Fort Worth Using South by Southwest to Promote a New Image

With South By Southwest in full swing, Fort Worth is using the music, fun and even a flying taxi to put on a high-stakes showcase.

Fort Worth knows it must remake its image and attract big business, or risk becoming a suburb stuck in Dallas' shadow.

Late last year, city leaders put a plan in place to attract five more Fortune 1000 companies by 2022 and 25 high-growth startups over the next five years. To pull that off, they need to draw a young, creative workforce.

The city has its own house on East 5th Street in Austin during SXSW that's a showcase for local musicians and all things Fort Worth. City leaders say they have a problem with people not knowing about Fort Worth, how big it is and the opportunities there. They see the Austin festival as the perfect platform to reach that young, creative class and change some minds.

You can hear it, you can see it, and you can taste it.

"Fort Worth is in the air at South By. It's really cool," said Fort Worth musician Summer Dean.

Cowtown is making its mark on the Capital City, turning a warehouse into an embassy to showcase all the city has to offer.

"Oh, I'm stoked about it, and I feel like other people are taking notice," Dean said. "Just yesterday someone said Fort Worth is doing things. It's a part of the conversation."

That means everything from the booming music scene to innovations in technology like Bell Helicopter's new prototype for a flying air taxi.

"I think this is Fort Worth being like, 'This is who we are now,' and it's not very often that a city gets a chance to redefine and make a statement, and I think this is a really cool statement," said Fort Worth artist Rambo Elliott.

Elliott, a photographer and a Fort Worther by choice, said people have always told her, "You're so weird, you should move to Austin."

"And it kind of made me get stubborn where I'm like, 'Why can't I be weird and live here (in Fort Worth)?'" Elliott said.

"Of course, you can stay in Fort Worth and be weird. We love people of every ilk," said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.

That's just the message Price wants to get out, and she sees SXSW as a golden opportunity.

"This is about connecting with the Millennials, the Gen Zs, the entrepreneurs and start-ups, that real creative class who tend to not realize that Fort Worth is pretty cool," Price said.

For Fort Worth, cool is a commodity to lure new business and drive the economy, and the city's fresh, young creatives are the calling card of Cowtown's cool.

"Fort Worth is still on the cusp of something," Elliott said. "I want to help my city build up."

The relationship goes both ways. As Fort Worth promotes itself through its arts scene, it's also promoting local artists. It's the only city at South by Southwest branding itself with musicians' names attached, and the artists say you can't get that kind of exposure on your own. That makes them want to keep investing in the Fort Worth way even more.

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