Celebrating Garin's First Year as Director!

Celebrating Garin's First Year as Director! Main Photo

31 Mar 2024

Blog, News

Garin Giacomarro is no stranger to Grapevine. He grew up here, went on to obtain a Master’s of Public Administration, and worked his way back into the community that raised him by way of multiple cities and Chambers of Commerce across the South. He joined the Grapevine Economic Development team as a Coordinator almost a decade ago and worked his way up to Assistant Director in 2021.

The Director who preceded him was recruited to Los Angeles and left with the recommendation that Garin take over his post. So, from 2022 until April 2023, Garin served as Acting Director; finalizing projects like Meow Wolf Grapevine and the redevelopment of the former Payton-Wright Ford dealership into a thriving restaurant cluster. With those accomplishments under his belt, the City Manager’s Office decided to make Garin’s promotion official around this time last year.

Today, he will be the first to tell you that he’s landed his “dream job.” The City of Grapevine is an incredible place to build a business, which makes it a thriving market for economic development. And that, in turn, offers plenty of opportunity for growth. With that in mind, we asked Garin what he’s learned from his first year in the role… and if he’d be willing to answer a few questions from fellow Grapevine residents and enthusiasts. 

Here’s the full Q&A:

You stepped into this role after years of hard work and had to immediately dive into half a dozen major projects. What did you do to celebrate, and what’s still left to do after Year One?

Anyone who knows me knows that there was only one option: I went to Weinberger’s on Main Street and had one of my favorite sandwiches in the world. After that, I got to work.

The beautiful part about this role is that the work will never be done. I only represent a chapter of Grapevine’s economic development story, but many came before mine and many will come after. All I can do is try to make my chapter as impactful and beneficial as I can. Grapevine has so many great qualities, but there’s still a wealth of opportunity here. Specifically, we continue to seek great destination entertainment offerings, restaurants, corporate partners, and retail options. It consumes a large part of our department’s bandwidth to chase and bring back great brands, but we believe it’s worth the effort.

Because of your role, you’re often one of the first people to hear exciting ideas for the future of Grapevine. What’s it like to have to keep secrets about new developments until they’re ready to be announced?

Getting to know about exciting projects before everyone else is definitely one of the perks of the job. Even though Meow Wolf didn’t officially open until July 2023, I had known about the project since 2019. You can imagine my relief when we finally got to the ribbon cutting ceremony! It’s fun to shepherd these users through the process behind the scenes, but eventually you’re just dying to tell someone about whatever cool new thing is about to open.

That said, I have also learned that projects are fragile and often unpredictable. Sometimes the ones that seem like surefire things fall apart at the last minute. Sometimes the ones that seem like they don’t have a chance end up launching to massive success. No matter what happens, though, it’s important for them to have control of their narrative. Because of that, my team and I feel a deep responsibility to maintain the privacy of all our prospects, ensuring that they have the best chance possible to make it here in town. We exist to help businesses, even if that means sitting on some juicy details for a year or two.

Commercial Real Estate Agent Brandon Brooks asks (via LinkedIn): “If you could bring any business to Grapevine, what would it be?”

Since my first day in the department 9 years ago, I’ve been hearing the calls for new grocery in Grapevine. As a resident of Grapevine, I absolutely understand the need and take it very personally. A good portion of my time is spent thinking about what it would take – and what it would mean – to bring a high-quality grocer to Grapevine. Not everyone understands the challenges associated with attracting one here, though.

Most grocery site selectors will pick a point in Grapevine and then do an analysis of 1-mile, 3-mile, and 5-mile radius circles. They count rooftops, generally single-family homes, that lie within those areas. Grapevine is handicapped in this regard by Grapevine Lake, DFW Airport, and warehousing in Coppell. Despite this, my team has made grocery a priority since my first day as Director, and we continue to do so. We have spoken with every grocery brand you can think of… and probably some you haven’t. We continue to aggressively hunt for this user and I believe these efforts will pay off in the future. 

Community Impact reporter Cody Thorn asks (via Twitter/X): “What's the one part of the job you love the most?”

It will sound cheesy, but my favorite thing about the job really is the community itself. I grew up in Grapevine and have seen the monumental change that this city and this Metroplex have gone through over the last 25 years. I truly believe that, for the industry I’m in, there is no better country, no better state, no better metro, and no better city to work in than Grapevine, Texas. 

