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The 20 Things You Need to Know For 2011

We figured out the people, places, and ideas that matter this year in Dallas. You're welcome.
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photography by Elizabeth Lavin

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photography by Elizabeth Lavin

#12
Our economic growth won’t stop.

Comerica Bank’s chief economist, Dana Johnson, just moved to chicago. everyone else? They’re moving here.

Q: You moved from Dallas to Chicago this summer, you turncoat. Dallas gets compared a lot to that city in terms of whether it’s “world class.” Will Dallas become a world-class city in 2011?

A: I think it’s already a preferred destination for a lot of people. It has such a vibrant business climate. I was part of a group at the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce that tried to document how the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area performed compared to other metro areas. It really is quite impressive. Dallas certainly has one of the better business-welcoming climates of any city in the country. The other aspects of it, the downtown and stuff like that, don’t measure up to places like Chicago, for example, which has a much more vibrant downtown. Dallas is never going to be the walkable city that some cities are. If you have preferences like that, you’re probably not going to put Dallas on equal footing. But, my goodness, Dallas is spending so much money on cultural attractions. I think it is a world-class city. It’s clearly growing faster than Chicago. It’s growing faster than California cities. It’s growing faster than New York. I think it has a very bright future.

Q: What’s the growth attributable to? Is it just no income tax?

A: It’s more than taxes. It is partly that it’s an affordable place to live in terms of housing. The booms and busts in Texas housing are milder. But in terms of business leaders pulling the triggers on decisions to move there, I’m sure a large part of it is the general view that the governmental situation in Dallas, and Texas more broadly, is more welcoming. There’s a bare minimum of regulation and taxes. The governmental structures are working to promote business, not make it harder for them to develop. But there’s another element: once you get success, once you start growing faster than other places, that momentum feeds on itself.

Q: Have we finished with the foreclosures in this area?

A: The advantage that Texas has on foreclosures is that it’s not dumping people into the unemployed ranks, and therefore it’s not putting pressure on people to walk away. And Dallas didn’t have nearly the run-up and then fall in prices that other parts of the country had, so I think it’s had fewer strategic foreclosures. To me, the run-up in foreclosure in Texas mostly is a reflection of the run-up in the unemployment rate, and it looks like it has stabilized and is likely to trend lower, and, with that, the number of foreclosures will trend lower.

Q: There’s a lot of talk about how a big event like the Super Bowl can have a long-term impact on a region. Do you buy that?

A: No, not at all. Look, a Super Bowl definitely brings in a lot of people from out of town who spend money entertaining themselves. But it has a very small positive impact. If you look at the money involved with the Super Bowl and compare it to the vast size of the Dallas-Fort Worth economy, it’s just not something that’s going to move the needle. I got that question all the time when I was in Michigan, when Detroit was desperately trying to stabilize itself, and they had a Super Bowl there. And I would do the arithmetic, and the numbers were tiny compared to even the size of the Detroit economy, much less compared to the size of the Dallas-Fort Worth economy.

Q: What about some of the other developments that have recently been completed or soon will be? The Arts District,  Woodall Park, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge? How will all that gussying up affect the local economy?

A: I lived in the Uptown area, and I was on the board of the Dallas Symphony. So I experienced firsthand how wonderful it was to have the Arts District emerge before I left. I think it speaks to the vibrancy of the city. To have world-class venues for cultural things is a tremendous asset over time for the city. I think that park over Woodall Rodgers is going to tie downtown together and make that an incredibly vibrant part of the city. I think that along with DART, particularly when it opens up to the airport, you’re going to have a different kind of feel about being in downtown. I think it has tremendous potential to dramatically change what it feels like in the middle of Dallas and provide a cultural cityscape that many people will find appealing.

Q: Okay, what’s one thing you can tell me beyond a shadow of a doubt, a triple-lock solid, bet-the-mortgage thing that’s going to happen in Dallas in 2011?

A: The thing I feel the most confident about is that Dallas will continue to grow faster than other parts of the country, and its economy is going to continue to outgrow economies elsewhere. Texas has been outperforming for five years. It’s going to continue to outperform. And Dallas-Fort Worth is going to be a big part of that. —T.R.

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