Collin County Business Alliance (CCBA) held a luncheon earlier this month where the community leaders from Plano, Frisco, McKinney and Wylie discussed how business has been in the community.
“For us, it’s all about job creation prosperity,” said Harry LaRosiliere, Plano mayor. He was talking about the growth and excitement he had about Plano’s recent economic developments. In fact, he shared that over the last five years Plano has brought 32,000 jobs to the community.
Other community leaders are excited about the potential of undeveloped land in the area.
“Frisco is about 62 to 65 percent built up, so that means we have a lot of land to use,” said Shona Huffman, Frisco’s director of governmental affairs for the Frisco Chamber of Commerce. “We have room for a lot of companies to plan for what they want to do in the future. Companies are looking for new places to develop.”
During the discussion, each of the city leaders attributed Collin County’s growth for different reasons.
“We live in the most prosperous county in the most prosperous state,” said George Fuller, mayor of McKinney. “As a growing city, we have the ability to listen to the market and grow and adapt to what people are looking for.”
“Our citizens are involved and engaged,” said Eric Hogue, mayor of Wylie. “You have that hometown feeling and that’s very attractive for people to come here.”
While each city has their own accolades and achievements they are proud, the leaders acknowledged how important it is for the cities in Collin County to work together.
“It’s important for us to partner together,” said Huffman. “We’re looking to attract people to the region. That should be our focus.”
Hogue shared how Wylie helped Plano when Toyota moved. He explained that they helped the city with numbers and data, and they did the same with Richardson in regards to State Farm. He said that while government leaders think of city limits, the citizens don’t. People will go wherever they wish.
Challenges with Collin County infrastructure
Leaders did acknowledge challenges the future holds.
“Transportation and mobility,” said LaRosiliere when sharing what he thinks will be a challenge. “We are past the point of new roads. We should be thinking about what is transportation going to look like in 15 or 20 years. As legislators, we have to think past the next legislative cycle.”
To elaborate on the issue, Hogue said, “We know by 2040 there could be three million people in Collin County. We need to educate citizens that traffic is going to come whether we build roads or not. Regardless, we must be proactive.”
Challenges with Collin County education
Another challenge facing business in Collin County is education. Leaders acknowledge that there needs to be a shift from the mindset of having to have a four-year degree.
“We need to figure out how to start cultivating and teaching kids that a four-year degree is not imperative for success,” said Fuller. “Collin College is providing fantastic opportunities for that.”
Huffman, who was a high school teacher before working for the city, said she always tried to get her students more prepared for experiences, not just concepts. Also, she motivated businesses to get involved by offering input on curriculum that will help prepares students for the workforce. In addition, she mentioned the importance of young people to be educated in the importance of voting in local affairs.
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Challenges with Collin County’s housing and property tax
This topic was one that was not as popular to talk about among the panelists. The main challenge involved more and more people moving to the area, therefore raising the demand for housing. Specifically, affordable housing that fits the desires of multiple generations.
“We all know the simple answer, buts it’s difficult to execute,” said LaRosiliere. “It takes political spine. However, we have to respect what people bring here, their values and beliefs. Also, we must have a willingness and desire to make our city relevant in the future.”
In addition to the average price of homes in the area being too much for millennials, teachers and service workers, Fuller acknowledged that it will be a challenge to provide housing for that sector of the population.
Related to this Hogue said, “We have Millennials were dealing with and we have the baby boomer generation getting older and retire and live on a fixed income. When we look at more affordable housing we need to provide that same desire of lifestyle and how they were living but in a smaller area.”
Associated with housing is property tax. However, Fuller wanted to clarify something about that.
“People don’t distinguish between school tax and property tax,” he said. “The real burden is school tax which goes back to the state level and state financing.”
“For every dollar our school district gets, they have to send to the state. They get $0.19 back,” said Hogue in response to this. He was explaining why Wylie has one of the higher tax rates in Collin County.
As the panel was wrapping up, the panelists were saying that one way to get businesses and communities to thrive is to be active voters in the community.
“In the last few city elections, groups of large corporations got together and formed their own group to identify candidates and encourage people to run. They also encouraged their employee base to get involved and lead by example in the community,” said Fuller. “As a result, we had a significant voting turnout.”