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Progress Update: Fort Worth Development Recommendations – Second Survey Results

Progress Update: Implementing REC of GFW’s Recommendations for Commercial Real Estate Development in Fort Worth – Second Survey Results


In the winter months bridging 2022 and 2023, the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth (REC of GFW) put forward a series of ten recommendations, aiming to improve development in Fort Worth. These recommendations were formulated after a comprehensive survey of REC members. To evaluate the city's advancements in these areas, periodic follow-up surveys were initiated, targeting selected developers and city staff members. Today, we are excited to share a thorough progress report based on the findings from the second follow-up survey, carried out in October 2023.


Notably, Both City Employees and Private Developers recognize improvements in the Development Services and other Departments since the first survey, However, expanding that culture of problem solving across all the 9 city departments that are part of development merits further attention. Efforts to improve interdepartmental cooperation and remove the expectation that the customer resolve impasses between departments is showing progress. Intensive customer service training is actively improving front-line interactions, and the City Manager’s newly implemented semi-annual Forum on Development challenges has been particularly successful with mutual recognition of areas both developers and staff can both improve on. REC intends to focus a portion of future survey efforts on how staff workflows can potentially be improved.


The insights from this survey have been shared with City Manager David Cooke where it was decided to continue to focus on retaining and promoting the high performing staff working development as well as focus on the IPRC and other multi-department reviews beyond development services including IPRC and Parks.


REC of GFW plans to conduct an additional follow-up survey early next year to continue to track progress.



Key Recommendations and Progress from Survey #2:

Recommendation #1 - "Expand the overwhelmingly positive trajectory within the Development Services Department to all development related departments."
Development Services Department Progress –
  • Progress Verdict: Improving

  • City Response: No change since the last survey; 14.29% believe there is no change, while 85.71% see improvements. Positive strides have been noted across various departments, notably with the integration of new improvements in the Water Department and the completion of the Customer Experience Certification Training series.

  • Private Response: Private Developers have showcased a significant shift in opinion. A shift from 40% to 73.33% believing in improvement, though concerns remain about the Water Department and staff changes. Overall staff attitude and department collaboration appear to be improving.



Recommendation #2 - "Instill a culture of problem solving across all departments and down to the customer interface level as is the norm in most cities."
Cultivating a Problem-Solving Culture –
  • Progress Verdict: Improving

  • City Response: 100% see improvements, highlighting a growing problem-solving mentality within the Development Services Department and other key departments.

  • Private Response: A slight improvement, but inconsistency remains, pointing to the need for further efforts. Consistency across departments and proper empowerment of front-line employees remain challenges.




Recommendation #3 - "Resolve city’s internal process conflicts between departments and remove the expectation that the customer will find a way to resolve them on their own."
Resolving Internal Process Conflicts –
  • Progress Verdict: No Change

  • City Response: A dip in positivity, though the majority still see improvements. Collaborative internal discussions are taking place, though additional Business Process Improvement (BPI) staff are needed to fully achieve this goal.

  • Private Response: The responses are mixed, with a notable increase in both ‘Getting Worse’ and ‘Getting Better’ categories, indicating diverging experiences among developers. Progress seems to be stagnant, with ongoing challenges in departmental coordination and communication. There are calls for better training in basic communication skills and a reduction in the need for customer escalation.



Recommendation #4 - "Place relevant partner department personnel responsible for commercial development under formal written operational control of the Development Services Department Director."
Operational Control of Partner Departments –
  • Progress Verdict: Improving

  • City Response: City Employees are more positive, with an increase in the ‘Getting Better’ responses and noting that formal operational control under the Development Services Department Director is in the process of being implemented.

  • Private Response: Private Developers' responses remain mostly stable, with a slight improvement noted. Skepticism remains, with many believing that the longstanding issue of departmental silos persists.



Recommendation #5 - "Employees with development responsibilities should be located on the same floor and in close proximity to the Development Services Department and each other in the new city hall."
Centralizing Development Staff –
  • Progress Verdict: Improving

  • City Response: The city reports a significant shift, with more believing the issue is resolved. Plans are underway to centralize development staff in the new city hall, though space constraints are noted.

  • Private Response: Private Developers have noted improvement, with an increase in ‘Issue Resolved’ responses. The move to the new city hall is seen as a positive step, but there are concerns about the adequacy of space and the timing of the transition.



