(Editor’s note: Terrell Economic Development Corporation recently worked with Conway Media on an editorial placement in the 2020-2021 Texas Economic Development Guide. We’d like to share this editorial with you in three parts, starting with this column. Watch for part two in the June 20th issue.)

Drive east of Dallas about half an hour along I-20 and you’ll come upon a few green exit signs bearing the name “Terrell.”

This small Texas community sprang up around a train depot in the 1870s. In World War II, the first U.S.-based training school for Royal Air Force pilots was established in Terrell. Today, the city of 18,000 is just far enough outside Dallas’ urban sprawl to offer affordability and a quiet, peaceful way of life — yet close enough to benefit from everything the city has to offer. Nearly 60,000 people travel through Terrell every day on their way to and from the city, stopping to fill up at the Texas-sized Buc-ee’s gas station or to shop the city’s outlet malls and retail stores.

In recent years, Terrell’s retail industry has enjoyed a rebound, as has its lodging and food service sectors. Manufacturing and distribution have also held a prominent role in Terrell’s economy over the years, with an increasingly promising outlook.

Ray Dunlap, who recently took on the role of president of the Terrell Economic Development Corp., says his No. 1 goal is to keep more of the city’s workforce at home. “We have three major manufacturers — Madix, Oldcastle and Nucor — and three distribution centers — Walmart, AutoZone and Goodyear,” he says. “We have about 12,000 jobs and 18,000 population. So, we’re an importer of jobs. We want to keep our talent at home.”

As a small-town Texas native himself, he says he understands the value and quality of life being engrained in a community has on a person, but he also understands the allure city life has on young people just starting their careers. He says he wants the young people of Terrell to grow up and build their hometown.

“In Terrell, we’re growing, and we have a lot of talented, smart people here,” he says. “These are future business owners, employees, managers, city council members, teachers, etc. that will grow up and give back to our city. More than anything, I want to see kids grow up with hope.”

Interestingly enough, that’s exactly what a new program at the local high school is giving to its students — and nearby employers. Terrell High School Career & Technical Education (CTE) students are enrolling in an innovative, industry-led career pathway program in several sectors, including robotics and engineering, computer science, automotive service, welding, computer aided drafting, health care, nursing, precision manufacturing, computer graphics, video technology and industrial safety. Throughout the three-year program, students can earn industry certifications, college credits, internships and hands-on experience with direct feedback and involvement from local industry partners.

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