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City Of Dallas Mayoral Candidates: We’re Tired Of Relocating Companies Snubbing Dallas

To the chagrin of Dallas’ 2019 mayoral candidates, companies searching DFW for headquarters space in the past 10 years bypassed Dallas altogether and landed in its northern suburbs. 

Dallas mayoral candidates Mike Ablon, Regina Montoya, Lynn McBee, Albert Black, moderator WFAA’s David Schechter, Scott Griggs, Jason Villalba and Miguel Solis at TREC's mayoral forum March 18.

This track record is simply unacceptable and needs to change immediately, the candidates said. The candidates discussed their plans for fostering city development at The Real Estate Council's 2019 Mayoral Forum Monday night. 

“Eleven years ago, Boeing chose not to come to Dallas,” candidate Lynn McBee said at the forum. “It’s time to really focus on Dallas. Yes, McKinney and Frisco are wonderful, but we have to sell Dallas.” 

McBee, a philanthropist known in Dallas for her fundraising, said if she is elected mayor, she will promote all of the progress made within the Dallas Independent School District so far, and the city’s “great arts, parks and people.”

“When companies like Amazon are coming, we have to say look at all of the things that we have right here … and we have to focus on Dallas.”

Scott Griggs, another mayoral candidate and a current council member representing North Oak Cliff, echoed McBee’s sentiment.

“We need to have an economic policy that puts the city of Dallas first, not the region.”

But if a company wants to set up a warehouse in South Dallas, the city needs to set out clear expectations for what type of local salaries and grants are expected, he said.

Griggs was one of many candidates who said increasing corporate relocations into the city of Dallas will require a focus on education, since many relocations turn on education opportunities and the quality of local job candidates.

“We have to be looking at our people and our workforce,” said candidate Regina Montoya, an attorney and one-time aide to former President Bill Clinton. “Thirteen percent of Dallas has a ninth-grade education or less. We need to create more GED programs to train people for jobs in our community.”

Montoya said education development and skills training will create a situation where the workforce itself draws companies into Dallas. 

Dallas Independent School District School Board President Miguel Solis, another candidate, told the crowd: “Remember the headlines — Amazon chooses not to come to Dallas.”

He said Dallas is losing big deals because of education.

“[But] what were people saying about education when we were trying to get Amazon or Toyota?” he asked.

Solis said Dallas needs to effectively promote the schools' progress and share how DISD has revolutionized what education looks like in the city. 

Real estate developer and mayoral candidate Mike Ablon said companies were drawn in by incentives in the past. But times have changed.

“Now talent picks where they want to live,” the founding partner of PegasusAblon said. He said a company’s human resources department selects an office’s location.

Ablon pointed to neighborhoods such as the Design District and the Bishop Arts District as communities that have the formula right.

Candidate Albert Black, the founder of On Target Supplies and Logistics and the former chair of the Dallas Regional Chamber, said Dallas has to analyze and understand the companies that are already here, particularly the ones that have locations all over the world.

“We need to begin to design plans that are advantageous for them,” he said. 

Lawyer and former state representative Jason Villalba had a slightly different take on how to promote Dallas to companies: It’s all in how you regulate, he said.

“There are competing visions for what economic development means for Dallas,” he said. “What I have found is if you provide a great environment … provide lower taxes and [less] regulation, you are going to bring great companies. We have to have an economic development policy that is laissez faire.” 

All of the candidates stressed the importance of the next mayor tackling Dallas’ affordable housing issue and the need for improved infrastructure and transportation across the city. 

In light of the numerous scandals popping up across the state in relation to affordable housing, all of the candidates stressed their commitment to transparency and ethics reform. 

Ablon said he plans to come out with an ethics reform plan that outlines ethical duties in a way in which “people cannot hide under the bar of the law.”

Two of the mayoral candidates — state Rep. Eric Johnson and Socialist candidate Alyson Kennedy — did not attend the forum.