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Episode 61 - Courtney Pogue Transcript


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Chad Chancellor: Welcome to this week's episode of the Next Move Group We Are Jobs podcast. This is Chad Chancellor, co-founder of Next Move Group. Today, we're joined by Courtney Pogue with the City of Dallas, Texas. Courtney is the Director of Economic Development in Dallas. So, Courtney, thank you for spending a few minutes with us.

Courtney Pogue: Hey, thank you for having me. I’m happy to be here and with all the current situations taking place in the country and around the world as relates to the current pandemic and as relates to economic development, it’s an evolving industry right now and everything is changing.

Chad Chancellor: Well, tell us all the good things going on in Dallas non-COVID related then we'll hit on the COVID. I know every time I’ve been to Dallas the last few years and I go a lot is just cranes in the air and stuff going on. So, why don’t you tell us what's behind all of that?

Courtney Pogue: Well, I think we kind of lead the nation in cranes and when you look around, it’s like that’s the bird in Dallas. It’s the official bird of the city. Besides the tower cranes, we’ve got a lot of those going up, but I will say this from our industrial sector, we see a lot of activity down in the inland port area. We probably have roughly about 50 meters of industrial taking place between various cities and the city of Dallas; Wilmer, Hutchins, and Lancaster as far as development taking place there.

Another part of town, the industrial submarket; we see a lot of activity down there also. A lot of our large scale deals. We have roughly about two million square feet for a Home Depot that's being built out and other million square feet that are going up. A lot of industrial activity and I will say this; over the past few months, activity has definitely been pretty steady actually. Things have not slowed down like the industrial markets.

You look at the business development sites as far as property locations being in Dallas is because their markets were located. We see a lot of interest from across the globe. Companies want to relocate here, but also expand here in Dallas. So, we are definitely seeing a huge uptake as far as business development activity here within Dallas area.

Chad Chancellor: Well, I know you all have a lot of corporate headquarters projects as well as life sciences, healthcare and all, so not just industrial-type stuff. So, why don't you talk about some of those white-collar type projects and jobs being created in that market?

Courtney Pogue: Well, yes. UT Southwestern is currently undergoing some major expansion plans here in the city and Baylor Scott & White was one of the largest hospitals in Texas is also undertaking a major expansion night now; relocating a lot of their-- consolidating some of their facilities into one location here in the Deep Ellum area of the city.

Just last year, you probably read in the paper that Uber started bringing their second-largest facility here to Dallas and bringing roughly 3,000 jobs. Projects like that-- Nokia moved into the city also in the area called Cypress Waters which is seeing that huge uptake of growth. Cypress Waters is the area-- is     right by the airport-- DFW Airport.

So, we're seeing a lot of companies who want to have a Dallas address and want to see a new business park really relocating their activities to that area, not just from the metro but from across the country because of the access, but also the amenities they are seeing with new bills but also being a part of a new community and that's just a growing area. I think it’s almost 10,000 jobs up there now and our objective is to see another ten and twenty thousand jobs taking place in the next five or ten years in that area.

Chad Chancellor: So, how has COVID-19 changed what you're doing and what are your activities looking like these days?

Courtney Pogue: Well, we have to adapt. Business development is definitely kind of our bread and butter. One of the things we have done in the past really three months is create a small businesses program. We’re replenishing small business activities as part of our economic development strategy. It’s been the worst the past year, so we actually had to rump it up pretty quickly and create a program called the Small Business Continuity Fund which is basically a $5 million program. It helps small business out here in the city of Dallas during the current pandemic.

What we did with the $5 million is basically $2.5 million for grants and $2.5 million for loans. This is geared for businesses that have revenues less than $1.5 million and had employers with an employment bas less than 50 employees. So, we were able to get that out and currently, and we should be able to support roughly about 300 businesses with the program here in the city of Dallas.

We are also working with our housing department. We were able to create our rental and mortgage assistance program. That's about $13 million that was pretty much utilized to see that program and that's really to help out some of our low to middle-income renters here in the city, but also low to middle-income homeowners who needed assistance with their rental or mortgage payments during this current pandemic.

So, that program is slated to say roughly about 1,000 people and of course, we're trying to reach out on the business side of the equation; reach out to all of our small businesses here. We’re doing a lot of follow-ups, but also within our web page dallasecodev.org, we’re making sure people out there are updated with our latest resources out there to really help their businesses.

