Frisco Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual State of the City luncheon on Tuesday. Thank you to everyone who organized this special event. Here is my speech 2018 State of the City Address:
Welcome and Thank you
Thank you, Tony, and the Frisco Chamber for hosting a fantastic event today. Congratulations to the Frisco Leadership XXI on graduating and I am looking forward to seeing the community garden. I would like to recognize my fellow Council members and our City Staff leadership who are here today including George Purefoy, Henry Hill and all our Department heads. I am privileged to work with this dedicated team of leaders everyday. We make a great team.
I have the impossible job of trying to convey all that has happened in the last year and the vision we have in a 20 minute speech. Many of you are here today to get as many details as possible so buckle up, I am going to go fast and furious. However, let me first pause and say I am proud to tell you, the Future of Frisco is bright.
Practically every week, Frisco earns awards for outstanding city accomplishments and developments, earning our city tagline of “Progress in Motion”. But, have you ever asked why Frisco is different? This is Cowboy country but fellow Texan JJ Watt and NFL Man of the Year says it best, “I want to go out and chase greatness. That is all I want to do.” The drive to be great at everything we do is a culture in Frisco that starts on the 5th floor of city hall and permeates throughout every employee and out into the community. Just like great companies want to work with other great companies, you are all here because you know something special is happening and you want to be a part of it. We are all share the vision for Frisco to become a Great American city, something we will only accomplish if we are willing to go out and chase greatness everyday.
Today in my comments I will be giving you an update on all 9 planks I discussed last year as well as Council’s 2018 Top 10 list.
A Distinct Vision
Today, we want to announce the rebrand of our 10 mile stretch of the Dallas North Tollway as the Frisco North Platinum Corridor, a corridor thoughtfully designed to bring distinct districts all focusing on unique experiences and differing anchors. The southern section, formerly referred to as the $5 billion mile, has had tremendous success being anchored by the Stonebriar Center, The Star, Frisco Station, HALL Park and The Gate. After 20 years, Stonebriar Mall is one of the most successful malls in the country and we believe continued investment in projects like Kidzania and the Hyatt Regency will keep it thriving 20 years from now. This area has proven the value in having great development partners, names such as the Perot’s and Hillwood, the Jones Family and Blue Star, The Moons, IGO’s Dr. Kozbari and Craig Hall among many others. Thank you all for developing and creating an impeccable Frisco standard.
The center section of our city is anchored by our historic downtown “The Rail District”, Frisco Square, City Hall, museum district, and the long-promised Grand Park. Also, Toyota stadium, FC Dallas and the soon-to-be-opened, National Soccer Hall of Fame will become an even bigger destination. Thank you to the Hunt Family for your continued investment in Frisco. And finally, Jim Newman announced his Railhead development which will bring the first Class A Office north of Main Street highlighted by a beautiful urban park the size of Dallas’s Klyde Warren Park.
We are now setting our sights on the northern part of our city. The 2500 acre tract of land, owned by the Fields estate will further define and distinguish us. We began working last month on what will be the largest zoning case in Frisco history. Unique by its terrain, creek corridors, and vista views, this is a rare opportunity to plan with the shared vision of creating something special. We are chasing greatness all the way north to 380 by partnering with only the best developers who want to be in Frisco to do special projects.
Much of our undeveloped land will be influenced by the recent announcement of the University of North Texas building a campus in Frisco, an announcement which will affect Frisco generationally. When I spoke to you last year, this is something i never dreamed I would be speaking to you about just one year later.
This has long been a dream of City Council and landed on ur 2018 Top 10 list. When I was running for Mayor, occasionally I was asked what my dream project would be. My answer was always “attracting a 4-year university.” For Frisco to become the great American city, we must have an educational engine for our current and future workforce.
