Downtown remains a business center but is attracting residents faster than any other neighborhood in Dallas.

The City of Dallas Isn’t Sharing in the Region’s Economic Boom

As North Texas goes, so goes Dallas, right? Actually, that’s wrong, VERY wrong.

While scrolling through my Facebook timeline the other day, I was startled by a post from something called “Dallas Economic Development” which trumpeted the “fact” that “Dallas is a top 10 city for affluent residents.” This leapt out at me, because I suspected it to be untrue, so I decided to dig further.

Checking the Facebook page for “Downtown Economic Development,” I discovered that it is sponsored by the City of Dallas Office of Economic Development, which “supports existing and prospective businesses and the development and redevelopment of downtown and neighborhoods in southern Dallas.” Hmm … seemed legit, so far. To the extent I had any remaining doubts about the veracity of this “fact,” the Downtown Economic Development post referenced a Dallas Morning News blog post by Pamela Yip headlined “Dallas vaults into top 10 population centers for affluent.”

Hmm … I know Ms. Yip to be pretty careful when it comes to her writing, so I decided to press on. Her post made the claim that “Dallas and Houston were big beneficiaries of the trends, leading in the growth of high net worth individuals and wealth. The cities recorded the most aggressive rates of wealth growth among the affluent, both in 2013 and in the last five years, the report said. The cities also were the largest gainers in the growth of affluent residents.” Now I was definitely intrigued, as this simply did not square with the city of Dallas that I know.

My clue that something was amiss came in the following paragraph: “the Dallas area vaulted into the top 10 population centers for affluent individuals for the first time, edging out Detroit.” Wait … what? I thought we were talking about cities, but now without explanation, we’ve shifted to talking about areas, evidently.

Fortunately, the DMN story contained a hotlink to the source document, the 2014 U.S. Wealth Report by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management. As soon as I opened it, I spotted the problem: the analysis referenced something called metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs); there was nothing at all in the report discussing economic indicators relating to cities. The “Dallas” MSA is actually known as the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington MSA and encompasses 13 counties in North Texas. The city of Dallas is but a small part of the overall MSA.

So, you might ask, what’s the big deal, Wylie? As the region goes, so goes Dallas, right? Actually, that’s wrong, VERY wrong.

Dallas is the keeper of a dirty little secret.

North Texas is enjoying one of the biggest economic booms in the U.S., but the benefits have largely bypassed the city of Dallas. Bizarrely, by many metrics, the city of Dallas is going backwards at an alarming rate, despite the fact it is located directly adjacent to one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S. — at least that’s what resident smart guy Patrick Kennedy tells us. (The figures cited actually apply to Dallas County, but the commonalities in population terms between the city and county are close enough to draw meaningful conclusions, unlike the MSA statistics.)

By carefully analyzing U.S. Census data, Kennedy reaches the conclusion that “Dallas County is the 2nd worst-performing urbanized county in the U.S.” More specifically, “Dallas County ranks 2nd to last in job growth (from 2001-2011), having lost a total of 266,195 jobs, which works out to 17.68% of (the 2001 employment base).” Additionally, Dallas County “ranked 6th to last of all urbanized counties in wage growth.”

When the Dallas Morning News and the City of Dallas lay claim to cheery economic data that actually apply to North Texas but NOT the city of Dallas, it’s much like giving a cancer patient a clean bill of health. For the city’s leaders to be able to manage effectively, they need to focus on the right data. Focusing on regional economic indicators, rather than municipal indicators, leads to seriously erroneous conclusions about the effectiveness of the city’s economic development strategy. When the Dallas Morning News and the City of Dallas mistakenly attribute strong regional data to the city of Dallas, they contribute to a sense of complacency, when what is really needed is urgent corrective action.

Kennedy appears to believe that the North Central Texas Council of Government’s emphasis on regionalism has proven to be an unmitigated economic disaster for the city of Dallas. I agree.

