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Ross Perot Jr.: DFW is Rich with Entrepreneurs, Tech Talent, and Opportunity

Some of the nation's largest companies turn to North Texas to help drive their tech initiatives, Perot said.
Hillwood chairman Ross Perot Jr.
Ross Perot Jr.

Dallas-Fort Worth is and will continue to be a hotspot for entrepreneurs and technology companies, which will shape the future for the region. That was one of Ross Perot Jr.’s main messages at the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ Tocqueville Society May luncheon this week.

“It’s becoming a very rich diverse community filled with entrepreneurial talent,” Perot said, adding that hundreds of thousands of people move to the region every year. “Because of our growth, because of our freedom in Texas, and our positive attitude and our optimism, you’re seeing more and more entrepreneurs come into the Dallas-Fort Worth market.”

And entrepreneurs have been a major part of the region’s history, which includes pioneers like oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, former Dallas mayor and businessman J. Erik Jonsson, and former presidential candidate and tech mogul Ross Perot Sr., Perot Jr. said. Today’s entrepreneurs are continuing that entrepreneurial spirit by generating “incredible ideas,” he added.

The market is strengthened by corporate giants that are bolstering the talent and interest of other companies as they move to the region. For example, Toyota’s decision to relocate from California to Plano has put a new national spotlight on the area. Amazon has scooped up more than 4 million square feet of warehousing space in DFW. Meanwhile, Facebook’s $1 billion data center, which is expected to eventually occupy more than 2 million square feet in Fort Worth, just opened at Perot’s AllianceTexas development last week. And Facebook, which Perot said could soon operate the largest data center in the world from Fort Worth, is not alone in its interest in opening a data center in North Texas. The region has become a magnet for data center expansion due to its affordable power and fiber optic activity, Perot said.

“I was probably the only kid who grew up playing in a data center,” laughed Perot, who spent his childhood watching his father Ross Perot Sr. build a tech empire with Electronic Data Systems. “Growing up in data centers … and seeing these modern data centers, it’s staggering what’s happening.”

DFW is the second largest data-center market in the nation, Perot said, stating that only Northern Virginia tops the area. Demand is so robust that, “I’m not sure that the industry can keep up with the growth in data,” he said. And the growth in data will continue to fuel the need for data centers in North Texas. On top of its solid infrastructure for data centers, North Texas has the talent to operate the centers, which will only attract future expansion. This is not only because the region has been attracting top talent in recent years, but because local tech talent stems back to the ’50s and ’60s when Texas Instruments, EDS, and Sabre Corp. were founded.

“When Facebook moved in, they told me last week, ‘One of the reasons we’re here is the market so rich with talent,” Perot said. “They had 10 qualified people per job opening.”

The sharing economy and DFW’s eagerness to adopt new innovations have also added to the region’s tech cred, Perot said. For example, Uber selected the region as one of two areas in the world at which it would pilot its flying vehicles. The Elevate initiative teamed up with Bell Helicopter of Fort Worth and Perot’s development company Hillwood Properties to get battery-powered vehicles in the air by 2020. Dallas joined Dubai as a pilot city. This means with the press of a button Uber riders could get airlifted from downtown Dallas to AT&T Stadium and skip traffic.

The event program listed Perot’s speech as “Shaping the Future of North Texas.” While many expected Perot, a lauded real estate developer, to delve into the intricacies of the local real estate market, his tech-heavy speech instead suggested that North Texas’ tech industry is a force to be reckoned with.