick what we want.
Looking at that 11,000-acre swathe of land, it seems infrastructure has been decided on. How long will it take to develop that?
It’s a long-term play, because you’re looking at 17 square miles. That’s a massive swathe of land. However, that’s only one piece and there’ll be other things happening around it.
You look at Weatherford, we have several 5-acre, 10-acre, 20-acre pieces and 100-acre pieces that will be developed as well. What else do we need to be thinking of to make sure we're getting the right complementary uses to the bigger picture?
Everyone likes the big megasite, the billion dollar deals. But of the projects I was working on in the (Fort Worth Chamber), even projects we’re working on here, that’s 5% of your pipeline. It might be a larger portion of your investment of that pipeline, but there are a lot of other projects.
I was on the phone yesterday about a project where they needed 20 acres. Perfect, I’ve got a dozen options for you. We had another project where they needed 200 acres. Ok, I’ve got some options for you. We had a project come in last week where they needed 10,000 square feet and then land to build a 50,000-square-foot building. Great, we can do that.
We need to make sure we know where all the options are, number one, and that they’re property promoted. That’s going to be everywhere. It could be down in Cresson, it could be in Weatherford, it could be in Brock, it could be in Millsap. The opportunities are abundant.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
North Texas Economic Development Agencies
Value of deals 2021
|1||1||Sherman Economic Development Corporation|
|2||2||City of Fort Worth|
|3||3||City of Mesquite Economic Development|
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