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Amid Uncertain Future for TexasOne, a New Recruiting Effort Emerges

While it's still to be seen how Gov. Greg Abbott will move forward with the state's economic development tools, a team made up of a coalition of municipal economic development organizations is announcing a new effort to recruit businesses to Texas.

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A Texas-based economic development team is rolling out a new marketing tool to recruit businesses to bring new jobs to the state. Sound familiar?

The future of the state economic development tools championed by former Gov. Rick Perry remains unclear under new leadership. Meanwhile, the nonprofit Texas Economic Development Council on Wednesday will announce “Team Texas,” a marketing team made up of a coalition of municipal economic development organizations. Team Texas is not to be confused with TexasOne, a quasi-governmental state entity that served as Perry's chief marketing tool and underwrote his domestic and international promotional trips to lure new businesses to the state.

The launch of Team Texas' recruitment efforts comes on the heels of Perry's departure from office. After years of relying on Perry to serve as the spokesman for Texas’ economic opportunity, the Texas Economic Development Council decided it needed to step up its efforts, Team Texas Executive Director Lorie Vincent said.

"We realized we needed to do this because he won’t be out there" to spread the word, Vincent said.

Like TexasOne, Team Texas will hold trade shows, recruitment trips and special events to connect its members to businesses looking to expand or relocate. But while TexasOne's biggest contributors are large corporations, Team Texas is mostly funded through municipal economic development organizations and city governments.

It still isn't clear whether Gov. Greg Abbott will take a page out of Perry’s book when it comes to wooing business to Texas or whether he wants to keep or grow the state’s economic development tools.

The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment on Team Texas and the future of TexasOne. When it comes to the economic incentive funds Perry used to close deals with companies lured with the help of TexasOne, Abbott has said they need to be “thoroughly re-evaluated.” In an early stump speech during his campaign for governor, Abbott often repeated that he wants to get the government “out of the business of picking winners and losers.”

Team Texas was originally established as the Texas Marketing Team in 1984, but it wasn’t until last year when the Texas Economic Development Council voted to formalize its marketing initiative and expand its membership of local economic development groups and city governments. Though it appears Team Texas’ marketing efforts will overlap with TexasOne, Vincent said the two groups can complement each other.

“We are certain we can find a way for both of our organizations to thrive,” Vincent said, adding that Team Texas is more of a grassroots marketing tool and will not pursue the corporate members that make up TexasOne. “Texas is a very big state. I think there’s room for all of us.”

Romina Black, executive director of the Texas Economic Development Corporation, which oversees TexasOne, struck a similar tone.

"We need all hands on deck if we’re going to keep Texas the national leader in job creation,” Black said in a written statement. “Governor Abbott has outlined ‘bigger and bolder’ plans for a comprehensive marketing approach for TexasOne, and Team Texas’ efforts are complementary."

In recent years, TexasOne has come under scrutiny because of how it’s funded by large companies. Corporations can become members of TexasOne by contributing anything from $1,000 to $100,000 annually. Many of the corporations that have contributed millions of dollars to Perry’s campaigns were also top donors to TexasOne.

A 2014 Texas Tribune investigation into TexasOne contributors who have also been major donors to the governor found that since 2003, seven of the 12 top givers have also been beneficiaries of millions of dollars in awards from state economic development programs promoted by Perry, and that some of their executives have obtained gubernatorial appointments to influential state government boards.

When asked in an interview this month whether doing away with incentive funds would hurt the state’s ability to attract businesses, Abbott pivoted to the viability of TexasOne under new leaders. Abbott has announced he’s replacing Perry’s top economic development directors, including the president of the state entity that oversees TexasOne.

"I know, based upon what I’ve already done with regard to TexasOne and the Texas Economic Development Corporation, that we have it on a trajectory that will be even bigger and bolder than what Gov. Perry has done with regard to bringing businesses and jobs to the state of Texas,” Abbott said.

Reeve Hamilton contributed to this report.

Disclosure: The Texas Economic Development Council is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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