Linda Burns: Preserving the Economic Incentives that Give Texas the Edge

Linda Burns

Last week marked the opening of the State of Texas’ 83rd Legislative session and the initiation of debates on economic development incentive programs, which currently give Texas and its local governments a competitive advantage over many of its competitors. For those of you new to Texas, the Legislature, operating under a biennial system, convenes its regular sessions at noon on the second Tuesday in January of odd-numbered years. The maximum duration of a regular session is 140 days, but the governor can convene the legislature at other times for special or called sessions. Although a biennial system, work continues during the off time, especially for lobbyists and special interest groups.

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to be in positions where I could help to influence political decision-makers—or should I say, at least convey “the message.” Such an opportunity again came up in preparation for the 83rd session.

In May 2011, Gov. Perry signed into law House Bill 2785, creating the “Select Committee on Economic Development.” This 12-member committee’s tasks involve recommending an economic development policy for the state of Texas,—which includes the evaluation of existing incentives, policies, and procedures—and making recommendations regarding continuation, elimination, or modification of those incentives and practices; making recommendations to improve economic development policies and incentives; and whether the state should adopt new incentives to accomplish the state’s economic development policy. Four sub-groups were formed to accomplish these tasks.

One of the distinguished committee members, and a sub-group chair, is also a North Texas leader, Mayor Maher Maso of Frisco. And, for the first time, the economic development profession is represented by Carlton Schwab, president/CEO of the Texas Economic Development Council, who also chaired a sub-group. To our blog readers within the real estate industry, the committee’s eventual recommendations will have a direct bearing on what cities, economic development corporations, counties, and the state can do in terms of economic incentives to support your client’s possible real estate or development plans.

I was honored to be among a select group of industry stakeholders asked to testify, offering recommendations to improve economic development policies and incentives, and make recommendations on whether the state should adopt new incentives to better accomplish the state’s economic development policy. Others invited to testify included Chris Wallace, president and CEO, Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber; Bill Sproull, president and CEO, Richardson Economic Development Partnership; Terry Preuninger, Oncor; William Blalock, Texas Instruments; David Berzina, Fort Worth Chamber; Doug Ridge, Texas Workforce Commission; and, Dave Porter, Greater Austin Chamber.

Based on my professional experience in incentive negotiations and economic development recruitment, I conveyed that it is important to continue such programs as the Texas Enterprise deal closing fund; to retain the ability for local communities and economic development corporations to provide performance-based job credit funds and discretionary grants to support development and job training; to partner through infrastructure cost participation; and offer tax abatements or rebates. I also supported the efforts of groups like the Metroplex Technology Business Council in their advocacy to add business tax credits and sales tax exemptions for investment in R&D.

If you concur that the retention of our state and local incentive programs are important for Texas, North Texas, and DFW in competing for business relocations and expansion, it is not too late for you, too, to convey this message. To identify your state legislator for making your voice heard, go to

Linda Burns, a national site consultant out of the Dallas area, specializes in incentive negotiations and economic development location strategies. Contact her at [email protected]


  • Brandon

    A skilled and talented (workforce) is the best incentive as all. Desirable cities attract that workforce. Everything else is secondary and compensatory.