We needed a university who reflects our values, our drive for innovation and strategic partnerships. When I met UNT President Neal Smatresk. Everything changed. I realized Neal, his leadership team and university, was the perfect partner for Frisco. UNT has recently been honored as a Top Tier Research university by Carnegie and committed to training our students in cutting-edge technology so they are tomorrow’s leaders. UNT is planning more than just building a permanent campus here. They are dedicated to partnering with our City in many ways including the Frisco Chamber to provide valuable research to better understand our businesses and their needs, with the EDC to present a united front when talking with prospective companies who are interested in relocating and with our existing companies to create and provide educational support.
The future campus will house their technological research efforts and will be targeting tomorrow’s workforce by specializing in A.I., robotics, virtual reality, big data, Esports and blockchain. And, UNT’s world-famous musicians will be performing and participating in Frisco’s growing art scene. Also, UNT values veterans placing a high priority on providing education and transition assistance to propel them into our workforce as leaders. President Neal and his entire leadership team at UNT is already becoming active and visible. I want to give a special thank you to Bob Brown because he was integral in making this deal happen. Please stand Bob Brown, Jennifer Cowley, Wesley Randall and your entire team. We couldn’t be happier to welcome you to Frisco. Please join me in welcoming UNT and the Mean Green to Frisco.
Dana Baird and her team have revolutionized the way we communicate with the community. Our Council is committed to bringing City Hall out to the community. The City’s Communications is utilizing Facebook Live for Council meeting wrap ups and using more video showing us “Progress in Motion” including the award-winning, 100 Days of videos. We have a quarterly Mayor’s Business Round Table, monthly Coffee with the Mayor at City Hall. We try to reach every resident with programs such as The Indian Affairs Committee, attending many HOA meetings and neighborhood town halls. Personally, I provide Weekly Words which is a weekly rundown of my thoughts, meetings, experiences. And write a monthly article in the Frisco Life magazine. All of us are active on social media including responding to your questions and comments. Many of our council members have started their own outreach programs including Rolling with the Council by Bill Woodard for anyone wanting to get a workout in while drilling us with questions. If you cannot tell, we want to have open lines of communication directly with you as we want you informed and want to hear what you think.
Managing Growth: We heard from our residents that wanted a focus on quality over quantity. Last year, Council passed an ordinance requiring 10% meaningful open space by all developers as well as maximum density policies, pushing them to design significant green spaces and amenities. Also, the days of building multi-family and not completing the promised retail and commercial is over. We are holding our developers accountable to build what they promised, in the right order.
Downtown: This year we have been working on our Master Plan for Downtown and we are in the final stages. You, our community, has actively participated in the discussion. The goal is to preserve and rejuvenate our historic downtown by adding to the historic vibe and charm to include walkability, gathering areas and more patios. One thing we know for certain is we have to get Main Street right. Council has a Top 10 goal this year to start a significant project to keep the momentum going. In the meantime, a local developer, Donny Churchman of Nack Development is moving forward with several downtown projects that will continue to add fuel to the fire.
Arts: To be a great city, we need to cultivate the arts. As many of you have witnessed, our arts community has exploded with excitement and energy. The Frisco Arts organization has grown their membership by over 700% this last year. They are attracting world-class talent to Frisco to perform such as the recent sold-out Red Carpet series. Artists and lovers of arts are enjoying this modern renaissance happening here in Frisco. The private sector is stepping up with developments like Frisco Music City which will be a first-of-its-kind, music venue including a 1002-seat full performance theater, outdoor stage with dining and pop-up chef stations. Nack Development has plans to build a small, boutique theater in The Rail District which will provide much-needed space for our children’s theater. Hillwood is building Frisco Station with a focus on being smart, healthy and creative. I spoke with their CEO, Mike Berry, yesterday to discuss his idea for an outdoor performance area.
While this all fills a big need, we still have the dream of a performing arts hall. Our Council committee on arts with Shona Huffman and Bill Woodard has worked to define how our bond money could effectively and potentially be used. They have led a needs-assessment study which will be complete soon. The purpose is to provide the study to the private sector as a sign of commitment. This project needs to be led by the experts, which is the arts community and the private sector.
