DDA summit to focus on current boom, ongoing pandemic

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The last time the Denison Development Alliance  held its conference was in early 2020. DDA will give an update on the economic health of the city and development taking place within it during its economic development summit this Friday.

The past two years have been eventful ones for economic development in Denison and Texoma as a whole.

The region is still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020, along with the impacts of long-awaited growth and development north from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and a housing boom like the region has never seen.

These topics and others will be the focus of conversations Friday morning when the Denison Development Alliance holds its annual economic development summit at the Hilton Garden.

The annual event allows economic developers to discuss not only the development over the past year, but also what the upcoming year has in store.

"The conference is designed to let our citizens know what's going on in the community," DDA President Tony Kaai said. "It's also a way to help us in marketing Denison to developers and investors who are looking for a great place to do business."

The annual event regularly brings in crowds of nearly 300 people each year to discuss and hear updates on development within the city and in the greater region. The event started about 21 years ago shortly after Kaai arrived in Denison. The conference initially took the form of a discussion of strategic planning before transitioning into a general update from area partners.

This year's conference would have been the 21st for the event, but organizers skipped 2021's gathering due to the ongoing pandemic and restrictions on large gatherings and limited attendance.

While many topics are expected to be discussed, the pandemic impacts will likely be felt in several of the discussions. DDA Vice President William Myers is expected to talk about initiatives during the pandemic, including a grant program, that assisted area small businesses in transitioning to an e-commerce model. The DDA was later recognized for this program by both state and international development organizations.

The Denison Development Foundation will continue that focus on small businesses through its discussions during the meeting. Among its initiatives was a loan program in 2020 that offered $2,500 loans to area businesses that were interest free for 18 months, Kaai said.

In an item titled "The Challenges of COVID," former Mayor and current Texoma Medical Center Senior Director Jared Johnson is expected to discuss the impacts of the disease on the local medical system alongside an update on recent growth and expansions at the hospital. Kaai said he expected discussions to include an update on the development of a new office building and dietary center, Kaai said.

"Obviously with this cropping back up here in the last 30 days, he might have some insight in what they are seeing right now," Kaai said.

A new Chick-Fil-A location was opened in Jacksonville, Florida in 2021. The Denison Development Alliance is expected to given an update about Denison's first location Chick-Fil-A when it holds its economic development summit on Friday.

Beyond the pandemic, officials will also outline the progress that has been made in the development of the city dating back nearly two decades. When Kaai first joined the DDA, he created a plan of 20 goals that area stakeholders wanted to achieve. Now, he plans to present how all of those goals have eventually come to fruition over time.

"My main point there is we had a plan that extends to today and we are having explosive growth up here," Kaai said. "We've never seen this kind of growth up here, no one has."

Other topics that will be discussed during the conference include an update on ongoing projects — including development of the city's first Chick-Fil-A. These updates will include a look at the ongoing infrastructure improvements taking place and future improvements at North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field.

"The infrastructure of transportation is an important tool for economic development," Kaai said.

For more information on the summit, please visit www.denisontx.org.