2 min read December 2022 — Invest: was joined by George Fuller, mayor of the City of McKinney, to discuss how the county seat is developing with an eye on tech and creating a community that is affordable and attractive to a new generation. “As a municipality, we can’t dictate what happens in the private market, but we can incentivize it,” he said.
What have been your top highlights for McKinney over the past year?
We’ve had tremendous business growth, and that was not by accident. It was very intentional. Our economic development corporation decided years ago to purchase property along the Highway 121 corridor in order to protect it and shape a corporate center for the community. This corridor now includes an eight-story Class A spec office building, the corporate headquarters for Independent Financial, and corporate headquarters for RPMx Construction.
We’ve also been able to bring the AT&T Byron Nelson PGA tournament to the city, which has enhanced our profile as a leisure destination. Additionally, our airport has turned into a profitable enterprise and we’re now exploring the possibility of passenger commercial service.
We’re the county seat here, so I always joke that Dallas is a suburb of McKinney, as we were established first. But with that history comes older infrastructure. We have an older portion of town on the East Side with tremendously aged infrastructure requiring significant investment. We have augmented the overhaul of aged infrastructure with several catalyst projects that will provide well over $100 million dollars in improvements.
What are the strategies in place to keep college graduates in McKinney for the long term?
Jobs will always be first and foremost, so we have to make sure we’re attracting the right types of companies that would attract a younger workforce. With Independent Financial opening multiple phases, as well as Raytheon and Oncor adding over a million square feet to the city, we’ve added thousands of high demand jobs. We are also working to build out a robust tech sector in the city, and adding fiber across our community is a big priority.
Our second focus is quality of life, for which we put a tremendous effort to maintain. That means open parks and green space with a per capita ratio of space greater than our surrounding sister cities. We have also grown our entertainment and amenities as a cultural arts and music district. Add in a great school system and the fact that we’re one of the safest cities in the entire country, and you have a wonderful place to raise a family.
How has the influx of new residents and businesses impacted housing in McKinney?
As a municipality, we can’t dictate what happens in the private market, but we can incentivize it. McKinney has created a public finance corporation to partner with developers that will allow us to incentivize different product types. Our first property is coming up in a zoning case which will be 70% to 80% median income units, while maintaining a Class A product.
When it comes to affordable housing and tax credits, generally – and unfortunately – you see a reduction of amenities because there are such thin margins. But we’ve come up with an innovative way to bridge that gap and allow the developer to profit as if they were building a market rate product. At the same time, it keeps our city as a partner in that development so we have say and jurisdiction over the quality and maintenance to make sure these properties don’t degrade over time. We also created a land trust company where we’re buying parcels that we’ll use to further incentivize developers for obtainable housing.
What do you see as the characteristics of a successful local government?
If ever we’ve experienced an erosion of trust in government and institutions in general, it’s been in the past five or six years. Although that’s primarily on the national stage, it still makes governing at the local level challenging. We work hard to ensure McKinney residents are more confident in an engaged and transparent government. Our meetings are open, and if people have a question they can call me directly. We have accessibility and ability for people to have a voice that simply isn’t there in Washington D.C.
How has McKinney supported small business owners in the recovery from the pandemic?
One of the first things we did when the pandemic hit and businesses had to shut down was create One Heart McKinney, an initiative funded through city funds and in partnership with local nonprofits. We also formed a small grant program for small businesses to help them pay utility bills and keep the doors open. This included the creation of various ordinances for restaurants so people could do takeout for both food and alcohol, which was a first in our area.
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