Morgan Christian, Manager, Public Policy & Advocacy
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, now in his third year in office, has spent more of his term working during a global pandemic than outside of one.
On Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, the Dallas Regional Chamber hosted a Year-End Conversation with Mayor Johnson in person for the first time since 2019 – the first large ballroom gathering for the DRC since the onset of COVID-19. The event was presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.
Mayor Johnson reflected on COVID-19’s impact on the city and what new variants could mean for its economic outlook.
“I think we need to assume that this disease is something that we’re going to have to, to some degree, learn to live with,” he said.
“What we’re trying to do at City Hall is provide the most tax-friendly environment we can, the safest city we can, the best infrastructure we can, so that you guys can focus on what you do, which is serve your customers, your clients.”
Mayor Johnson has a strong economic environment to work with. According to the latest economic indicators, the Dallas Region has recovered all jobs lost during the pandemic and has returned to its pre-pandemic job creation rates – a rebound driven by corporate investments and relocations over the past decade.
And six out of ten of the Fortune 500 companies located in Dallas are based downtown. The Dallas area is also home to three major infrastructure companies; AECOM joined Jacobs and Fluor in headquartering here in October.
Mayor Johnson gave an update on how Dallas will compete for federal money coming from the new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed by President Joe Biden Nov. 15. Linking neighborhoods in southern and eastern Dallas is one priority.
“I’d like to see projects that will reconnect communities that have been divided and that will stimulate their growth, and will do it in a way where you get multiple benefits from the same project.”
Mayor Johnson also listed DFW International as an infrastructure project that benefited from cooperation by cities across the Dallas Region. But when it comes to attracting economic investment, he emphasized Dallas should be more competitive.
“I understand the importance of being a good partner to the other municipalities in our region…but then there are certain things – there’s concern for your industry as a whole, and then there’s what’s good for your individual company. It’s not always exactly the same thing.”
The creation of the city’s economic development corporation, led by Dr. Eric Anthony Johnson, will help Dallas compete favorably for corporate projects. So will Mayor Johnson’s workforce development initiatives.
“I do think there’s a unique role the city can play, and should play, and should be helping the folks in this room,” he said.
The Mayor recently announced a new study on workforce development with recommendations the City Council will soon consider.
“I don’t think we can be at all passive when it comes to making sure that our workforce is something that we’re succeeding because of, and that we’re competing on the basis of, as opposed to succeeding in spite of, or having to kind of apologize for,” Mayor Johnson said. “I think we need to be very, very aggressive about this.”
Mayor Johnson also discussed his efforts to further elevate Dallas on the global stage, announcing the addition of former U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica Mark Langdale to his International Advisory Council. The council is working on the city’s bids to host the Summit of the Americas and the 2026 World Cup.
“The Summit of the Americas is a huge, huge deal,” he said. “It brings all the heads of state from all of the nations in North and South and Central America to one location, so it’s a huge honor.”
Finally, Mayor Johnson gave an update on his initiatives on ethics reform, entrepreneurship, and public safety. The City Council unanimously approved the Mayor’s proposed ethics reform package Dec. 7 and funded the ideas of his Innovation and Entrepreneurship Task Force in the city budget that passed Sept. 22.
The budget also included an increase in the Dallas Police force of 500 officers over the next two years and raises for current and future officers.
“We really made the investment that we need in public safety,” Mayor Johnson said. “And I think we should be clear why that’s important…the reality is, public safety is the foundation of everything else we do.”
The Mayor touted Dallas’ status as one of the country’s few major cities that saw a decrease in violent crime this year.
“We know that when people are making that decision about where to relocate on an individual basis, on a corporate level – public safety and crime rates are right up there at the top, along with the school system, the education system, in making that decision.”
A Year-End Conversation with Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson was presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas. Amazon and Lockheed Martin were Gold Sponsors, and Axxess, Oncor, and DFW International Airport were Silver Sponsors.