By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
See, we were talking on the phone Monday with Mario Hernandez, president of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, which was instrumental recently in persuading Toyota to build a truck plant in that city. When it opens in 2006, the plant is expected to employ 2,000 people with a payroll of $106 million. That's not counting the spin-off jobs from related companies that will supply goods to the truck plant. That's some pretty good economic developin', so we called Hernandez to ask exactly how much money San Antonio put up to woo Toyota. It was $133 million in various incentives, with half of that coming from the state, he said.
But the real reason we called Hernandez was this: Now that the Dallas Cowboys have withdrawn the team's proposal to relocate to Fair Park--a plan that would have required $425 million from taxpayers--the hopes for improving blighted South Dallas seem to have fallen off the city's radar.
"If it doesn't happen, then [Fair Park] gets put as the third priority behind downtown and the Trinity, and we'll get to it when we get to it long after I'm gone," Mayor Laura Miller told Dallas Observer staff writer Robert Wilonsky, referring to the Cowboys' proposal (see "Going Deep," May 27).
But why give up now, we wondered? If local government truly believed taxpayers were in the mood to spend a boatload of money on South Dallas for the Pokes, isn't it conceivable that we could spend much less and use the money to try to create jobs there that didn't involve schlepping beer and hot dogs?
Hernandez was too discreet, or too smart, to bite when we asked him that question. "You're really comparing two different things," he said. (Knew that. It's our living.) The money offered to Toyota was certainly important in securing the plant in San Antonio, he said, but new truck plants are rare, and consummating such deals takes years. A whole host of factors--including a positive city image from things like popular sports teams--influence decisions on plant locations. "You can't just buy a project," he said.
Well, you can't buy most projects. Sports venues always seem to be available, to the gullible.