McKinney’s economic success stems from more than traditional retention and development techniques. A new strategy, combined with current business-to business communication tools, is opening doors and expanding opportunities for this flourishing city.
Economic Development Strategy
Historically, city leaders have focused on job creation and expansion of McKinney’s property tax base. Now, officials are looking to expand their approach to economic development.The McKinney Economic Development Corporation and McKinney City Council have been working to implement a new strategy in fall 2012.
The strategy includes a mix of criteria, including:
- a comprehensive study of businesses that could viably relocate to McKinney;
- a review of wages provided by potential businesses; and
- considerations for those businesses that already have a presence in McKinney.
“We are trying to maximize the number and quality of jobs,” explains McKinney City Manager Jason Gray. “We are actively recruiting corporate offices and core manufacturers.”
Two of McKinney’s largest employers are manufacturers – Encore Wire Corporation, which manufactures commercial and residential building wire, and Raytheon, a defense and technology contractor.
City officials would like to see the new economic development strategy bring in more businesses and industries such as these manufacturers that not only offer jobs but also provide economic stability and a strong community commitment.
“As an EDC, we want to bring in the biggest and brightest performers … those who will be valuable and contribute to the community,” says John Valencia, who serves as Director of Business Retention, Expansion and Emerging Technology at the McKinney Economic Development Corporation.
Current Economic Development Priorities and Successes
One of the city’s most visible development sites is Gateway, located at the northeast intersection of U.S. 75 and the Sam Rayburn Tollway (SRT). In April, the City Council supported City Manager Gray’s recommendation to partner with the Beck Group and Champ Hospitality to pursue building a full-service hotel with conference space using the existing on-site structure.
In July, Emerson Process Management broke ground on its new $25 million headquarters that will feature a 128,000-squarefoot building and approximately 130 employees.“Emerson has been in our community for 50 years, and this new facility will be one that they can be proud of,” Gray says.
Also in July, Baylor Medical Center at McKinney opened its much-anticipated hospital located on U.S. 380 at Lake Forest Drive.With 95 beds, this is the first phase of development for the hospital.
With the addition of the new Baylor Medical facility, a growing number of McKinney residents will benefit from several nearby options for routine and emergency medical needs. Great medical facilities also interest companies looking to move to McKinney.
“Having an additional emergency room helps” serve the needs of a growing community, says Gray, referring to Medical Center of McKinney, the Hospital at Craig Ranch and Methodist McKinney Hospital.
Later this year, Traxxas, a remote-controlled vehicle business, is opening its corporate headquarters in McKinney, complete with a car museum and distribution center.
Retention: Meeting Existing Businesses’ Needs
McKinney enjoys a diverse economic base thanks to a combination of industry, retail and technology. Communication between city leaders and developers is necessary to both retain and grow business infrastructure.
“We’re listening to our businesses,” Valencia says.
He says that if city leaders ignore feedback from existing businesses, communication does not work. An open line with multiple levels of communication combined with proven strategies helps build and maintain the city’s economic base.
“We have a balanced approach to economic development,” Gray says. “Instead of looking at one or two industries, we cast a wide net and actively recruit” corporate offices and manufacturing.
The city’s efforts are both strategic and tactical, according to Valencia.
While city leaders could place their entire focus on job and business growth, they instead begin by listening to what the need is. One current need is communication with businesses affected by roadway construction projects.
As the Texas Department of Transportation continues its widening of U.S. 75 (Central Expressway), business owners in the vicinity of Eldorado Parkway are working with city leaders to develop solutions that lessen the impact that construction has on their bottom lines.
Although roadway expansion projects are often the result of growth, construction can cause growing pains. Interstate construction prompted the closure of certain ramps and exits, temporarily impacting traffic to nearby businesses.
As a result, the city initiated a business-to-business approach in keeping the lines of communication open. The city established web pages and email alerts to notify tenants and owners about upcoming closures and traffic switches associated with the construction project. This allows business managers to alert their customers and Staff accordingly. City leaders learn from those businesses and, in return, arm them with crucial information.
The U.S. 75 project is being constructed in phases, and the entire project is expected to conclude in mid-2015.
A traffic lighting project at Eldorado Parkway and Hardin Boulevard also prompted business-to-business communication this year.
“I received a personal visit … it was nice to have an update on when the project would be completed,” says Mary Becerra, who owns Once Upon a Child, a children’s clothing resale store.
Valencia explains that, “the last thing I want to hear is someone closing shop and moving somewhere else.
“If communication is solid, you will know how to keep them,” he adds. “At the end of the day, if you can’t keep them, you will know that you tried everything.”
Another example of McKinney’s economic retention efforts is the city’s emerging technology program.
The downtown area’s historic infrastructure is being reinvigorated with web-based and technological businesses. Nationally recognized entrepreneurs – such as Zynga, parent company of Words with Friends – are finding niche development solutions in the downtown district. Zynga is just one company in the Cotton Mill and Flour Mill properties, which are part of the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) zone.
TIFs offer potential tenants or property owners certain incentives for locating businesses in these zones. McKinney has two TIF zones, with the second one located on the east side of U.S. 75 and the SRT.
About the author: Leigh Hornsby, Ph.D., is a Principal Partner with Public Information Associates, based in McKinney.