gain of more than 340,000 new jobs, and the area is expected to lead the nation in employment growth from 1997 to 2005 with the creation of nearly 500,000 new jobs. According to the city’s Chamber of Commerce, 11 industries employ almost half of the city’s labor force. The key areas are accounting and business services, air transportation, automotive repair, communications, eating establishments, education, electronic/electrical equipment, engineering, health, social services and trade.
A high-tech boom also contributes to the favorable employment climate. Dubbed the silicon prairie, Dallas is among the largest high-technology employment centers in the country. Why? One reason is the Telecom Corridor. It’s situated along State Highway 190 and U.S. 75 in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, and contains over 600 high-tech companies. The Corridor has the largest concentration of telecommunication companies in the U.S., maybe the world. By 2010, this techno-Mecca is predicted to add 40,000 jobs to the Dallas area. “We are seeing a period of unprecedented economic growth,” says Mayor Kirk. “There is more excitement about our city than ever before. We are experiencing an economic renaissance.”
Black business networks
Dallas is big on business and business is big on Dallas. Black businesses, along with mainstream firms, can stand to profit from Dallas’ favorable business climate. However, it’s the larger vendor contracts that will provide black firms with real staying power. Several billion-dollar public ventures are under way. Renovation and expansion work is going on at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Roads, bridges and schools are under construction, as is a new, $500 million high-tech sports center.
The American Airlines Center, slated to open in the summer of 2001, will be the home of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and the Stars hockey team.
“Since this is a public/private sector partnership, we entered into a fair-share agreement,” explains Martin Burrell, vice president of minority affairs for the Center Operating Co. “A citywide vote was taken to tax us $125 million to help build the center. The city will own it and lease it to the teams. With the help of the NAACP and elected officials, we created a document that is legally binding to include minority businesses. We wanted to make sure that blacks, Asians, Hispanics and other minorities and women had a real chance to participate in the economic benefits of the center.”
Since the project began in January 1998, approximately $117 million has been spent. Burrell says that 36.9%, or $43 million, has gone to minority companies. One of the companies benefiting from the fair-share agreement is Johnson & McKibben, a Dallas-based, full-service architectural firm. The eight-year-old company is currently completing the designs for an 800,000-sq.-ft., $15.5 million parking garage for the sports center.
“Each month we provide a report to the city of Dallas detailing the performance of women and minority businesses on the project. This represents a huge economic shot in the arm for these businesses. These are real dollars in the hands of these people,” says Burrell.
While Dallas is a business-friendly city, there are still challenges