The man who orchestrated the effort to attract the first major industry to build from the ground up in Paris for the past 36 years has been selected as a community hero for this year’s Valley Visions.
Paris Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Michael Paris came to Paris in January 2016 shortly after an outside investigation of the economic engine, and shortly before a challenge to its existence during a city-wide vote in November 2017. At that time, voters turned out in significant numbers in support of the economic development group.
Less than a year later came the announcement that American SpiralWeld Co. would invest between $70 million and $90 million dollars in a plant in the Paris Industrial Park and would employ between 60 and 100 high-paying jobs.
During a sit-down interview to find out what makes Paris effective, the executive said experience gained from almost 30 years of recruiting and job retention activities prepared him to lead an economic development organization, noting specific skills learned from previous employment.
“What is neat about recruiting executives in positions for hospitals is you learn to have thick skin, remain calm, listen and respond accordingly,” Paris said about the 10 years he spent recruiting physicians and executives for the health care industry when he worked for a firm in Los Colinas in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
Paris said he learned from his first job out of college as director of admissions with Schreiner University in Kerrville the art of communicating intangibles.
“I had to learn fast the art of communicating intangibles when I had to get a family to commit almost $100,000 for their child to have an education there compared to a much cheaper state school,” Paris said. “You learn it is not always about the money but about the intrinsic value the place possesses.”
Before coming to town, Paris spent eight years as vice president in charge of business retention and expansion with the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce & Industry where he honed his skills. There he was responsible for directing business retention services to decision makers who produced regional, national and global goods and services. He also participated in business attraction activities, offering information for proposals, site visits and incentive budgeting.
Paris said he applied for the position here because he felt he was ready “for my own shop.”
About nine months on the job, Paris learned American Spiralweld was looking to expand its facilities, and he began building a relationship with company executives as he kept his own directors and Paris City Council informed. He told key business and industrial leaders of the need for a united recruitment effort.
“To this day, and even when the governor was here for the groundbreaking, American SpiralWeld executives brought it up again about coming to the city council meeting filled with community leaders and business owners that were saying, ‘we want you in Paris, Texas.’”
Paris said there were unexpected hurdles to cross in the recruitment process but each time his directors and city council members met them head on and kept the recruitment process moving forward.
“We would not have been successful had it not been for a lot of hard work and cooperation from a lot of people,” Paris said. “From this success, I think we as a community are beginning to stick out our chest a little bit and are believing more in ourselves.”