REDP presents 2015 successes and future plans to Richardson City Council

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March 14, 2016
Watch a video of the proclamation and the entire REDP presentation to the council at the City of Richardson website.

Bill Sproull and the Chamber’s economic development team delivered a presentation to the Richardson City Council at a recent council work session highlighting Richardson’s economic development successes in 2015 and strategies for continued success in 2016. The Chamber’s economic development division - Richardson Economic Development Partnership (REDP) – is a partnership between the Richardson Chamber and the City of Richardson. REDP is dedicated to building a vibrant and thriving local economy by attracting companies and jobs to Richardson.

2015 successes mentioned by Sproull included:
  • 6315 new or retained jobs
  • Richardson had three of the top 10 leases in all of DFW – RealPage, GEICO, Frontier
  • Laying groundwork for a talent recruitment campaign
  • REDP named Best Economic Development organization nationwide for communities the size of Richardson
  • Ranked #1 for foreign direct investment (FDI) for populations less than 250,000
  • Richardson named a top 50 U.S. city for young professionals
“It was a phenomenal year,” said Sproull. “I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be in economic development in Richardson, Texas, right now.”

According to Sproull, REDP’s strategy revolves around recruiting new companies to Richardson, helping existing companies expand and stay in Richardson, small business and entrepreneurship, international, retail, technology branding, workforce development and talent attraction. He said affordable housing costs, multiple rail stations in the city and 58 new restaurants in 2015 are factors that attracted new companies to Richardson.

Sproull also discussed small business and entrepreneurship, as well as redevelopment opportunities in Richardson. While economic gardening – helping emerging companies grow their revenue - is showing promise, the city is not fully using local resources for small businesses and entrepreneurship, nor does the city have a small business “how-to” guide. REDP has already begun working on that guide and will distribute it this year. REDP also plans to partner with small business development centers in both Collin and Dallas Counties and investigate business/merchant associations as a catalyst for redevelopment. Opportunities for redevelopment exist at the Collins/East Arapaho road corridor, which was heavily occupied during the tech boom some years ago, but now has a high vacancy rate.

“We have an opportunity to increase value in that area,” said Sproull. “The focus shifts to finding investors and bringing tenants into those areas. Small businesses are good economic partners for this.”

REDP will create a task force of property owners and tenants this year to investigate how they can stimulate more investment in that area.

Office and flex space
John Jacobs, REDP’s executive vice president, updated council members on the progress of land availability, office space and flex space in the city. Richardson has a limited number of commercial land tracts left, but office and flex space is plentiful. CityLine is the largest land tract with space. It has 55 acres available. Seven other large tracts in the city range in size from 26 to 55 acres. Everything beyond that is very small.

Jacobs said he is excited about the number of 100,000+-square-foot blocks of space available in Richardson. That gives the city leverage to still bring in companies in need of very large office space. Net absorption is 646,000 square feet in addition to State Farm. Net absorption is the total amount of occupied space minus the total amount of vacated space. Jacobs said Richardson is comparable with Plano on the amount of office space available, but Richardson’s rates are significantly lower than Plano and other competing cities, which gives Richardson a competitive advantage. Richardson is 26 percent less expensive than Plano and 25 percent lower than Frisco.
“Richardson has been known as an economical, get more for your money city and that will continue,” said Jacobs.

Switching gears to property ownership, Jacobs said in the last 24 months, Richardson has had the largest turnover in ownership of major properties in 20 years or more. Twenty-six new owners have acquired 43 office and flex buildings, and most of those owners came from out of state – some from Canada and Mexico. Those flex spaces are being filled by a lot of small companies.

In 2016, REDP will encourage high quality development on available land tracts and aggressively pursue office tenants. It also will connect with new owners, suggest flex space as a low-cost alternative to office space and support landlord efforts to create more flex parking.

International

Following Jacobs’ update, Mike Skelton, director of the Mayor’s Office of International Business, spoke about the city’s progress about international partnerships and foreign direct investment. Thanks to support from Texas Representative Angie Chen Button, the state legislature proclaimed Richardson the international business capital of Texas. REDP will leverage this reputation to continue recruiting international companies to Richardson.

“The real goal is to try to get the brand of what we offer to companies ahead of their decision to move,” Skelton said.

Because the world economy is still in turmoil, Skelton is looking for companies that need to expand to survive. He will target midsize companies that can establish a presence and grow. Skelton said the U.S. is still the number one place for investment in the world right now. UK, Canada, Germany, France, Japan are the top countries for Texas technology foreign direct investment.

In 2016, Skelton and REDP will leverage partnerships overseas, identify partners in areas where they don’t have partnerships and work with international companies already in Richardson to retain them and help them expand in Richardson.

Retail

Sue Walker, recently retired director of economic development, gave a brief update about retail opportunities. Since 2004, Richardson has had 25 new centers that were either remodeled or had new ownership. In 2016, REDP will identify which companies are a good fit for Richardson’s income and demographic profiles and market to the most desirable contacts. REDP also will support the city’s retail committee to have a better understanding of what the market dynamics are. Richardson still has some great opportunities on the non-rent side, and REDP will finish up a few lingering projects on the restaurant side, like restaurant park.

Workforce development and talent attraction

Jenny Mizutowicz, director of marketing for REDP, wrapped up the presentation to the city council by discussing technology branding, workforce development and talent attraction. Even though the Telecom Corridor is no longer technology heavy, the brand still has significant viability. Just in Google searches alone, people use the term Telecom Corridor more than any other search topic to get information about this area. REDP will continue to promote the Telecom Corridor(r) brand in 2016 and will make an inventory of all technology companies in Richardson, making sure it's marketed with accurate numbers.

Developing the workforce and attracting more young professionals to Richardson will be two significant focuses for REDP in 2016. As baby boomers are retiring, their absence is causing a skill gap. REDP will work with the Chamber’s HR Committee and Education & Workforce Committee to connect students with recommended skill sets for today’s careers and build a pipeline of workers to fill future technology jobs. That is a long-term solution to close the skills gap.

The more immediate solution is a talent attraction campaign focused on attracting young professionals with the necessary skill sets to Richardson. REDP hired Atlas Advertising from Colorado to coordinate the campaign. Atlas started by talking to young professionals in downtown Dallas and neighboring cities and asking them how they felt about Richardson. The general consensus was that they had heard of Richardson but didn’t know much about it.

“We don’t need to re-brand Richardson. We just have to communicate what we have, like rail stations, diversity in the community and a lot of ethnic food choices,” Mizutowicz said.

Millennials are becoming the largest part of today’s workforce. REDP will soon launch a website that will connect young professionals with job opportunities and places where they can live in Richardson. Currently, Richardson has about 4,000 apartments and condos to attract young professionals.

Following the REDP presentation, Mayor Paul Voelker presented Walker with a proclamation which included best wishes for a long and healthy retirement and gratitude for her 13 years of service to the city and the Chamber. Walker’s first day of retirement was March 1.