By Rachel Behrndt, Fort Worth Report
January 19, 2023
The city’s new $350 million downtown Texas A&M University campus received its official new name — Texas A&M-Fort Worth – and a pep rally, to boot.
“We appreciate you choosing the 12th-largest city in the country to become Texas A&M’s 12th man,” State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, said, referring to an Aggie tradition started in 1922.
The campus also has its own team of architects and construction managers who will start work on the Law & Education building this summer. Architecture firm Stantec will be the primary architect, working with design architect Pelli Clarke & Partners.
The room was filled Jan. 19 with city and Tarrant County government and business leaders — a show of support that Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp described as remarkable even in a big state known for doing big things.
“We’ve never done anything in the state of Texas that has had this much support,” Sharp said.
Businessman John Goff worked to bring Texas A&M to the city as co-chair of Fort Worth Now, which has become the newly formed Fort Worth-Tarrant County Innovation Partnership. Goff will serve on the board of the new partnership, which will focus on attracting investments from businesses and nonprofits.
Earlier in the day at the 2023 Real Estate Forecast, Goff touted the A&M campus development and its influence in attracting businesses to Fort Worth. Goff already is working with two businesses on corporate relocations as a result of the campus.
Corporations want to take advantage of the skilled workforce provided by A&M students and graduates, he said. The university earlier outlined intentions to partner with several major corporations, including Alcon, AT&T and Lockheed Martin, as well as Tarleton State University, at the new campus.
“It’s a game-changer. Fort Worth (is the) largest city in the U.S. without a tier one research university — until now,” Goff said.
University expands Fort Worth campus to include engineering, business
The university also gave a preview of the kinds of programming that will be housed in the new campus. The campus will be a hub of education and innovation, including programs focused on engineering, business and law.
The university wants to connect the Fort Worth campus to College Station, said Kathy Banks, president of Texas A&M University. The Fort Worth campus will be included in several university programs focused on immersing students in workforce development.
John Hurtado, interim vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering, said the Fort Worth campus will allow students to work directly with companies like Lockheed Martin and Bell Helicopter.
“We spoke to the industry that’s here… And we asked what kind of workforce what kind of education would best benefit them and that helped us inform what kind of educational program should be envisioned here,” Hurtado said.
Texas A&M also established an engineering academy with Tarrant County College in preparation for the Fort Worth campus. The program started in fall 2022. The engineering academy allows students to start their engineering education in community colleges and then transition to the Fort Worth or College Station campus.
They will “be able to complete their education here, take advantage of the internships … and just be able to really serve and be plugged into this community,” Hurtado said.
The campus will also house several innovative programs, including the university’s school of fine arts, performance, and visualization. The program will train students in designing and engineering simulations and virtual reality to be used in entertainment, engineering and public safety.
“Different industry sectors are adopting the technology, they see the potential, and they don’t have the people to produce the product to incorporate it into their systems,” Tim McLaughlin, interim dean of the Texas A&M School of Fine Arts, Performance, and Visualization, said.
Students will produce that technology in Fort Worth and partner with companies and other programs at university campuses, McLaughlin said.
Bringing in other programming to the Fort Worth campus will allow the law school to expand, said Robert Ahdieh, dean of the School of Law and vice president for Professional Schools.
“Our ability to recruit world-class students, world-class faculty, donors, recruit employers to hire our students, is dramatically greater when we’re part of a … broader campus than just the law. So having engineering, health sciences and business, that really does good work for us in terms of our continued growth.”
Tarleton State University will also find an additional home at the downtown campus. Tarleton President James Hurley said the expansion will allow the university to launch a biotechnology program to be housed at the campus.
The Fort Worth City Council recently approved a cost-sharing plan with Texas A&M that will allow the city-issued bonds to finance the Research and Innovation building and the Gateway conference center and offices.
The city also allocated $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to the project.
“We have quite literally put our money where our mouth is,” said City Council member Elizabeth Beck, a Texas A&M Law School graduate.
The partnership will shorten the design and construction timeline by about five years, university officials anticipate.
“We want people to understand the importance of having a top ten public research institution in their midst,” Sharp said.
U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, who was recently appointed to one of the most powerful positions in Congress, echoed her full support for the project.
“Congratulations to Fort Worth and Texas A&M,” Granger said. “It’s a great moment. And it’s just the beginning. There’s so many great things and, believe me, I will stay in Congress until it’s done.”
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.