Economic checkup: City, statewide economy showing signs of recovery
Are you doing better now than you were four years ago?
That is the question that has been in the minds of Americans for the past two months as the presidential election season kicks into high gear.
If one were to try and find out what the answer to the question is for the average Planoite, the data would not quite point toward a strong "yes." But modest recovery is evident when looking at the relevant data.
Mike Davis, a senior business lecturer at the SMU Cox School of Business, said the impact of the economic downturn of 2008 was softened by the time it hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area since fewer members of the workforce were "on the bubble" when the housing crisis hit. In addition, Dallas and other metropolitan areas in Texas did not experience the booming increase in house prices around 2006 that later led to serious drop-offs in value in cities such as Las Vegas, where construction stopped dead in its tracks at some developments, he said.
"The other thing that's going on here is we began with a relatively high number of fairly secure people," Davis said. "We had a lot of employment in [the] high tech [industry]. We have reasonably high employment in the health care sector, and on and on and on. Those kinds of jobs didn't get hurt as badly and have tended to come back."
Between 2008 and 2009, the unemployment rate of the Dallas-Fort Worth area jumped from 5 to 8 percent, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of July, unemployment in the Metroplex was 7 percent, a full percentage point lower than it was a year before. Current statewide unemployment is at 7.1 percent, while nationwide unemployment stands at 8.1 percent.
A report from the Dallas Fed released Sept. 14 shows employment growing at a 2 percent annual rate across the state, with the strongest year-to-date growth occurring in the energy, construction and manufacturing sectors.
In Plano, employment has been bolstered despite the changing job market due to several businesses relocating to the city and expansions of existing businesses. More than 3,000 jobs were created in 2011 thanks to high-profile relocation and expansion projects such as Hyundai Capital America, which brought 382 jobs to the city, and Ambit Energy, which created 237 jobs.
The median household income for the city of Plano last year was $80,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2011 American Community Survey. By comparison, the national median household income last year was $50,500.
"Here's the bottom line: the citizens of the community benefit enormously by the continued economic growth of Plano," said Sally Bane, executive director of Plano Economic Development. "The projects that come here not only provide ... jobs for our citizens, but they add an enormous amount of improvements to the tax rolls, and those improvements provide the revenue that the government entities use to extend the services we all have access to and enjoy."
However, as a maturing suburban community, Plano may or may not be able to maintain its middle- and upper-middle-class housing, schools, amenities and lifestyle, Davis said.
"We have lots of examples here in the Metroplex," he said. "If you were to have been in Dallas in the '60s and '70s, you would have thought, 'Well, Richardson is just booming,' right? And then Richardson and Irving became a more mature subdivision, and Plano and Las Colinas took over as the hot new frontier, and now it's Allen and McKinney and Southlake."
Currently, Plano has 3,030 acres of commercially zoned land and 626 acres of residentially zoned property available for development. Most available commercial land is along the State Highway 121 corridor and northwestern Plano, with additional space along President George Bush Turnpike.
Phyllis Jarrell, director of planning for the city of Plano, said the city has tried to encourage the redevelopment commercial properties, a practice with the potential to replace aging properties with new ones and make the best out of limited resources.
The strategy has been implemented in a number of ways, from demolishing part of a shopping center at Parker Road and Custer Road to make room for a Home Depot, to the re-zoning of undeveloped retail space for single-family homes at Custer Road and Legacy Drive.
Jerrell said the revitalization of Downtown Plano, which over the past decade has seen new housing, restaurants and businesses introduced, also fits into this category.
"We've had a lot of corner gas stations torn down and replaced with banks," she said, "but in terms of a whole entire area undergoing a drastic change, Downtown Plano's the best example."
According to Collin County Appraisal District data, from 2008 to 2009, the city of Plano saw its overall taxable value fall from $24.9 billion to $24.6 billion -- a 1.34 percent decrease. Values dropped again the next year by $836 million, or 3.39 percent.
Appraised values began to pick up in 2010, reaching $24 billion by 2011. The increases continued, with a 2.77 percent pick up in values propelling the city's valuation to $24.8 billion -- $100 million shy of 2008 appraisals -- by the beginning of 2012.
The average value of a home in Plano has fallen from $245,074 in 2011 to $243,118 in 2012, according to the city's 2012-2013 budget.
Overall home prices in the Dallas area rose by 3.7 percent in July compared to the same month last year, according to the Standard and Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Index released Tuesday.
"I think it just tells the story that we're not back up to trend here," Davis said. "We're not back up to where we would be had we not fallen off trend here, but we're not suffering nearly as much as many other parts of the economy."
The future, however, is anybody's guess.
"Nobody has a crystal ball, and for all of us it's pretty cloudy," Davis said.