A win for Plano is a win for North Texas, according to leaders behind two of the region’s most dynamic Chambers of Commerce. Jamee Jolly, President and CEO of the Plano Chamber, and Dale Petroskey, President and CEO of the Dallas Regional Chamber, presented their ideas to build a stronger regional economy at the Plano Chamber’s First Quarterly Luncheon Tuesday, November 3. The luncheon and panel discussion took place at the Marriott Dallas/Plano at Legacy Town Center and was moderated by Mabrie Jackson, President and CEO of the North Texas Commission.
Before introducing Jackson, Plano Chamber Chairman of the Board, Al Valente, gave a warm welcome and informed guests that in 2005 when Plano City Council voted to add $2 cents earmarked for economic development to its property tax rate, it paid or obligated itself to pay about $45 million in incentives to relocating companies. Since the increase took effect, 113 companies have created 28,000 net jobs with a median salary of $78,000. These companies have built and expanded corporate campuses, making capital improvements totaling $1.7 billion. No wonder we continually see waves of companies relocating here.
Jackson remarked that it is a “shared responsibility for everyone in this room” to welcome newcomers. She vividly described it this way: “They come here because we have a welcome mat laid out before them….There’s an optimism here that you won’t get anywhere else.”
Petroskey called Texas “the best insurance policy for the United States,” noting the variety of booming businesses here including banking, sports, IT, healthcare, aerospace and travel…”You name it, we have it,” he said, specifically mentioning Plano-based ilumi, which develops smart LED lightbulbs; it appears to be looking brighter since Mark Cuban’s investment on “Shark Tank.”
Six topics up for discussion when talking about public policy and relocating, revealed Petroskey, are taxes, regulations, water, transportation, pre-K through 12th grades, and higher education. When he’s luring potential businesses to relocate here, these are the issues he consults them on to determine the best city for their business.
Jolly, on the other hand, says her role comes after the client makes their decision to move to the area. She focuses on connecting companies–more importantly, the employees–to resources that highlight the dynamic city Plano is, such as information on housing and the school district… “Not all potential residents will choose to live in Plano,” she admitted, “but it’s our job to welcome them because they’ll be a part of the business community.”
Jackson asked what makes Toyota’s story so unique. Petroskey called Toyota “the most respected Japanese company in the world” and said, “When Toyota makes a decision, everyone notices. It goes beyond brand; it’s how they chose to came here. They’ve made a statement that they’re going to be great partners and they’re here to stay,” he emphasized.
Jolly’s response brought the audience to laughter. She retold stories of how the Chamber receives phone calls with “lots of questions” about coyotes, guns and other issues that can be misconstrued or perhaps intimidating for a non-Texan. The Chamber is routinely on the phone educating future residents and demystifying stereotypes.
This inspired Jackson to once again call on audience members to be “ambassadors” for the region. “Everyone of you has a role in this,” Jackson proclaimed, “educating future Texans on our identity.”
She added, “We compete among our cities…but it’s important we don’t steal from them; we need to work as a region.”
Have you heard of “collapetition”? It’s a neologism for collaboration and competition. That’s exactly Jackson’s point. She mentioned a recent example where FedEx presented an idea about working with Toyota, Frito Lay and JC Penney to create transportation services, like biking and ride-and-share programs, along Legacy West. Collaboration is key to making businessmen and women new to the area feel welcome.
Jolly also noted that being aware of the missing puzzle piece is just as important. She cited the Collin County Arts District. “When we find something that is missing, like art, we need to step up. We need to be in the forefront and work together to make hard decisions.”
Jackson’s final question of the night referred to the calm after the storm: Once new businesses are settled, what do we do to make them stay here?
Petrosky admitted to having a “light-bulb” moment, only recently, where he realized he doesn’t “spend a lot of time thinking about that.” The audience laughed. “I’ll turn to Jamee…”
Jolly’s response was on point: Encourage involvement. “Provide networking resources and programs to help businesses find success in their community, “ she suggested. “There are so many notable programs like the Young Professionals of Plano and Leadership Plano.”
In the last five years, 70 headquarters have relocated to the region. Petroskey warned, “If we don’t keep up with construction, infrastructure and water, among other issues, we’re going to be crushed by the weight of all this. We must invest in our future by working with our public policy makers.”
What does the future look like? By 2050, 54 million people will live in Texas. Of those, 16 million will call Dallas, Collin and Tarrant counties home. For years to come, it will be our job to make them feel at home.