How a 1989 Law Created Dallas-Fort Worth's ‘unequal' Competition for Jobs

The Economic Arms Race: This story is the second in an occasional series exploring how taxpayer money is fueling economic development — a phenomenon that has transformed North Texas. It was produced after months of research and reporting as part of the Dallas Morning News' Idea Lab fellowship, a collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin's school of journalism.The idea that when people have good jobs, their communities are better isn’t new.For decades, massive manufacturers have carried the economies of entire Rust Belt cities, providing steady work for generations of employees. As a result, factories became prized employers.But we all know what came next: Tech-enabled automation, job loss and decline.That shifted the focus toward relatively robot-proof white collar corporate jobs and the larger paychecks they tend to bring.In Texas, what started out as “industrial development” — often just handshake deals to make cities’ vacant land viable for factories — has morphed into the vast white collar job machinery that animates much of Dallas-Fort Worth today.Now, Texas cities are openly competing with one another in what experts describe as an inefficient, if inescapable, race for high-paying jobs.How did it happen?In interviews conducted over months as part of The Dallas Morning News’ effort to better understand how cities within Dallas-Fort Worth vie for jobs using grants and tax breaks, experts returned again and again to a key turning point: 1989.That’s when Texas legislators approved a bill by freshman state Sen. Bill Ratliff that allowed cities to raise additional sales tax to fund so-called economic development corporations.“I’ve often said when that legislation passed, that changed the economic landscape of Texas forever,” said Jim Gandy, who recently retired from his post heading Frisco’s economic development corporation — an organization that has turned the city into a nationally known economic development powerhouse. “It gave cities all across Texas a dedicated funding source to fund their economic development efforts.”  Continue reading...

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