Arlington’s Job Creation in White-Hot I-20 Corridor
While most of the Metroplex has focused on the glitzy Arlington Entertainment District a few miles north – itself also in the midst of several upgrades – the majority of the city’s new job creation has taken place with little fanfare within the increasingly white-hot I-20 corridor. The I-20 corridor in Arlington is now the city’s largest employment sector.
Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams made one of his many traditional ribbon-cutting appearances earlier this month, officially opening a national distribution center for Rent the Runway on West Bardin Road a block away from busy I-20 traffic.
It was without doubt a big deal – 300,000-plus square feet with 500 new employees this year, to be bumped up to 700 in the next couple of years.
RTR is a national leader in apparel rental with items from more than 600 designer partners, it’s mostly women customers opting to rent high-fashion apparel as opposed to buying. It’s a growing trend in the $2.4 trillion global fashion industry, within which RTR is a billion-dollar company.
But the opening was also symbolic in another couple of ways.
The first is because the 1111 W. Bardin Road location was once part of the now long-gone, 71-acre National Semiconductor plant that was shut down when the company’s microchip sales spiraled downward.
The second is because Semiconductor’s closing – eliminating 300 jobs in the process, way down from the original 1,200 – also zapped the last remnant of Arlington’s master plan for development of this five-mile long interstate strip as a high-tech and corporate office corridor.
What’s evolved over the five years since then might be called Plan B: Let the market and capitalism rule, with occasional tax incentives thrown in. Plus, there’s always that easy access interstate running through the middle of it.
So far, so good – maybe considerably better than good from an economic development perspective.
An I-20 corridor from Cooper Street running east to Texas 360 has exploded with a mix of retail and restaurants, auto dealerships, financial institutions, hotels, manufacturing, medical treatment and distribution centers. So much so that I-20 is now the city’s largest employment sector.
While most of the Metroplex has focused on the glitzy Arlington Entertainment District a few miles north – itself also in the midst of several upgrades – the majority of the city’s new job creation has taken place with little fanfare within the increasingly white-hot I-20 corridor.
The old National Semiconductor site, for instance, is now occupied by two massive 420,000-square-feet warehouses, one of which is mostly occupied by RTR, with a third warehouse on the way.
The original, now-demolished, Semiconductor building was 441,000 square feet.
This corridor, roughly centered between Arbrook Drive on the north and Bardin Road on the south, is full of economic surprises, and that’s without factoring in two booming retail areas – the Parks of Arlington Mall and Arlington Highlands.
New car dealerships for example. This section of I-20 is an upscale throwback to the old Arlington Auto Aisle days and a plethora of new car dealerships – Ford, Chevrolet, Buick/GMC, Mazda, Kia, Honda, Jeep/Chrysler, Suzuki, Nissan, Mercedes, Acura/Toyota, Mitsubishi and VW.
Drive a bit farther east and you’ll soon see a new United Parcel Services distribution center occupying slightly more than a million square feet and providing 1,400 jobs. It’s almost next door to the Summit Racing Distribution Center, 750,000 square feet and not quite 300 jobs. And there’s a regional Aetna facility – another 500 jobs.
Other major distribution, manufacturing and warehousing employers – total about 3 million square feet – include but are not limited to QFC Plastic, Lockheed Missiles, Ricoh, Northern Tool, MNI Source, Baker Distributing, Tellworks, XRO Logistics, DSC Logistics, INY, Sheffield Metal, Caraustar Industrial Products, Phillips Pet Food Supply, Doskocil Plastics and a massive Rooms to Go distribution and warehouse center, the latter by itself a million square feet. All of this is roughly centered by the Arlington Municipal Airport, which is also home to the Bell Helicopter Flight Research Center.
The surprise employment sleeper in the corridor, however, is GM Financial, which occupies three buildings collectively consuming more than a million square feet – also with 3,400 employees and an announced intention to expand to 4,000.
Nor is the trend over. Another 1.5 million square feet of new distribution/factory/warehousing space will open up for occupancy this year, and there’s still vacant space to grow.
Plan B is clearly working.
O.K. Carter is a former editor and publisher of the Arlington Citizen-Journal and was also Arlington publisher and columnist for the Star-Telegram and founding editor of Arlington Today Magazine. He’s the author of the definitive book on Arlington’s colorful history, Caddos, Cotton and Cowboys: Essays on Arlington. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
http://www.fortworthbusiness.com/news/human_resources/o-k-carter-arlington-s-job-creation-is-in-white/article_e87188b6-aa62-11e9-a508-5baefed9b42b.html originally appeared in the Fort Worth Business Press.