One thing that we actually did launch a few weeks ago is called SizeUp. It's basically about a lot of the data analytics that a business needs to kind of look at the market and do some benchmarking and understand their competitive sets. That's also on our website. It’s actually SizeUp. It’s the name of the program and that's really a very useful tool for small businesses as far as helping them out during the current pandemic.

Chad Chancellor: Yes, I’m glad you mentioned that. They're one of our partners in our movement that we have launched and we recommend SizeUp. I didn't know you had taken them on, so I’m glad you mentioned that. I own a small business myself. I think what they can provide is really important. So, now to the important stuff. So, I know you spent time before you got to Dallas in the Georgia market and up near Chicago. So, have you learned to say go Cowboys yet down there or is that still coming to you?

Courtney Pogue: Well, they kind of give you a shot and you've got to say it. So, once you get the shot, go Cowboys. I’m in Dallas.

Chad Chancellor: How about them cowboy? I used to root against them. I always rooted against them, but I went to Mississippi State and they've got Dak Prescott. So, now unless they are playing the Saints, I find myself rooting for the Cowboys. I never thought I would, but I even got a Cowboy jersey with Dak’s number on it.

Courtney Pogue: You got to root for Dak now. Dak's a good guy. You got to root for him. He's got his contract. I guess he got the franchise tag and he's a happy camper.

Chad Chancellor: Well, walk with us through your career. So, I know like I said you spent time in Georgia I believe in Clayton County and in the Chicago area, so you've had some really cool stops along your way. So, how did you get into economic development and walk us through your stops on the way there to Dallas?

Courtney Pogue: Well, yes. Economic development kind of like most people I kind of fell into it. 20 years ago, I was a banker-- 25 years ago, I was a banker at one of the banks in Chicago and went out to Wall Street, New York for about a year and a half. I worked for a place called Credit Suisse. I did some investment banking there. Medium telecom side of the equation of the house.

Worked some long hours; 80-hour weeks, 60-hour weeks and wanted to change pace and called a guy up that I knew in Chicago. I had met him while I was in undergrad at Howard University and said hey, I want to be in community-based, economic development, supporting the community, and so on and it just so happened he had an opportunity at the City of Chicago in the Department of Planning and Development. I applied, interviewed; that kind of started my career as far as it relates to economic development.

So, when I left the city of Chicago, I worked a lot of small business transactions, a lot of handholding for mom-and-pop businesses, but I also know Chicago is one of the largest or second-largest industrial market in the country. So, it's a lot of older industrial building, via tax abatements or tax incentives, but also utilizing tax increment financing projects as far as structuring deals there, what kind of apartment zone transactions and zone bonds around that time.

That also was a good sign when people did industrial revenue bonds. I’ve seen a lot of those taking place, but hopefully in the next few months I guess the deal as far as making some changes to the productivity bonds for industrial usage. So, hopefully within our industry we'll see more activity that relates to utilizing productivity bonds for industrial usage.

I worked for the Chicago Housing Authority. So, this was affordable housing, public housing, market rate housing. We’re around about 1998, 1999 we took one of the largest development projects in the country. That's basically $1.5 billion plan other plan for transformation where they opened a deal 25,000 public housing units based on the principle of a third, a third, a third. So, a third would be 25,000 would be public housing, 25,000 would be more or less affordable units, and 25,000 would be market rate. So, I was happy to be engaged with that plan and kind of help shape out some of the preliminary numbers to get that plan together.

So, I did that for roughly about a year on the public housing side and affordable housing side and then I decided to leave the public sector and go into the private market and worked for a commercial mortgage investment bank called Going Financial and did that roughly about two and a half years. I was an analyst there and kind of got my exposure to the four food groups of real estate from working in retail projects to hospitality to industrial and office projects and kind of got a good understanding of all the various development projects as relates to real estate, but also understanding how do you build a real estate portfolio on a commercial site, but also looking at ways to dispose a portfolio, how to work on the mailing transaction. You went to all the Kmarts within a portfolio and kind of sold those off, but also they had a merchant banking side of the equation where they would actually lend out money on a short-term basis for developers to do-- some either build CBS or Walgreens, industrial projects, apartment complexes pretty much all around the country.