This business community is outstanding, exemplified in my department’s relationship with the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce. They are the best in the business and provide an invaluable connection to local businesses that doesn’t exist in other places I’ve seen. Grapevine is a unique community, and I feel very fortunate to be part of the ecosystem that’s developed here. 

You’re also a member of Grapevine Rotary and the Northeast Leadership Forum, not to mention serving as the Chair for Grapevine Young Professionals. Why do you think it’s important to serve the City in a volunteer role as well as your professional one?

I believe strongly that giving back to the community you’re working for is an essential part of realizing your responsibility as an economic developer. This job isn’t just dollars and cents. It’s understanding residents, addressing problems, tailoring priorities to the personality of the city, understanding unique needs of different parts of town, etc. You can’t understand that being in City Hall every day. If you care about your community, you will invest in it and work hard for it. My board roles in GYP, Rotary, and NLF are all ways for me to interact and engage with this community to better understand it and serve it. 

Speaking of Community Engagement, John from the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce asks: “What top 3 things do you feel benefit businesses looking to relocate to Grapevine?”

I’m contractually obligated to say that there are more than three, but if I had to give a quick explanation of what makes Grapevine great, I would boil it down to Access, Diversity, and Passion. The first and most obvious selling point of our City is that we’re right in the middle of everything: both the continental US and the fastest-growing metro area in the fastest-growing state in the nation. We’re five minutes from DFW Airport, less than thirty minutes from the City center of both Dallas and Fort Worth, and we sit at the convergence of multiple state highways with commuter rail access to both sides of the metroplex. That kind of accessibility is hard to beat.

After that – and maybe because of that – I would highlight the economic diversity of Grapevine. We’re built for tourism and entertainment, and we have strong producers in the retail, hospitality, and corporate sectors. There are very few business types that can’t thrive here, and as a result it’s easy to find partners and customers no matter what industry you’re in. All that goodwill comes together in the third and most important feature of our community: the people.

Grapevine has always been defined by active and compassionate civic groups that support our way of doing business: the Grapevine Chamber, Rotary, Ambucs, and a wealth of non-profits and community-minded businesses provide resources and support that make our City a great place to work and play. There’s a low barrier to entry here in Grapevine, with plenty of ways to give back and forge meaningful connections that are great for business and for the overall health of our community.

A fellow Economic Developer asks (via LinkedIn): “What unexpected talent or skill do you have that helps you do your job?”

I have a secret weapon that most economic developers don’t: I grew up in Grapevine. I remember going to the Chili’s on 114 and having fajitas for the first time when I got all A’s on my report card. I remember going to Gameworks out at Grapevine Mills and having a lock-in at Main Event. I’ve seen this town grow and develop over the last 25 years and I have a unique viewpoint of its personality and its needs. This job isn’t just a job for me. It is personal. Because of that, I feel an extra motivation to give my best every day and to give back in every way I can manage. It is usually rewarding, sometimes exhausting, and always worth it.

We know you love every business in Grapevine and you can’t have a favorite project, but is there anything special that you’re looking forward to in 2024 and beyond?

The most satisfying and impactful projects are redevelopment projects. When you take an area that has become dilapidated, underperforming, or vacant, and then turn it into something successful, there is no bigger net impact you can provide a city.

An example that I’m particularly proud of is that of the restaurant development at the corner of Main Street and 114. It was formerly the Payton Wright Ford dealership before becoming vacant and standing empty for many years. By partnering with a determined restaurant developer, we have turned that site into a Velvet Taco, Son of a Butcher, and Firebird’s. Later in 2024, Portillo’s and Rock & Brews will join them. I am immensely proud of this development, as it took an abandoned parking lot and turned it into one of the hottest restaurant destinations in a city known for its restaurants.

We believe we have something similar in the works for Crossroads, the area across the highway that California Pizza Kitchen and Red Robin used to call home. We have already secured a brand-new restaurant concept from an established group in Dallas that will transform the former TGI Friday’s and Outback buildings into a unified concept with gathering space and an incredible menu. We are hoping to announce this brand soon, as well as others to follow. Stay tuned!

Want to celebrate more milestones with us? Reach out to our staff with your own questions and ideas! To stay on top of more news like this, subscribe to the ‘Growing Grapevine’ podcast and eNewsletter or follow us on Twitter Facebook, and LinkedIn.