Comments

  • AeroRazavi

    Can regionalism be blamed on the federal government?

    Up until the 1960s, regionalism was a dirty word. It was not until the FAA jawboned the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth to build one regional airport that regionalism really took hold.

    • WalkableDFW

      partially. As Bill Hale, head of all metros for TxDOT re-iterated President Eisenhower stating that highways were never intended to run through the core of a city, but local elected officials either wanted the free money (nothing more expensive than free) or they wanted to erase/displace certain communities. Here’s a helpful decision making tool: if highways were integral to the growth of an area, keep em and mitigate as possible. If highways were not integral and were instead imposed upon and area causing erosion of areas and disconnecting the social and economic bonds that compose urban neighborhoods, get rid of em.

  • roi
  • Anonymous

    Michael Morris, Mary Suhm and Vonciel Hill (plus Mayor Rawlings for appointing her) are the worst thing to happen to the City of Dallas in a generation.

  • dmd

    Four words is all it takes to understand this dilemma…Vonciel Hill…Caroline Davis.

  • Jim Schermbeck

    It’s the Trickle Down, er, Pass-Through theory of economic development.

  • WilliamOckham

    Let’s use Occam’s razor here.

    * Dallas is growing slowly BECAUSE transplanted families don’t move into Dallas BECAUSE it has a bad school system BECAUSE the school system is overwhelmed by underprepared and underperforming students from poor families.

    * Dallas is growing slowly BECAUSE it’s run by people like John Wiley Price and Vonciel Jones Hill BECAUSE their constituents place no value on competent government BECAUSE their constituents are apathetic and complacent.

    * Dallas is growing slowly BECAUSE high-value jobs aren’t created here BECAUSE the local workforce is not very high-powered BECAUSE the population of Dallas doesn’t invest a lot in education and training.

    All of these statements are supportable by evidence once you strip out the euphemism and happy talk. Occam’s razor: Dallas is growing slowly because of the low average level of its human capital. We could have the most brilliant technocrats implementing the most forward-looking version of walkable urbanism, and the growth would STILL follow the good schools and the highly qualified workers of the higher-performing northern suburbs.

    • Los_Politico

      Except that that is not unique to Dallas. Most every city (okay, not SF or Seattle) houses the poor yet is growing at a faster rate relative to their region. What is the secret sauce in Denver or Pittsburg or Philly?

    • Glenn Hunter

      Blaming bogeyman-of-the-moment NTCOG for Dallas’ poor performance seems like a major stretch.

  • Anonymous
    • Wylie H Dallas

      Yes… More of the same. The headline reads Dallas, but the underlying data relate to the Metroplex, rather than the City of Dallas.

  • RAB

    I think HP is doing okay.

    • Steve Byars

      It’s because they burn (I mean ban) books.

  • Raymond Crawford

    Mayor Morris doesn’t care.

    • Bobtex

      More like Monarch Morris.

  • Christopher Kratovil

    When looking at statistics regarding the City of Dallas vis-à-vis the Dallas metro region, it strikes me that part of the problem is that the most prosperous and human capital-rich neighborhoods in central Dallas are, in fact, not just neighborhoods but entirely separate towns. I refer, of course, to Highland Park and University Park. The historical anomaly of the Park Cities as stand-alone municipalities buried deep in the heart of Dallas inherently distorts any attempt to compare the City of Dallas to its peers on a city-to-city statistical basis. Economic statistics concerning the City of Houston, for example, would look considerably different if River Oaks and West University were suddenly removed from the equation. Ditto for the City of San Antonio without Alamo Heights. How is Seattle doing without Upper Queen Anne, Windermere, and Madison Park? Or Chicago without the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park? Indeed, while every city has its wealthy Southlake/Plano-style suburbs, I can’t think of another major American city where the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city’s core aren’t part of the city itself. This situation obviously isn’t going to change—I am obviously not proposing that Dallas somehow annex HP and UP, as that would probably require bloodshed—but it is an important and odd variable to keep in mind when looking at statistics focused narrowly on the City of Dallas itself.

