Power Players: New economic development exec has transformative plan for DeSoto

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Published: 17 May 2017 17 May 2017

DeSoto, TXMurphy Cheatham, CEO of the DeSoto Economic Development Corp., really wants your business to consider relocating to or expanding in the city.

To that end, Murphy, who has been on the job since Dec. 27, takes the broadest possible view of what his department can do to help

companies grow by saving them time, money and effort.

“With everyone we talk to, I want to look at how we can help their bottom line,” he said. “If it’s workforce, I want to find out what each hire costs them. I need to find out what’s going to be their energy capacity and energy usage and let them know that we have that infrastructure here. Whatever your business is, I want to focus on the entire gamut.2000 development

“I tell people we’re not a government department,” he added. “We’re a commercial real estate firm that doesn’t have to worry about overhead.”

We talked with Cheatham about DeSoto’s challenges, opportunities and strategic advantages.

What’s the biggest challenge DeSoto faces? We’re a six-hour city. I’d like to bring us to an 18-hour city. One way to do that is to have the tenants and businesses in the Medical District in Dallas and Las Colinas bring extensions down here.

What is a six-hour city? A commuter city. We’re a commuter city. You have a 12-hour city that has some commuters, some nightlife. then you have 18-hour cities where people work, live and play in that city. Texas doesn’t have any 24-hour cities likes Vegas or New York or Miami, right? And it’s not necessarily anything anybody ever would want in Texas. But my goal is to make us an 18-hour city where people work, live and play in the city, and to make us as economically independent as possible. For our small businesses, our daytime traffic is really, really light.

What are your goals for DeSoto? One thing I take as a personal charge to do is to get DeSoto in the initial mention in DFW. When people talk about DFW, it’s Plano, Frisco, Fort Worth, Las Colinas, Arlington. And those cities’ economic development corporations are doing the right things.

How is your attempt to bring DeSoto into that conversation going, and who are you talking to? It’s being received very well. I’m talking to a lot of the service providers. A lot of brokers like JLL and CBRE. When I tell them about our community, the first thing is, people’s eyebrows raise and they say, ‘I’ve never been down to DeSoto. I wonder why I’ve never been down to DeSoto.’ Because we’re south of I-30, everybody wants to paint us with a broad brush. I’m talking to the end users, and I’m marketing our workforce. Because that’s the biggest issue (with employers right now). Workforce, workforce, workforce. I’m marketing our talent.

Does DeSoto have many corporate headquarters? We have smaller businesses, but not the publicly traded Fortune 500s. I will say that a lot of our workforce works in corporate headquarters. They do financial services in Las Colinas or they work in the Medical District.

What are the city’s attributes? We’re at the crossroads of I-35 and I-20. We’re a high-value city compared to cost. With our school district, cost of living, 15 minutes from downtown, on I-35, 20 minutes from either airport. There are no tolls, so there’s not that extra tax on you.

Who are your toughest competitors around here? It depends on the project. For industrial projects, I would say South Dallas. On office, I’m having to be very aggressive and go to downtown and talking to brokers and marketing hard to them. I’m going out and prospecting. It’s a super-competitive environment. Health care and financial services are the two types of (office) tenants that I’ve put together a campaign for. I am looking for a strong health care network. I am looking for a financial services firm that has a global reach.

Source: Dallas Business Journal