Lancaster, TX - Lancaster, with plenty of room for development, is ripe for artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing, cold storage, food processing, motor vehicle parts manufacturing, and data centers, according to the economic development director in a Q&A.

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Shane Shepard, Economic Development Director, City of Lancaster

Prior to the pandemic, “there were several companies planning significant expansions within Lancaster,” says Lancaster Economic Development Director Shane Shepard. “We were shortlisted on several manufacturing deals; however, the pandemic has put that on a temporary hold.”

Still, Shepard is seeing a greater amount of optimism, even in the current uncertainty. “There will be new opportunities,” he says. “The business community creates and reinvents.”

It’s in their nature, Shepard says. Leaders in business and entrepreneurs “tend to be optimistic and creative, finding a way to make profits even in difficult times.” He references the old Wall Street adage: “Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.” 

A crisis is a chance to be innovative and “to be better,” the economic development leader says. “We’ve always come out of a crisis much better and stronger than before the crises occurred.”

Shepard discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on corporate relocations in the Dallas region, as well as opportunities “yet to be discovered” in the commercial real estate landscape in our Q&A. There are reasons for optimism, he says.

What types of companies are a good fit for Lancaster?

The City of Lancaster seeks to attract companies with higher-paying technical and professional jobs that complement the current resident workforce. In 2018, we conducted a market analysis that evaluated categories such as workforce skills, available training in the region, current companies in the area, and a number of other factors. The study found that Lancaster is ideal for artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing, cold storage, food processing, motor vehicle parts manufacturing, and data centers. Lancaster is only 50 percent built-out, which provides 15 square miles of space to accommodate development needs.

Do companies find Lancaster as part of a relocation or site acquisition?

Half of our recruits come through strategic partnerships with the Governor’s Office and the Dallas Regional Chamber. In part due to the pandemic, critical gaps have been identified in the supply chain and companies are seeking strategically located cities such as Lancaster. 

Has the pandemic changed the process?

Lancaster’s economic development team has had to modify some of our practices. More efforts are completed virtually or remotely. We reach out more to companies through the Internet than before and have zoom meetings and site visits with them. Interestingly, there’s been an increase in unsolicited requests for information from outside firms during the pandemic than there was before. 

Is the pandemic changing the role of the state or incentives in attracting new businesses to Texas? 

There have been no evident changes in the sense of attracting new businesses. We shifted to ensuring current businesses are connected to available resources and that employees maintain jobs. Economic contacted businesses within the community to connect them with grant and loan resources through Dallas County and the Small Business Administration. The United States Treasury reported that Lancaster businesses received between $10 million and $20 million for the purpose of retaining about 1,545 jobs.

Where do you see the most opportunities right now? In what sectors do you anticipate growth?

It’s difficult to pinpoint sectors as we are navigating through a significant amount of change as it pertains to the pandemic. People have become confident with the convenience of e-commerce and expecting their delivery.   There are specific sectors that are located within the City of Lancaster that provide a sense of growth. Sectors such as logistics, medical manufacturing and supply, food manufacturing, and artificial intelligence are sectors that meet current needs and will continue to grow.

How is your city responding to the challenges your business community is facing because of the pandemic? 

The City of Lancaster was proactive with building a strong communication platform with businesses within the city to offer support and assistance before and during the span of the pandemic. The economic development staff has made direct contact with more than 600 businesses to provide solutions and detailed information on government resources available through federal and county partners that assist with the economic effects of the pandemic. Communication and support with businesses within our community has been continuous.

Source: Dallas Innovates