    • Jason Heid

      In San Antonio, Alamo Heights (and the even better-off Olmos Park) are separate municipalities surrounded by the big city.

    • Los_Politico

      It’s not an anomaly. They were past the cities northern reaches, which is why North Dallas high school is south of them. The anomaly is that the areas north of them, specifically Preston Hollow, were annexed into the city creating “the bubble”. Look at cities of similar physical size to Dallas before World War II and you’ll find similar patterns. I’m thinking most of Miami and Coral Gables. Atlanta and Decatur are similar. So too are city/county places like St Louis and Baltimore. And of course, let’s not forget LA and Beverly Hills.

    • Amy Severson

      First, Highland Park and University Park are not growing, they are landlocked and really uninterested in expanding up. Their property may be appreciating more quickly, but annexing would not generate “growth”, or at least the growth listed on these reports. And Dallas may be past that too, as the available land for “growth” requires tearing something old down. “Growth” in Dallas means fighting older neighborhoods to put in a retail store, paying extra taxes for an infrastructure like Parkland, or trying to work with city and county government (who do not always see “growth” and “reelection” as being simpatico).

      From this resident’s view of Dallas, the only “growth” on the scale of the suburbs has been downtown/uptown. And that has been at a cost the rest of the city has had to subsidize, leaving crappy roads and poorly operated services for the majority of citizens to live with.

    • William Jones

      Wait until the individual states are allowed to print their own money based, not on Fed bonds mind you, but on issued bills. Then each locality will be able to amass an enormous amount of debt similar to the Federal government. Can you imagine the city of Dallas being billions in debt in state money while other frugal cities in the North Texas Region try to compete with it? Is all this fiction? No. In order to advance their huge social programs, a lot of states are considering issuing their own money based on bills (money).

  • Brett Moore

    I read on FrontBurner that it’s because Dallas is hard to walk around.

  • Christopher Kratovil

    I stand corrected on Alamo Heights, and I confess San Antonio is the only major Texas city I’ve never lived in. So let’s substitute in the City of Austin instead, which very much includes prosperous Old West Austin and Balcones-Mount Bonnell. More importantly, the larger point remains unchanged; amputating ANY city’s two most prosperous and educated neighborhoods (as distinct from true suburbs) inherently distorts city-based statistics.

  • educationrules

    This means so much coming from Wylie, with his extensive education at DCCC. Just what discipline did you study for your associate degree?

    • I know

      How do you know that Wylie does not have degrees in Communications, Urban Studies and a few other things? He is very well qualified to talk about these things

  • William Jones

    The city of Dallas has been the rotten apple in the barrel for a long time now. Its tendency to spend social money on cosmetics weighs down the whole North Texas region as then other cities have to compete doing the same. Fort Worth at least has a foundation of manufacturing which allows the city to to support a housing market for the more middle class. Meanwhile, politics in Dallas remains a volatile powder keg that can go off at any second.

    • I know

      William – you hit the nail on the head. We are not having a conversation in our city about the types of business and industries we want to grow in Dallas. Law firms, commercial real estate and the service industry are great for ad sales, but they do not create a strong economic foundation.

      When Mayor Rawlings ran for election he promised to spend 30% of his time on attracting new businesses. (Mari W. – pay attention) I appreciated his exuberance, but he doesn’t have the time and we don’t need to attract more low paying back office jobs to shore up downtown’s crappy real estate portfolio.

      The City of Dallas and local capital markets need to invest in local companies in industries that attract and retain highly educated workers. (bio-tech, specialized manufacturing, non-back office I.T.).

  • Wylie H Dallas

    I’m glad you brought this up. Haven’t had time to focus on it, but I do get the sense that much of what is moving downtown is “back office” stuff rather than traditional high-value occupiers of urban office space.

    It really feels as if the region is inverting, with reverse commute traffic now overtaking standard commuting problems. This is the only place in the U.S. where this is happening, according to Jeffrey Tumlin.

