3 major steps forward on economic development in Dallas
Dallas must be committed to safety and opportunity
The following was adapted from my email newsletter.
This year at Dallas City Hall should be all about two things: safety and opportunity.
Today’s email will focus on the latter.
Dallas is already an economic success story. The city is still attracting Fortune 500 companies. It’s the birthplace of numerous iconic brands. It has a robust and diverse economy that also boasts many amazing small businesses. And Dallas neighborhoods are home to strong, resilient, and talented people.
But to build for the future, the city must prepare its workforce for the jobs of tomorrow and become more aggressive while competing on the regional, national, and international levels.
Three major steps that were taken this week will help bolster those efforts:
1) The Dallas City Council unanimously approved the creation of a new Economic Development Corporation (commonly known as an EDC). This new entity, seeded with $7 million, was named as a top priority in the State of the City address. The EDC will look out for the interests of the City of Dallas — not the Dallas region — as it seeks to attract and grow businesses. Click here to read more about the EDC, and stay tuned for more updates.
2) The City Council also approved an incentive package to lure Ford Autonomous Vehicles to Dallas and a zoning case for a new office tower that can serve as the cornerstone to the new International District. These kinds of deals and developments showcase what is possible in Dallas.
3) Finally, as you may have heard, I appointed Lynn McBee — a civic leader who I have known for 15 years — as the city’s first-ever workforce czar.
Lynn is an ideal fit for this appointment. She has extensive experience with helping to coordinate services for hard-to-reach populations, and she has done a tremendous amount of work in education, including adult education and college preparedness.
This appointment is a critical step forward, and it fulfills one of the recommendations made in the new report on workforce development, which is titled “Upskilling Dallas: How to Modernize the City’s Workforce for the Jobs of Tomorrow.”
Now, Lynn’s job will be to coordinate the implementation of the other three recommendations from that report. Those include reaching a formal agreement among workforce development providers, guiding and implementing strategies to engage hard-to-reach target audiences, and helping create a digital navigation tool for Dallas residents.
This work is particularly crucial for the people of southern Dallas.
You have no doubt heard the refrain that Dallas needs to grow south. And it’s true. Southern Dallas is home to both strong communities and amazing people. But economically, it has largely been left behind. It’s half of the city’s land mass and it makes up 40% of the Dallas population — but it’s just 15% of the city’s tax base.
That is unsustainable. Dallas can’t be the city that it wants to be if it’s running on only half of its land, half of its talent, and half of its potential.
If Dallas is going to truly unlock its potential as a city, it’s important to start thinking less about southern Dallas as a real estate development play and thinking more about investing in the people who call the southern portion of this city home.
Workforce development and upskilling programs can help families in Dallas who struggle to scratch out an honest living in a world that has seen fast-rising housing costs and a fast-changing economy. So the essential question for the city and partner organizations is, what will it take to get someone through a certificate program so they can move on from a job that will be automated in a few years? How best can they break into a high-growth field where they can increase their earning potential by 10%, 20%, or 30% each year?
That’s the ballgame in Dallas. That’s what it means to grow southern Dallas. And that’s the question that Lynn, as workforce czar, is getting to work answering.
Celebrating South Oak Cliff
South Oak Cliff High School’s state champion football team came to Dallas City Hall this week for a special celebration ceremony.
There was a grand entrance from the South Oak Cliff High School band; appearances from retired Dallas Cowboys players Charles Haley, Russell Maryland, and Everson Walls; and some wonderful gifts provided by the Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars, and VisitDallas.
This team represented Dallas exceptionally well this season and became the first Dallas ISD school since 1958 to take home the state football title.
South Oak Cliff is a terrific community, and this championship is the result of extraordinarily hard work by the young men, the parents, the educators, the coaches, and the staff.
But wait, there’s more: on the morning of Saturday, January 22 — which I will proclaim as South Oak Cliff Day in the City of Dallas — there will be a parade through downtown. Stay tuned for more details. Hopefully, you can come out for it and show some love for the Golden Bears.
Also, look back at the city’s week of virtual Martin Luther King, Jr. events by clicking here.
Take care of each other, stay healthy, and stay safe.