So, it took a lot of time on the road working in the Tampa market, working in the LA market, working in the Chicago market. So, I got a lot of exposure to commercial real estate. Then around about 2002, I was trying to start my own shop and came back to Chicago. I went and worked on-- started my own firm and did a lot of advisory work for developers who wanted to go and see the southwest out of Chicago and structure all these exotic transactions that entail public private partnerships for putting your market and structuring and tax abatement and so on, Amazon tools. Pretty much putting those tools and matching those tools up with the products at the capital, but really helping developers understand how these tools work and start to open business around that for about ten years.

We did some great projects in the city of Chicago. Basically a requisitioning project where the University of Chicago put up one of their office buildings and a new hotel roughly about 100,000 square feet of retail, parking deck, a new movie theater and so on right in the middle of Hyde Park.

And then I worked on the first grocery store project a part of Chicago. It was a very exciting project that I was able to work on and it was really a time to give back and provide and seeing these projects come to life.

I worked for Cook County. Cook County is the second-largest county in the county; 1700 square miles, 135 cities that comprise of Cook County. So, people think about Cook County think about Chicago north, 134 little towns and villages that make up Cook County. So, I got the chance of going from north to south and that could be a day's travel. Going from South Cook County to North Cook County and dealing with 60-80 mayors and my counterparts in economic development. Let’s say it was well worth it. Got some time to create some great projects.

One thing I was very proud of is that one of our major grocers shut down in December 2013 called Dominick’s. There were two major groceries in the market; the Chicago line market. One is Jewel. They are still operating. The other was Dominick's. So, they basically went out of business and they left 39 vacant stores in Cook County; went from north to south. Then right before Christmas of 2013, the county board president gave the hey, you go figure this out. You  create a new program, but whatever you do, figure this out.

So, I was able to create a new program and happy to say I think almost 90% of those stores were leased out either with new grocers or some other type of retail because we put in a new tax incentive to really help support re-tenanting those spaces.

From Cook County, I went to Georgia. I wanted to be close to my parents at that time and I moved to Georgia and my mum actually for about two years and worked in Clayton County. Clayton County is the airport. So, I want people to realize that when you’re flying to Hartsfield Jackson, technically, you’re not in the city of Atlanta. You’re actually in Clayton County, Georgia.

So, I worked there about two years. I was able to work on a lot of industrial projects because it's basically the proximity to the airport, the proximity to the interstate 675 and 75 and 285. It’s a great industrial market and of course, the airport is a great selling point for the area. So, a lot of activities are related to industrial development and also some retail development.

I came here to Dallas; saw a great opportunity to be in Dallas, ninth largest city. It’s very competitive to Atlanta. Atlanta competes directly with Dallas and Dallas competes with Chicago, so having worked in both markets, I kind of have the secret sauce. So, it’s kind of I guess some secret weapon people would say. So, I understand the competitive set and I kind of understand what's going on in both the two benchmark cities of Chicago and Atlanta. So, it’s been a pretty great adventure, man.

Chad Chancellor: Thank you, Courtney. We’re going to take a quick break for a message for our listeners and be right back with a lot more with Courtney Pogue after this.


Chad Chancellor: I want to thank LocationOne-- some folks know it as LOIS-- for sponsoring today's podcast. LocationOne has, in my opinion, the best buildings and sites database in the economic development industry. Now, that coronavirus is here and everything has been disrupted, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. If I were an economic developer still, what would I do during this time and I know without question I would transition to LOIS and get my buildings and sites as updated as I possibly could so that when we come out of this economic downturn, we're ready to go.

Let me tell you why I like LOIS. It is the most responsive mobile friendly buildings and sites database I have found. It’s easy to use. It's just as easy to use on an iPad or iPhone as it is a computer. I was browsing around last week on a state economic development building and site database and the thing it just wouldn't work. It wouldn't work properly. You had to be an engineer to figure it out. It was too much. It had this circle you could draw to look at buildings. The circle wouldn’t work when I backed out if I got what square footage I was looking for.

None of that happens with LOIS. This is the best buildings and sites database I have found. I’ve looked far and wide. It is the most easy to use from a site selection standpoint on any platform. I’m told it's just as easy to use for economic developers. It really walks you through inserting your information and putting it in so the prospects can use it. So, I really encourage you take a look at locationone.com. Use this time while we're down to update your buildings and sites. Transition them to LocationOne. You'll be really happy you did.