  • William Jones

    If what you say is the case, that would be an ideal situation concerning traffic flow. And, when you consider that it has a shrinking office market and how it no longer is the prime commercial shopping district of North Texas, downtown Dallas no longer takes on the characteristics of the standard Manhattan type downtown. What the city of Dallas really has going for it is its unique urban retail districts that it managed to preserve during the mall building craze. In contrast, developers in the city of Houston were able to build really tall stand alone skyscrapers knowing that they would be filled with the huge energy companies based in the area. In contrast, the city of Dallas has always obsessed over how to make retail work while the area has long been a haven for small corporate headquarters (Over ten thousand of them). So, while the city of Dallas has been labeled as a city with really tall office buildings, that never has been the case. Just look at the huge numbers of industrial districts dotting the area. A lot of the companies in those industrial districts are single and two story offices for many of those 10,000 corporate headquarters.
    It seems to me that the city of Dallas is trying to run off those seemingly insignificant corporate headquarters so that they can be converted over into urban type apartment communities.

  • Joe Bloh

    * The Tollway is not needed, or, is being Planned in the wrong Spot;

    If a Toll road is to be built along the Trinity , it should be at the South end of Downtown,
    Where I45 becomes I345;
    And it should run along the levy area until it reaches I35; With Exits to Ceasar Chavez Blvd.

    This would alleviate congestion, for when and if I345 no longer exists,
    by re-routing South/North traffic ‘Around’ .

    Those that are trying to get from East to West and vice-versa (on I30)
    can still do so, since most of it is below ground level; OR
    a tunnel can be made.

    Who knows, maybe another Deck park on that as well.

    Long story short…
    The ParkWay is being planned in the wrong Spot.

    It should be connected @ I35, where it connects with I30,
    and should run along the levy, to I45.

    Making it Possible for I345 to be demolished.

    Added with lightRail along every freeway route….
    Possibilities are enormous.

    ******************************************************************

    As for ‘Walkability’ and a source of revenue…

    Light-Rail is actually more important than more freeway ;and the best place(s) to lay
    track IS along-side the freeways. (!)

    If Dallas or City Hall was to realize this and Capitalize on it,
    the amount of profit would be untold.

    I surmise that if drivers were to see a train going in the same
    direction that they take on the freeway(s), the Ridership
    would EXPLODE.

    Dallas has been fighting for “walkability” in Downtown.

    And if the people would follow those simple rules:
    “Live Close to where you Work”, and “Work Close to where you Live”,
    the areas in and around the Core would Immediately JUMP.

  • Joe Bloh

    * The Tollway is not needed, or, is being Planned in the wrong Spot;

    It should be connected @ I35, where it connects with I30,
    and should run along the levy, to I45.

    Making it Possible for I345 to be demolished.

    And it should run along the levy area until it reaches I35; With Exits to Ceasar Chavez Blvd.

    This would alleviate congestion, for when and if I345 no longer exists,
    by re-routing South/North traffic ‘Around’ .

    Those that are trying to get from East to West and vice-versa (on I30)
    can still do so, since most of it is below ground level; OR
    a tunnel can be made.

    Who knows, maybe another Deck park on that as well.

    Added with lightRail along every freeway route….
    Possibilities are enormous.

    ******************************************************************

    As for ‘Walkability’ and a source of revenue…

    Light-Rail is actually more important than more freeway ;and the best place(s) to lay
    track IS along-side the freeways. (!)

    If Dallas or City Hall was to realize this and Capitalize on it,
    the amount of profit would be untold.

    I surmise that if drivers were to see a train going in the same
    direction that they take on the freeway(s), the Ridership
    would EXPLODE.

    Dallas has been fighting for “walkability” in Downtown.

    And if the people would follow those simple rules:
    “Live Close to where you Work”, and “Work Close to where you Live”,
    the areas in and around the Core would Immediately JUMP.