Craig Hall has presented designs for a performing arts center to the city as part of a master plan redevelopment of HALL Park. He is committed to the Arts, and has a strong history of philanthropy including offering to donate the land and capital. Right now, a group is forming of community leaders and arts philanthropists who will lead a capital campaign team. While there is much work to be done, I am optimistic in the direction we are moving to have a world-class performing arts center here in Frisco.
A research study was completed last year to analyze the effectiveness of the the EDC’s first 25 years. Over 20% of all jobs are a result of EDC-related employers. Also, for every dollar spent, $4.77 is generated in taxes directly to the City of Frisco. Even though these figures are impressive and some of the best in the nation, we want to see a significant increase in the job creation number and a bigger return on our tax dollars
They recognize the days are past when we could rely on our phones ringing for the next big deal. While we applaud their successes and benefit regionally, It has been uncomfortable to watch our neighbors win some big corporate relocations. We want to win Fortune 500 relocations to increase our tax base and provide jobs for our residents. For Frisco to reach these big goals, it is critical to have the right leadership for this momentous time. Ron Patterson is the newly-appointed President of the EDC. Ron has decades of work experience in city management, including 18 years working under learning from the best, George Purefoy. Also, Ron served our nation in the United State Air Force and the Texas Air National Guard for 23 years.
The EDC Board of Directors and Ron recognize the need to shift away from projects which do not focus on the EDC’s core mission. Owning and operating projects like the NTEC facility and the EB5, has caused time, talent and resources to be focused on matters other than the core mission. Ron, along with our talented and dedicated EDC Board, are refocusing on the strategy of corporate relocation and job creation. They are moving quickly to restructure their personnel to realign along four strategic job functions: business development, compliance, marketing and administration. They are aggressively initiating relationships with key site-selectors who are in the areas outside of our typical regional relationships expanding our horizon to both coasts and internationally. The EDC team is thinking big and we believe they are poised to achieve this ambitious goal. . I would like for our EDC staff and Board to please stand to be recognized.
Through our Frisco Veterans Advisory Committee, we have rightfully elevated veterans in our community. With the call to action to Value Veterans, you, our business community has stepped up. Home Depot is now the corporate sponsor for the Distinguished Veteran Award. Baylor, Scott & White Centennial Hospital and our new Baylor, Scott & White Medical Facility have each sponsored our social gatherings. And I want to especially thank the Frisco Chamber. For organizing a Veteran Chamber Committee and honoring all members who hire veterans.
All of our efforts have not gone unnoticed. Next week, we have the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Labor coming from Washington DC to visit Frisco. They have been told about our significant efforts to Value Veterans and want to learn more. Also, targeted companies for relocation are taking notice on our commitment to value veterans. Thank you Councilman John Keating for your strong leadership in this effort and Councilman Tim Nelson for continuing to serve our nation in the United States Army as a Lieutenant Colonel. If you are a veteran, please stand. And today is Womens Veterans Day in Texas as proclaimed by Governor Abbott. Thank you, ladies, for your service.
Getting Frisco Moving Again:
Many major roadways are under construction and Council just authorized the sale of all of our remaining road bond funds. However, more lanes throughout our city is not the only or best solution. I believe we are in the midst of a transportation revolution. We will see more advances in transportation in the next 10 years than we have seen in the last 50 years. Look for Frisco to be out on the forefront leading in mobility continuing to search for better ways to use technology to improve our transportation. As discussed, we are leading the nation by deploying autonomous vehicles. We are utilizing the WAZE app and other connected car technologies to improve our drive time experience. Our city staff has challenged themselves to deploy best in class technologies and improve each day.
