Can A Hit TV Show Support Economic Development?
February 23, 2017
Recently, one of my friends—an economic developer’s coveted millennial—told me, “Someday I’ll leave New York City. My ultimate dream is to live on a farm in Waco, Texas.”
It appears to be a growing trend. But what’s drawing people from around America to consider moving to a small town in Texas? Waco doesn’t appear on Forbes’ “Best Places for Business and Careers” list. Perhaps the answer doesn’t stem from rankings, but instead, viewings. Thanks to HGTV’s popular show, Fixer Upper, Waco’s brand has skyrocketed.
Fixer Upper Fixes Waco
Local officials credit the show’s dynamic duo, Chip and Joanna Gaines, as pioneers of Waco’s revitalization. City manager Dale Fisseler estimates that the couple spurred momentum after renovating 20 blocks of Waco neighborhoods.
Today, Chip and Joanna employ more than 150 people in Waco. Spinning their hit TV-show magic into a retail store, furniture line, book, magazine and vacation rental, the couple have created an empire benefiting secondary Waco entrepreneurs.
In a recent Dallas Morning News article titled, “Fixer Upper’ trickle-downers: Meet Dallas businesses seeing gains from Gaines family,” the media outlet details entrepreneurs capitalizing both directly and indirectly on the show’s success to grow their own local ventures, including a tour company, furniture shop, rug manufacturer, bakery and photographer.
Spurring Economic Growth
With more than 26 million residents, Texas already has the second largest state population in America. Thanks to interest led by Fixer Upper, it’s still growing. Waco’s population is estimated to grow a whopping 38.7%, up to 326,000, by 2050. Today, Chip Gaines even owns his own real estate agency, which attracts clients to buy homes in fast-growing cities like Waco, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and San Antonio.
Researchers have also confirmed the effect the show’s success has had on the greater Waco area. In a new report by the University of Baylor’s Center for Business and Economic Research, it claims that the benefits of Fixer Upper on the local economy are undeniable. The area’s newfound fame has already resulted in increased investment downtown and along the Brazos River corridor, as well as created new jobs.
A Cool New Marketing Strategy
For decades, television shows and movies have long popularized or influenced public perceptions of places—much like the Twilight series illuminated the small town of Forks, Washington. Yet, often onscreen marketing mostly benefits tourism efforts, without a direct correlation to economic development. Thus, it seems that Fixer Upper is in a league of its own: stimulating job creation, economic growth, positive city perceptions and an informal talent attraction campaign.
As one Austin-based consultant recently divulged, “Community pride is sky high now in Waco. I can’t think of another community that’s experienced anything like this.”