Recommendation #6 - Schedule regular meetings with staff for workflow reviews. Broaden third-party lean process improvements and BPIs for multi-department evaluations to improve procedures and accountability."
Workflow Review and Process Improvements –
  • Progress Verdict: Improving

  • City Response: City Employees are unanimous in their belief that the situation is getting better. Ongoing efforts are in place to review workflows and implement process improvements, though resource limitations are highlighted.

  • Private Response: Positive changes are noted, though there’s still a significant percentage feeling things are about the same. There was positive feedback on the use of Acella, but a call for continued focus and involvement of all relevant departments was noted.



Recommendation #7 - "Invest in proven customer service training annually for all city personnel involved in the development process. Ordinances should be enforced not as brick wall, but as a problem to be corrected."
Investing in Customer Service Training –
  • Progress Verdict: Improving

  • City Response: A significant positive shift, with more city employees believing the situation is improving or resolved. Comprehensive customer service training is in progress, with plans to extend it city-wide in the coming year.

  • Private Response: Improvement is noted among Private Developers, with an increase in the ‘Getting Better’ responses. Improvements in specific departments were noted, but a call for more tangible change at the front lines and better incentives tied to training were mentioned as well.



Recommendation #8 - "The City Manager should host a forum twice a year with all development personnel and the commercial real estate community to discuss and resolve specific items. Progress on resolved items should be tracked in subsequent meetings."
Engagement Forum with Commercial Real Estate Community –
  • Progress Verdict: Improving

  • City Response: Progress is evident, bi-annual forums have been initiated to foster dialogue between development personnel and the commercial real estate community.

  • Private Response: Positive shifts are noted, though a small percentage still feels things are getting worse. There was positive reception of the forums, with calls for better communication to ensure wider participation.



Recommendation #9 - "Heavy investment in HR retention efforts is needed to support and promote high-performing staff for the cultural shift towards problem-solving. Provide opportunities to advance within departments to avoid talent loss."
HR Retention and Talent Development –
  • Progress Verdict: No Change

  • City Response: A positive trend with more city employees acknowledging improvement. Steps are being taken to address advancement opportunities and staff retention within the city.

  • Private Response: The responses from Private Developers remain largely the same, indicating room for further progress. Some noting worsening conditions, particularly around talent retention and feeling valued.



Recommendation #10 - "Significant resources should be invested in improving all aspects of Fort Worth's Legal Department's important input as the current process is too slow to be practical."
Improving Legal Department’s Input –
  • Progress Verdict: Improving

  • City Response: Progress is being made, though challenges remain with staffing in the City Attorney’s Office.

  • Private Response: Improvement is noted, with positive feedback on the Legal Department’s engagement and responsiveness, but there’s still a small percentage feeling things are getting worse.



Additional Comments -

  • City Response: A substantial positive change, with a majority now believing things are getting better. Acknowledgement of ongoing efforts to improve operations, customer service, and inter-departmental collaboration, with a call for patience and continued partnership.

  • Private Response: Improvement is noted, but there’s still a small percentage feeling things are getting worse. Calls for stability in processes, attention to specific departmental challenges, and a continued focus on improvement.


The second follow-up survey has unveiled critical insights into the progress Fort Worth is making towards better development processes. While there are evident improvements in several areas, the varying perspectives between City Employees and Private Developers highlight that there’s still work to be done to ensure a uniformly positive impact. REC of GFW remains committed to facilitating these improvements, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with both the City of Fort Worth and the private development community to foster a thriving, efficient, and developer-friendly environment.



Read the Initial Report:

You can read the initial 2022/2023 Report below:



 

About the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth

The Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth (REC of GFW) is the unified voice for the commercial real estate profession, influencing action and supporting change to accomplish long-term job growth and enhance the quality of life. REC of GFW is made up of more than 600 members from more than 250 different companies who touch all facets of commercial real estate development. Besides conducting events and programs benefiting our members, REC of GFW addresses policy issues that affect development. REC of GFW is focused on three main areas:

  • Expanding Relationships -- we provide forums and events where relationships are expanded and leaders are developed.

  • Addressing Development Challenges -- we acknowledge development challenges in Fort Worth, Arlington, and Tarrant County and formulate and execute solutions with other partners to solve these challenges.

  • Addressing Community Challenges -- we address and work to solve community challenges to promote long-term job growth and an enhanced quality of life in Fort Worth, Arlington, and Tarrant County.

​The Real Estate Council believes that strong economic development is at the heart of growing Fort Worth, Arlington, and Tarrant County. Members work closely with civic, business, and public service leaders to strengthen the promotion of Tarrant County to companies, organizations, and others whose presence increases the prosperity of our community.


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