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McKinney Aims To Be A Tech-Centered Community, But It's Not Leaning On Home Runs

Creu Capital President Santiago Jorba, SmithGroup Design Principal Tom Philippi, McKinney Mayor Pro Tem Tracy Rath, McRight Smith Senior Vice President Clay Curtis, McKinney National Airport Director Kenneth Carley, McKinney EDC CEO Peter Tokar

When commercial real estate brokers think of renowned tech corridors in the U.S., names such as Silicon Valley, Austin and maybe even Richardson, Texas, come to mind.

Now economic developers and city advocates in McKinney aim to turn their North Dallas suburb into another destination for companies and employees focused on tech.

McKinney leadership’s goal is twofold: They want to preserve some of the land that provides the city with its natural and authentic look, but they also want to build infrastructure that supports industrial and tech companies as the city embraces 5G technology and moves toward its goal of becoming a future-oriented smart city.  

The services and opportunities stemming from a focus on 5G will be incredible, particularly when the city already has a great airport to accommodate transient and corporate aircraft, McKinney Mayor Pro Tem Tracy Rath said at Bisnow's North 121 Corridor & The 380 Boom event Thursday.

Turning into a destination for the tech workers of today and tomorrow cannot come at the expense of losing the city’s appeal or green spaces, she said.

“We understand quality of life and work hard to maintain that for our residents,” she said.

McKinney announced plans in early March to hire consulting firm Clarion Associates to assist the suburb with modernizing existing zoning, land use and transportation codes. 

Clarion will help McKinney execute its ONE McKinney 2040 master plan — a comprehensive development agenda for the next 20 years.

Business and city leaders at the event mulled over what some of this master plan will look like. Rather than seeing McKinney as a mecca for blue-chip firms or major corporate relocations, the panel viewed McKinney as potentially a developer of smaller firms, particularly those involved in technology.

“It is going to be more tech-oriented development,” said SmithGroup Design Principal Tom Philippi, who worked on the design of Independent Bank Group’s building in McKinney among other local projects. “The people at the city of McKinney have been development-friendly for us.”

Creu Capital President Santiago Jorba recalled his grandfather taking him on a tour of McKinney and Frisco years ago, and bypassing a chance to acquire land in the popular Frisco area, where he could have benefited from the extension of the North Dallas Tollway before it exploded. Instead, he bought land in McKinney.

Jorba now sees his grandfather’s investment paying off as smaller deals create jobs in the area.

McRight Smith Senior Vice President Clay Curtis said much of the public focus is on big companies like Amazon that provide home run deals. But he said he believes the base hits truly count. For Curtis, those base hits include the area’s way of life and its commitment to being an attractive place to live and work, he said.

“What we see as catalysts for growth are the one-off smaller developments that then grow into bigger developments,” Philippi said. “We will take anything and make it great.”