By Bart Townsend
Why Waco? This question has been asked of me many times since starting a business here in late 2010 and moving here in August of 2012. It has been asked in many contexts for many reasons. It has been asked out of curiosity about me and my family. It has been asked by people looking for information on my business. It has been asked by business people who are interested in possibly moving their businesses to Waco. The question seems simple, but the answer can be rather in depth.
I had the opportunity in January to attend the SHOT Show, a gun industry trade show in Las Vegas. The trip was two-fold in nature. First, I wanted to grow my own business. We have a precision machine shop that machines metal and plastic component pieces for the aerospace and industrial sectors. We would like to expand into other sectors. My first purpose for being at the trade show was to find new customers.
Second, the Waco Chamber of Commerce was also attending, and they had asked me to meet with businesses that might be interested in moving to Waco. By the time we arrived at the show, we had both independently done our homework and had each created a list of businesses to target. Combined, the list was 67 companies. We had our work cut out for us. The ensuing conversations were all very interesting.
The companies that we approached about Waco were cautiously curious at first; then they tended to open up. Our conversations normally started with introductions and inquiries as to the strength of their businesses. We would ask about their current locations and inquire about the potential of moving. Most would say they had thought of moving and said Texas was in their top three possible locations.
We would then ask if they would consider Waco as an option. That’s when we would get the question, “Why Waco?” We looked forward to this question. The Chamber representative would explain all the economic advantages along with many other positives. The company representatives would ask more questions. Often their questions had to do with the level of education and employee competencies they might find in Waco. How would they find employees? How would those employees get trained? How were the local feeder programs for future employees? My job was to be the “live example” of how this all works. I would talk about TSTC as the local technical school that has a state presence. I would also talk about GWAMA (Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy) at the high school level and the fact that most ISD’s within a 45 minute commute are participating.
They asked questions about my experience with both schools. I talked about the level of experience and schooling of my current staff. I mentioned the business advisory committees that are present at most all the schools in the area. I talked about the industry/school collaboration that takes place. This was received favorably and led to more questions that showed great interest. We would mention MCC with Tarleton and Texas Tech at the University Center. We would talk about Baylor as a great private four-year option.
They would ask about Waco’s location. How does that help or hurt business from customers and the supply chain? We would explain the economic triangle of Texas that includes DFW, Houston and Austin/San Antonio as the three points of the triangle. The bulk of the state’s business is being conducted in that triangle. We pointed out that Waco is located equidistant from DFW and Austin on the route 35 leg of the triangle. Transportation was also an issue. They were interested to learn about the Waco airport and about the close proximity of other larger airports. They also wanted to know if there were complimentary businesses in town. Businesses that a company would need to help them prosper since most companies cannot be everything.
It was very apparent in visiting with these interested companies that the efforts to evolve and make Waco a business solution for outside companies needs to continue. Education is paramount for any community’s success, and Waco is in a great position with all the educational institutions present in the area. The challenge is the continuous evolution that needs to occur to meet the needs that will allow Waco to prosper. I am very excited to be part of the Waco community both from a business perspective and also personally.
We were very well received by many companies. The level of information available and organization that the Chamber was able to present gave everyone that we met a good sense of the very positive Waco attitude. It was that same positive attitude that brought me and my business to Waco a few years ago!
Bart Townsend is the president and co-founder of T Squared Manufacturing. He along with his wife and CEO, Deb operate T Squared Mfg. The shop is an aerospace certified machine shop dedicated to treating customers, suppliers, and employees with respect and expecting the best from all. To learn more about us go to www.tsquaredmfg.com.