Tax Relief: We accomplished a significant objective last year by passing a homestead exemption which reduced the City portion of your taxes by 7.5%, th First in Frisco’s history. We also reduced the effective tax rate making Frisco one of the lowest city tax rates in the region while adding to our capital reserve fund. Thank you, Nell Lange and her team along with Councilmen Will Sowell, Bill Woodard and Brian Livingston for working diligently on Council’s Budget and Finance Committee. Recently, Moody’s upgraded our bond rating to Aaa, a distinction held by only 8% of American cities and the first time Frisco has held this distinction. By upgrading our rating, we can borrow money cheaper which reduces our interest payments which saves taxpayer dollars.
We will continue to work with our Texas Legislature for real property tax reform while allowing best in class cities like Frisco to continue to have local control over our own budget processes. We believe we set the model for the state and nation and will be leading the conversation on how Frisco’s best practices can be implemented statewide.
Parks: Lastly, Council believes Frisco’s legacy will be defined by our parks. Over this past year, we have made significant advances in securing land, planning for and opening new parks such as Northeast park which included one of the largest skate parks in Texas. Last year Council made the strategic commitment to purchase 260 acres of the Brinkmann property, providing enough land to cover much of the future buildout needs. Another one of Council’s Top 10 List of goals for 2018 is to finalize the hike and bike trail system throughout all of Frisco which will be completed this Fall.
Last year I committed to pushing forward with Grand Park. Over this past year we have made good progress with federal and state agencies for this legacy project. In the meantime, we have the opportunity to refine the plans for Grand Park. The goal is for Grand Park to be recognized as one of the great urban parks. The good news is, we are exploring the possibility of being able to announce Phase 1 park improvements by year end.
How do you feel the progress we are making?
Give For Frisco
Quickly before I conclude, there are two new initiatives I would like to share with you.
First, Give For Frisco is a collaboration of our nonprofits to expand their reach. I believe strongly the local charities are an extension of the City and provide critical services we cannot reach. They are starting by today launching GiveForFrisco.com. It’s an online digital platform for all nonprofits who are headquartered or serve the Frisco community. It has been developed to provide another avenue to reach new volunteers and donors at zero cost to them, creating an efficient way to connect donors and volunteers with nonprofits in one easy website. It provides an opportunity for us to encourage people to support our city by connecting with one or more of these local charities on Give For Frisco.
The Give For Frisco website is created and updated monthly by Lifestyle Frisco’s Wendi McGowan-Ellis and Scott Ellis and is always free of charge for all the nonprofits with any donations going 100% directly to the chosen charity. Wendi and Scott have generously contributed their time and talent to provide this benefit to our nonprofits and our residents.
I believe Frisco is a compassionate community and now we have a tool to expedite and facilitate our giving. Can Wendi and Scott and all the nonprofits who joined in the initial launch of Give For Frisco, please stand to be recognized?
Last, I want to discuss Inspire Frisco.
Last fall, I realized we have many organizations who support and provides resources to entrepreneurs. However, it was clear these groups needed to communicate and better coordinate their efforts. We started researching and looking to other cities who designed a serious effort to grow and support entrepreneurs. Sheffield, England, one city who we have a relationship with, encouraged us to collaborate with a local university for access to intellectual property. San Diego Connect began in the 80’s and was based on leveraging research results into driving entrepreneurship, partnering with University of California – San Diego.
UNT will initially house the program organizationally and physically at their new facility which they purchased from the City of Frisco. Today they announce it will appropriately be called, Inspire Park. Inspire Frisco is an organization which will utilize intellectual property created and developed by researchers at UNT. They will partner directly with Frisco’s entrepreneurs and will be supported by a group of executives who will guide, mentor and counsel. Also, we will be working to attract investors to support these new companies. My vision is for Frisco to be the center of entrepreneurial activity. Our residents in Frisco are educated and ambitious. Inspire Frisco will present a program for entrepreneurs to learn and grow.
We do not just talk about ideas we make them happen here in Frisco. Thank you to everyone here for supporting our efforts. Let’s continue to chase greatness each day and commit to our goal to become the greatest American city. With your help, Frisco is destined to become a great American City. Thank you