When David Prescott moved to Amarillo from Oklahoma City to attend college, he wasn't sure if he'd be there for long. He wanted to build a business and had thought a larger city, like Dallas or Houston, might be a better place for a budding entrepreneur.
But, after weighing his options, he decided to grow his company, Talon/LPE, in Amarillo. "We wouldn't have been successful if I stayed in Oklahoma City," he says. "The workforce is incredible in Amarillo. It's filled with passionate people who want to succeed. There's a real sense of teamwork."
Since 1997, Prescott's environmental consulting, drilling and construction business has grown exponentially, making $250,000 in revenues in its first year and hitting $30 million in 2016. It wouldn't have expanded, though, if it weren't for Amarillo's welcoming business environment. "They have everything here," he says. "Legal, banking, accounting, human resources and everyone wants to help."
Many other entrepreneurs have followed in Prescott's footsteps, relocating themselves and their companies to Amarillo. Since 2000, the city's population has grown by 16%, while the number of small businesses has expanded, too, says Gina Woodward, regional director of the WT Small Business Development Center, an organization that helps entrepreneurs with various business needs.
Moving a business to a new city may seem like a daunting task, but the biggest challenge isn't setting up a company in another locale--it's growing it after the move. The first place to start? Meet people, says Woodward.
Build Your Network
In a smaller city like Amarillo, everyone wants to help everyone else out. Every day someone is meeting a potential business partner for coffee, says Woodward. "Be friendly and make new friends," she says. "Those contacts then turn into amazing business resources that can help you increase your revenue."
While casual meetups are encouraged, there are also more formal networking events that any new-to-the-city entrepreneur should attend. The Amarillo Economic Development Center holds ongoing events, WT Small Business Development Center has monthly luncheons and Amarillo's Chamber of Commerce regularly brings business owners together, too. In January, the West Texas Enterprise Center will launch a chapter of 1 Million Cups to further encourage connectivity and networking throughout the entrepreneurial community.
Networking has helped Prescott immensely, he says. When his company was still small, banks were hesitant to loan him money. Instead of getting angry, he stayed in touch with everyone he met, going for regular coffees and giving them updates. It didn't take long before they gave him that loan. Now he can get whatever he wants. "If we need a loan tomorrow, to buy a piece of equipment, we can get it with our proven track record and banking relationships in Amarillo," he says.
Hire More Staff
Relocated entrepreneurs will also need to find staff as their business expands. Fortunately, Amarillo's EDC can help. It works with several organizations, including Amarillo College, to source talent for booming businesses, says Reagan Hales, the EDC's vice-president of strategic marketing and communications.
The EDC often holds job fairs, can set up training for companies and can tap into its vast network to find the right people for any job. One company that set up shop in the city needed to hire 350 employees and create a customized training program. The EDC organized a job fair specifically for the business. "Over 700 people showed up before 8:00 a.m.," Hales says. "The company was incredibly impressed with the volume of applications and identified candidates quickly. It was phenomenal."
Look at Logistics
Once a business owner is settled into a new city, they'll want to start identifying shipping and travel routes that can help them grow, adds Hales. Many expanding operations have complex logistics needs and they often come to the EDC, which has a logistics expert on staff, for help.
Its logistics expert understands state and federal transportation regulations and has connections with the various local rail providers. "We get asked questions from whether rail is better than trucks, to how can I build rail spurs directly to my facility?" says Hales.
It also helps that Amarillo is centrally located. It doesn't take long to get to either coast and, for those who want to expand internationally, it's only a four and a half hour plane ride to Mexico City. "We can help companies get closer to their customers and maximize distribution," she says.
As welcoming as Amarillo's business community is to new business owners, it's mission is to help its businesses grow. That means providing resources that can help after a relocation, from market research reports, tax advice and other data that can assist with expansion.
After 20 years in business, Prescott now has operations in a number of locations, including Oklahoma City, his old stomping ground. His advice? Take advantage of all Amarillo has to offer. "Go to the Chamber of Commerce, talk to the EDC, get involved and reach out," he says. "You can make a lot of incredible relationships that will help your business."