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DALLAS-A groundswell movement is taking root in North Dallas, where municipalities and building owners are plotting moves against their successful neighbor to the north, Frisco. Meetings are being held over possible counterattacks for the hefty incentive packages being laid on tables by Frisco to entice relocations.

The rumblings about Frisco, which kicks in relocation money, are getting considerably louder as the high-roller holds onto its title as the state’s fastest-growing municipality, packages get heftier and the economy stays in low gear.

So far, the meetings have attracted officials from Addison, Farmers Branch and Richardson. Addison city manager Ron Whitehead tells GlobeSt.com that “there definitely is some interest in creating a level playing field. We’re in the beginning of those conversations.” It has been confirmed that building owners and developers with vested interests in the communities also are meeting, but so far no one’s stepping forward to openly discuss the game plan.

Whitehead stresses the municipalities are equally committed to probing ways to better tap its trade area of 272,000 residents, who are taking their spending dollars north to Frisco’s Stonebriar Centre and Plano’s Shops at Willow Bend. There is money to mine in their backyards of Interstate 35, Stemmons Freeway, north LBJ Freeway and Texas 190. “If we could just have the business in that corridor, we’d be pretty happy,” he says.

The thrust of Frisco’s opposition comes from DART cities, which North Texans know means a 1-cent tax goes to the transit system rather being available for sales tax-energized incentive packages. Frisco officials take the tact that they aren’t to blame for that and are merely bolstering their economy with incentive tools that are legal and available to municipalities. There are 12 cities in Dallas county and one in Collin County that contribute to DART’s coffer.

Jim Gandy, Frisco’s economic development director, points out DART offers a definite advantage that is missing in the far north suburb so it has to devise other ways to lure business. Besides, he says, not everyone who comes looking gets a deal and those who do must meet performance guidelines.

In just six months in six deals, Frisco has latched onto 320,000 sf of new construction and 1,000 new jobs to be created by the end of 2003, Gandy confides. “Every deal,” he stresses, “is negotiated on a case-by-case basis after looking at the potential economic impact.” Factors that go into the decision are the lease length, new construction, number of jobs, value of the resulting personal property and salary average. In exchange, Frisco is giving grants, loans, forgivable loans and yes, a cash reimbursement for such bold strategies as moving money.

Frisco’s city manager George Purefoy admits he’s heard the increased grumbling as well as fielded some complaints at the office, but the opposition camp isn’t recognizing one key factor–Frisco does not dole out property tax abatement dollars. “It’s hypocritical on their part to criticize Frisco,” he says, “when they’re doing the same thing in the form of property tax abatements.”

And, Gandy and Purefoy stress, Frisco isn’t the one knocking on doors. The negotiations, the packages and the relocations are coming from companies already looking to move when their brokers walk through city hall’s doors to open bargaining sessions.

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