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In the dog-eat-dog world of corporate relocations, Plano has emerged as an alpha.
With Toyota Motor North America, Liberty Mutual, JP Morgan Chase and FedEx Office moving or recently moved in, the city has nabbed more than its share of recent corporate relocations and the thousands of new jobs that have followed.
The fight for big companies and the jobs, investment and prestige that come with winning them is fiercely competitive regionally, statewide, nationwide, and in some cases globally. Amazon, for example, touched off a tizzy this week among North America’s major cities with the surprise announcement that the retail leviathan is seeking proposals for a $5 billion second headquarters that will deliver up to 50,000 high-paying jobs to its victor city.
Last week, I talked with Sally Bane, Plano’s economic development director, about a range of topics including the city’s long history of successfully attracting companies and helping them expand.
In this Q&A, we continue the conversation, focusing on who the competition is.
Who is your toughest competitor outside of Texas for major corporate relocations? Our community is so diverse. We’re so well balanced in how our business sectors are. So it’s difficult for me to answer that because you have manufacturing and IT assembly and all of that that goes on there.
But in general? In general, I would say the greater Phoenix area is a competitor for us as companies migrate from the West Coast. Albuquerque has gotten more aggressive, not necessarily for headquarters, but for other kinds of operations. Utah, in particular Salt Lake City, has been competitive with us for international projects, because their people have a lot of opportunity to speak a multitude of languages. They go on mission trips all over the world. The greater Atlanta area and all of its suburbs, we compete with. We compete with Charlotte, North Carolina. And Florida in general is a similar no-personal-income-tax state. So if it’s a people intensive project, that becomes an attractor.
What about other Texas cities? We compete with most cities, but it’s really segmented by the industry sector. In Austin, for example, we compete for any technology-related project. So it depends on what kind of industry the company is in and the project it is that those come up as competitors. But uniformly, I can’t say that we have a specific competitor that we consistently come up against.
Closer to home — how about North Texas? I’m going to generalize and say everything north of the (DFW) airport up to north of State Highway 121 (cities in the area include Irving, Coppell, Southlake, Grapevine, Flower Mound, Frisco, The Colony and others). Everyone assumes it’s just Collin County, but that’s not the case. Our good friends in Irving, we compete with them because they are closer to the airport, and for some projects that’s key. And, for example, Richardson. We compete with them on some technology-related projects. So again, it is very sector specific on who we compete with.
Have you seen a change in the way that economic development in Texas is handled under Gov. Abbott vs. Gov. Perry? There is a difference, but I don’t know that a stylistic difference nets any change in how economic development is affected. They do things differently, but I don’t think there is an appreciable change in the outcome.
What are your thoughts on the Texas Enterprise Fund? That fund can be key for Texas to compete with Georgia and North Carolina and all of those in the Southeast. They really do slather on the incentives (in the Southeast). And obviously, Iowa (which last month landed a $1.3 billion, 400,000-square-foot Apple data center in Waukee).
What is Plano’s focus on eco-devo initiatives moving forward? Our focus in the next decade is going to be what I call the three R’s: Redevelopment, retention and reputation.
Will you expand on those R’s? As for reputation, we’re all about maintaining this community’s reputation as a job center. That dovetails into retention, which we’ve discussed the importance of. The thing we really haven’t talked about is redevelopment. That is going to encompass some really exciting new chapters for this community’s history.
Those being? As you know, (Dallas developer) Sam Ware seems to have a lock on securing Collin Creek Mall. That’s just an example of what we see as big opportunities for this community. There are going to be numerous opportunities for economic development to occur there. Then we have a lot of four-corner aging retail. I think those are going to find new ways to contribute to the economy of our community. Lastly, we do have corporate campuses in Plano — just as J.C. Penney's was — that are ripe for some kind of reconfiguration of how they’re going to be used and how they can be changed to make the highest and best use of many of the sites that we do have. And let’s not forget that we do have undeveloped land, contrary to what our competitors like to say. We’re far from being done.