Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price unveiled a task force designed to focus on recovery and growth of the local economy after the COVID-19 crisis.
The creation of the "Fort Worth Now" task force was announced Thursday afternoon at a press conference hosted by Mayor Price.
"COVID-19 has left a mark on all of us but just as any crisis and disaster comes, there’s a time where you roll your sleeves up, pick up the pieces, and you begin again. Let’s be clear, our fight of COVID 19 is not over. We need our citizens to be responsible in their behavior," Price said. "To the businesses who have been the backbone of Fort Worth’s economy, we’re going to help you get back on your feet, but we’re not stopping there. We want Fort Worth to enter a new era of economic growth and prosperity that will benefit the entire city."
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The task force will be co-chaired by well-known business leaders Elaine Agather, who currently serves as Dallas region chairman for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Fort Worth real estate investor John Goff.
Goff, who announced his family will pledge $100,000 to help kick start the effort, said other members had not been selected yet.
"We have a working list and we have a working list and we’re going to be working on that over the next few days, if not – few hours," Goff said Thursday. "It’s going to be very diverse, because we need to make sure we encompass all parts of the business community in Fort Worth. We have all many, I think, well over 30,000 small businesses and they come in all shapes, sizes, and forms."
The 12-month initiative has two approaches and focuses when it comes recovery and growth. Goff said the first order of business is to focus on the "near term" goals of getting the city back in business and identifying what they can do to help existing Fort Worth businesses which have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Charlie Royer co-owns Royer Commercial Interiors, a commercial furniture dealership, with two offices between Fort Worth and Dallas. The company started in 1943 as a full-service provider handling maintenance, refurbishment, and cleaning, Royer said.
He described the company as "fortunate" amid the novel coronavirus and its impact on the economy. Many long-time clients include those in the healthcare, higher education, and corporate sectors and have been deemed essential businesses.
They have not had to furlough any employees, though he said the ongoing situation surrounding COVID-19 has impacted their predictability in a significant way.
"It’s the new business and incoming projects that we just have no predictability on," Royer said. "Up to this point, we’ve been in good shape, but we’re going to see it. We think by June or July, we’re going to see somewhere between a 20-30% drop."
Mayor Price said the task force announced Thursday focuses on the recovery for existing businesses, they will look at growth and capitalizing on Fort Worth's strengths in hopes of recruiting new businesses.
"We all know in a disruptive economy like this, wonderful new technologies are going to come out. New industry will spread. It will be in the right place to take advantage of that," Price said. "A lot of our businesses that will come back won’t rehire everybody that they’ve had to let go. They just won’t be able to. To bring in new business will help fill much of that unemployment."
Price said the initiative will officially launch in June with a full-time staff member. Advisers could be selected in the next week or two, Price said.