Public Safety Questioned in Big Dallas Economic Development Investment

Nokia North American HQ coming to Dallas

The City of Dallas has agreed to spend $4.8 million worth of incentives to lure Nokia's North American Headquarters to the Cypress Waters development. But neighbors question whether Dallas is spending enough on public safety for the area.

“They do not have adequate employees, equipment there if anything goes wrong in Cypress Waters,” said Irving City Council Member Allan Meagher.

Cypress Waters is surrounded by the cities of Coppell and Irving, near DFW Airport, far northwest of other parts of Dallas.

Dallas City Council Member Omar Narvaez represents Cypress Waters.

“It's all barren land and now we're getting to build essentially a small town there and that's really fantastic for the City of Dallas,” Narvaez said.”We are absolutely ready to take care of all that.”

A total of more than 2,300 well paid Nokia employees will move to the Dallas location under terms of incentives from the city.

Developer Lucy Billingsley said Nokia has leased space in two buildings under construction. One will be occupied next month, the other next year.

Billingsley said Nokia was attracted to the mixed use shopping, restaurant and residential development that is being created adjacent to the new office buildings for employees.

“We are creating an environment,” Billingsley said.

Over concerns about serving the area, Irving and Coppell initially opposed the kind of urban development that Dallas has been encouraging.

“We asked them not to make it so dense. Basically we were ignored,” Meagher said.

The Dallas portion of Cypress Waters could grow to around 20,000 residents in the future. It already has around 1,000 residents and more than 4,000 employees working in offices constructed over the past few years, Narvaez said.

Two Dallas police officers are assigned to the area between 8am and 4 pm each day. Currently Dallas supplies just one fire pumper truck at Cypress Waters in a single bay fire station.

“That can’t cover it and it’s real sad because they’re still using Irving as mutual aid,” Meagher said. “They’ll be calling us for no charge, and it’s going to take away from the City of Irving.”

Irving Fire Station 12 opened last year, just across I-635 LBJ Freeway from the Cypress Waters. Even without a separate payment agreement, Assistant Fire Chief Jay Taylor said Irving would respond if called for a crisis.

“It’s normal for us,” he said. “It’s just a little bit of a special situation because it’s an oasis, or an island.”

Dallas started negotiating two years ago to have Irving supply fire protection to the area. Talks stalled but have resumed again.

“And we’ve been working diligently to see if we could get that inter-local agreement done with both of those cities or one or the other,” Narvaez said.

In the meantime, Dallas has arranged DFW Airport as the primary back up for Dallas Fire and Emergency Medical Service at Cypress Waters. Airport Fire Station 6 is the closest one, over 4 miles away.

“In the next 5 to 7 years we’re going to need something more,” Narvaez said. “The good thing is we’re ahead of the game.”

Around 1,400 of the Nokia employees going to the Dallas location will be coming from Nokia’s Irving office in Las Colinas according to Irving Chamber of Commerce officials.

“It makes it harder to negotiate when business is done this way,” Meagher said. “I understand what they’re doing. It’s competition. But at the same time, if you’re taking from us, don’t ask for much in return.”

Another large group of the Nokia employees currently work in Plano. Narvaez said some others will come from other parts of the US and Canada.

Southern Methodist University Business Expert Mike Davis questioned the value of $4.8 million worth of Dallas incentives to lure employees mostly from neighboring cities.

“I can’t imagine very many people are going to move who are working in Irving. They’re just going to drive to a different place to go to work,” he said.

Davis said corporate relocation has become an arms race between cities that does not always benefit tax payers.

“Government shouldn’t be in the position of picking winners and losers. So when they give a tax break to some corporation somewhere, there’s a dry cleaner and a shoe shop somewhere that’s taxes have to be a little bit higher,” Davis said.

An e-mail from Billingsley included quotes from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings who was absent from the City Council meeting where the Nokia vote was taken.

"This move continues the rich history of Dallas as a city that fosters innovation and technology,” Rawlings said. “I’m proud of the action our City Council took to help lure Nokia, a remarkable company, to Cypress Waters.”

Philip Kingston was the only Dallas City Council Member to vote against the Nokia incentives. Kingston said he did not believe subsidies were necessary for Cypress Waters and that a new Dallas Economic Development Policy is likely to restrict incentives to correcting past lack of investment in areas like Southern Dallas.

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