The Metro 8 CEO’s and supporting senior staff held meetings at the State Capitol this week discussing the Texas business community’s top legislative priorities in the 85th legislative session.
Metro 8 represents businesses in Texas’ eight largest metropolitan areas: Arlington, Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. Collectively, the Metro 8 Chambers serve more than 20,000 Texas companies and employ a large portion of the state’s workforce. The Metro 8 accounts for 70.1% of Texas’ total population and 80% of Texas’ total GDP. Since its creation, the Metro 8 has focused largely on economic development, mobility, and workforce policies that will benefit state and local economies.
Metro 8 partners began the day meeting with the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joe Straus to discuss economic development, education and workforce, as well as transportation. Speaker Straus highlighted public education as priority this coming session and is urging the House to do the same, specifically the school finance system. He stressed the importance of state agencies like the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to find ways to work together.
The CEOs then met with and discussed economic development strategies with Dale Craymer, President of the Texas Taxpayer and Research Association (TTARA). Craymer provided an update on Chapter 313 and the Texas Enterprise Fund. Given budget constraints and the severe drop in oil and gas, support for these economic development tools will be challenging.
A meeting with Andres Alcantar, Chairman of the TWC, provided the Metro 8 with a summary of the final version of the recently released Tri-Agency Report, including efforts to advance the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s (THECB) 60x30TX plan. Chairman Alcantar also touched on efforts to update and replace Work in Texas by including a supply and demand data tool with short-and long-term data to make a better connection between the employer’s needs and skill requirements.
TEA Commissioner Mike Morath provided an overview of a four-point strategic plan that is being finalized. Morath highlighted four specific recommendations: focus on recruitment and retention of talent; reading and math literacy; high school connection to college; and improvement of low-performing campuses. Commissioner Morath mentioned that his highest priority this legislative session is fully funding early childhood education.
Texas Workforce Commissioner Ruth R. Hughs concluded the day with an update on TWC’s Technology Immersion Pilot (TIP) grant program, Operation Welcome Home and College Credits for Heroes, all programs that align with the Governor’s charge to create a strong regional economy.
Metro 8 partners will continue to meet with key legislators over the next few months. Click here for the Metro 8 State Legislative Agenda.