erWINning: What Our Commercial Outreach Manager Learned in Year One

erWINning: What Our Commercial Outreach Manager Learned in Year One Main Photo

30 Apr 2024

News, Blog

One year ago, this department made an important and impactful decision: we hired Ana Erwin. At the time, we knew we needed an extreme extrovert with insane work ethic and an encyclopedic knowledge of the City, its strengths, and its history. Someone who could pitch sites to developers and brands for hours at a time and still have the energy to check in on small businesses across town. 

Looking back, we probably should have posted a photo of Ana with the caption “Have you seen this woman?” instead of a job listing. 

While we interviewed a wealth of excellent candidates, she was tailor-made for the job. Since starting with Grapevine Economic Development in May of 2023, Ana has logged thousands of emails and phone calls with stakeholders and future tenants here in Grapevine. But even the most talented people learn a thing or two on the job, so we thought it was worth checking in with her again now that she’s got a year of experience to go along with all those bona fides. 

Here’s our Q&A, featuring a few questions adapted from those submitted by Grapevine residents and businesses: 

Q: Last year, you told us that Grapevine was great for all seasons of life, but especially for the one you were in at the time. What’s changed for you since then? 

A: I still feel that way. Regardless of your age, season of life, etc., there is something to do or see for anyone who visits Grapevine. I still love having a night out with friends here as often as possible, while also celebrating my daughter’s 5th birthday party with the perfect trip to Grapevine Mills and the most epic birthday party at Let’s Pretend in Downtown Grapevine. 

Grapevine is a place where people can gather and celebrate all the things. Celebrating is something I am very passionate about. The only thing that has changed for me since I started working here is that I now have an even greater appreciation for all the staff and volunteers that make Grapevine the place that everyone wants to visit. 

Q: Did the position come with any pleasant surprises? 

A: Reflecting on my favorite things about the job, I feel extra blessed because there are many things I love about it. But the thing that feels extra special is that I get to hear about people’s dreams every day. I love seeing people light up when they explain their concepts. They get so excited when they’re exploring all the different possibilities and opportunities for them here in Grapevine. And if I am lucky, I get to play a very small part in seeing their dreams come to life. I think it's special to get to experience that with so many people. 

Q: Most people need six months or so to really settle into a new job, but you got at running start at ICSC Las Vegas and did a great job turning a lot of new information into a strategic plan. What did you learn along the way? 

A: It’s hard to put into one paragraph everything I’ve learned because there was so much new information. I think as someone who spent a lot of time in Grapevine before working in Grapevine, one of the coolest things has been working with the internal teams that most residents or visitors don’t interact with. I have loved collaborating with other departments like Engineering, Planning, Building Services, Finance and many others. It has been awesome to see how everyone comes together to serve our residents. I had to learn about plats and zoning and a lot of technical things, too, so having access to all of our expert staff was invaluable. My appreciation for all that each department does to make Grapevine the amazing city that it is has grown exponentially! 

On a separate note, I have also learned that Grapevine is known internationally. Businesses from all over the world want to be here. It’s so cool to go to shows and meet so many people who have been to Grapevine, who have heard of Grapevine, or who want to know how quickly they can get to Grapevine. 

Q: You started with a working knowledge of the City itself, but no prior experience in the Public Sector. Did you discover anything about this side of things that you didn’t know before? 

A: I probably didn’t appreciate how intricate the behind-the-scenes process is until I was behind-the-scenes. There are so many departments that support Economic Development. When an exciting concept announces they are coming to Grapevine, people congratulate us, but I want to give so much of that credit to all the people who make it happen. 

The Planning team answers calls and emails from us every day, and they make time to meet with so many businesses and investors who have really detailed questions about zoning and restricted uses. The Building Services team is the same way: they always respond so fast when I have questions about permitting. Finance will work diligently to help us work out incentive agreements, which aren’t super common, but they’re an essential tool for economic development. The rest of the staff here in the City Manager’s Office makes sure that when our prospects come to see us, they are met by a friendly face that really sets the tone. 

I could go on and on. There are so many people behind the scenes making Grapevine special and helping us continue to build a strong business community. It takes a village, and I am blessed to be a part of the village. 

Q: One thing that did carry over from past experience was the importance of networking and conferences. You’re a pro when it comes to getting the most out of every trade show floor! Do you have any tips for beginners? 

A: Always be prepared. Trade shows are all about preparation, so you can’t overprepare. Start early, make checklists, and go over everything at least three times. I am Type A to my core, so spreadsheets and schedules are basically a map to my happy place. But no happy place is complete without friends! 

When you’re at a trade show or conference, you have to go to people instead of waiting for them to come to you. Be proactive! Start reaching out to the people you want to meet face-to-face early, by which I mean 2-3 months out. About a month out, reach out again. Make it easy for people to say yes. Offer a couple of flexible times, send calendar invites, send reminders and when you finally meet face-to-face, be a good listener, ask great questions, and make it worth their time. 

Finally… get swag. Good swag. I can’t reveal what my key to memorable swag is because I don’t want to give it away; you’ll have to come see me at a show to find out what it is. If you really want to know, of course, you can catch me next at ICSC Las Vegas from May 18th-22. 

Q: Speaking of proactivity and memorable moments... do you have any big wins or major challenges that you want to highlight for our readers? 

A: Although I can’t really claim any credit for it, getting Sam’s Club back was a euphoric moment. What a win for the community! That was an amazing day. 

Another great win was working as a department to bring an exciting new concept to our Crossroads development. We are so excited about the user that is going into the old Outback and TGI Friday’s buildings off 114 and William D Tate Ave. It’s a dream fit for our new vision for that area, and we can’t wait for the community to embrace it the way we have. This new concept will be a game changer for this area and will breathe new life into that center... as well as answering one of our Chamber friends' questions about what kind of establishment the City could use more of (you know who you are). 

My biggest challenge is probably a good problem to have. I speak with different concepts every day, and they all want to be in Grapevine. We are fairly built out, so sometimes I have to keep people on a “list” to call when something specific to their requirements becomes available. Even if they’re an awesome concept, if we don’t have land or a building for them, we can’t bring them. But the second we can, I want them to hear about it! 

Looking for a way to get on Ana’s “list?” You can contact our staff any time using our contact form or directly through our Staff page. For more updates and insights on the City of Grapevine, check out the ‘Growing Grapevine’ podcast, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, or find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.