'We're in a war for talent' — Plano leaders talk retention strategies, public transit needs

Instead of grassy acres hugging the tollway in Plano, corporations from all over the world are building continental headquarters and offices with capacities in the thousands. This seismic transformation didn't take decades to develop.

“Three years ago when we looked at our land, it was fields,” said Kim Dixon, executive vice president and chief operating officer of FedEx Office. All around the company’s offices at 7900 Legacy Drive in Plano, development has sprouted up. “Fields where Toyota is and fields where Legacy West is going to develop. We’re blown away.”

Business executives and city officials spoke about Plano’s transformation Tuesday morning at the sold-out Plano: The Intersection of Opportunity event hosted by the Dallas Business Journal.

More than 250,000 people work in Plano including 70,000 from outside of the city, according to Lissa Smith, Plano mayor pro tem.

“When all this new development is completed, this area here will have more square footage of office space than the city of Fort Worth,” said Steve Thelen, managing director at JLL. “We are really our own market now.”

This type of economic transformation does have its downsides. Traffic, which many commuters who frequent US-75 and the North Dallas Tollway can already attest to, will only get worse. With the introduction of tens of thousands of new jobs at just Legacy West that’ll add to the bottleneck.

Also, home prices in North Texas have skyrocketed during the last five years as relocations keep pouring into the area, and that won’t stop any time soon. Economists predict the influx of jobs to slow in the coming years, but it’ll be substantial growth nevertheless.

As people keep moving to Plano, that’ll put a strain on the already small 1.3-month housing inventory. In January, the average home sold for $380,759, which was a 15.5 percent increase from last January, according to the North Texas Real Estate Information System.

Rich Meuret, president, southwest region of Liberty Mutual Business Insurance, on attracting talent

I’d say the most important thing we think about is our talent. Our people. We’ve been in this marketplace for a long time, and we’ve been spread out all over DFW. We know that there’s good access to great universities from which to hire. But, another thing that’s very attractive is being able to live and work in a diverse place. To have that access to diversity, we don’t look at it so much as competition with the other great companies when it comes to talent. We think it’s actually going to attract talent to the area. So, we look at it as being able to attract talent as well as being able to hire from the local universities.

Steve Thelen, managing director, JLL, on traffic

When the 20,000 or 30,000 jobs come to that corner — an average commute time in DFW that’s acceptable is about 30 minutes — the new commutes here will take close to an hour based on traffic. We’re the ‘center of the universe,’ so there’s a price to pay.

Mark Israelson, deputy city manager, City of Plano, on transportation challenges

Traffic is definitely going to be a by-product of success. We’re bringing in all these employees and they’re going to drive. But Plano is unique in the way we’re approaching this, even within the region. Over the last two years, our city council has dedicated $120 million to finance road improvements, in addition to the $80 million this year the city council invested. We’re working hard.

Kim Dixon, executive vice president and chief operating officer, FedEx Office, on retaining talent

It’s definitely good to be here because it’s where people want to live, work and play. So, we see a very reasonable turnover rate, but we’re in a war for talent. It’s a good thing for the community. We have a brand new, open work space. We’ve got a company cafeteria that’s really nice and we have a gym and exercise area. People want to work here, and I think it’s on all of us to provide the right culture.

Steve Van Amburgh, chairman and chief executive officer, KDC, on what millennials want

With the exception of the Uptown area of Dallas, there really hasn’t been that much mixed-use. The old model was you build a facility and it’s sort of an island. Today, if you study the millennial from a retention standpoint of what they need, it’s that flexibility and walkable environment. Thankfully, at Legacy West, I think we’ve done a really good job. When you look at Plano, I don’t think there’s a place in all of Dallas-Fort Worth that’s as vibrant, well-thought out and planned.

Sabine Gaedeke Stener, chief executive officer, Gaedeke Group, on how developers help firms retain talent

Basically, the office has become many people’s home away from home. There are several things that are important such as private lounges that give people their own space and meeting places. Outdoor spaces have become very important. Also, the gym. We used to put the gym somewhere in the back, but now many gyms in the corporate facilities rival the premium gyms that people would buy a membership to.

Thelen on the need for public transportation in Plano

We really have to focus on public transportation in this area. There’s got to be some way we get a near and long-term plan for this area. DFW has attracted 700,000 new people that have moved to this area in the last six years. That’s like Salt Lake City moving to DFW. We’ve also created 724,000 jobs. We’ve been very fortunate to have that occur. So, it’s time to step up and say, ‘We’ve had growth, people have come to us. Let’s really manage how we can keep that trend.’

Source: Dallas Business Journal