Chad Chancellor: You said something that I have been telling people. I grew up in a small town and now live in downtown New Orleans. New Orleans is nothing but a bunch of small communities put together. I mean it’s according to what part of the city you’re in. They have their own name. They have their own traditions. They have their own-- there’s a part of the city that has a big Saint Patrick’s Day fest. You said that I think in Cook County, you basically-- where you end up in the second-largest county in the country, you're dealing with small villages and I find that is really the case in most big markets is that they're nothing but a bunch of small markets put together if you really get there. Every neighborhood is different. Some need a grocery store. Some need an industry. So, it's interesting you put it like that.

Courtney Pogue: You know you’ve got to get out there and knock on some doors and go shake some hands and talk to some people, understand the market, understand their needs. North Cook County was different from southern Cook County. Same thing in Dallas. North Dallas is different from Southern Dallas, but you’ve got to get out there and engage the people and understand the needs of the community and understand what they are looking for. It may be workforce development as far as the training program there. It may be small business development; providing the tools or providing capital or it may be looking at industrial market.

People want to be in the Dallas market because of one, our strong demographics but also the strong location that we’re in. We've seen a lot of huge and very well-trained labor force here that people want to tap into and of course, the cost of living is real different. You know that. No state income tax goes a long way.

Chad Chancellor: Have you-- found Dallas and Atlanta are both growing so fast. Does that create its own challenges I guess or I would think those markets would be a little different than Cook County because Cook County has always been big but it's not growing at the rate that say Dallas is. So, does that require different thinking as an economic developer?

Courtney Pogue: Yes. I think more in Cook County is more about preservation. I think there were little parts of southern Cook County that needs investment and you kind of look at-- same thing with the Atlanta market and portions of the southern Atlanta market where they need some investment also, but there's room to grow. I think we're seeing a thing that here in Dallas also; the room to grow as far as selling Dallas especially around industrial markets.

We work with some great retail deals also. We have Red Bird Mall. We took an old mall that was pretty much underutilized and needed to be repositioned and we formed a partnership with a great developer, Peter Brodsky, put the capital in, and now we have a major business processing outsourcing center called Chimes Solutions down there; 1,000 jobs creator. We've got a couple of healthcare providers down there. We've got a Scott & White, Parkland, and also UT Southwestern going in. We got a workforce partner going in and we're looking to add some other retail entertainment options once we get past this current pandemic and current crisis we're going through.

Chad Chancellor: Now, I know while you were in Clayton County, Georgia, you implemented a new marketing concept focused on a push strategy that got you activity from site selectors and realtors up by 500%. So, what was that concept that you did?

Courtney Pogue: Really reaching out to the site selectors and engaging them and really-- went up there and told them the Clayton story. I think working in Clayton County a few people had a perception where they didn't know where Clayton County was, so you got to kind of explain. You're in Clayton County when you're it the airport. Pretty much a blue-collar community, but have some very strong assets to market.

So, my strategy is really getting out there and promoting the county and make sure we're telling the right story about if you want to be in the heart of Atlanta’s Southern Crescent, it's Clayton County. If you want to be by the interstate 675 and access to a great workforce and great amenities in the county, Clayton County is the place to be. Cost of living is much different than northern Atlanta market, so coming down south you got a little cheaper labor pool, but also you got cheaper real estate cost and you’ve got great access to the interstate, but also perfect access to the airport. I can leave my office on some days and I should be in the airport in 15 minutes from my office door to the actual gate of the airport. I actually did it, so, it can be done, without traffic of course.

Chad Chancellor: We have a lot of young up-and-comers that listen to our show. So, what have you learned in all these stops that you might share with a young up-and-comer who wants to be Courtney one day?

Courtney Pogue: Well, I think it's really about building relationships. I think that’s probably what I’ve learned in this industry is going around and meeting other people around the country and just really getting out there and engaging new people and really understanding them, their markets, their experiences; get to know people, but I will say this to anyone young in this industry. Don't be afraid to meet challenges. Don't be afraid to take on those complex projects. Don't be afraid to look at new opportunities in the market place. I’ve work in a small county of 250,000 people. I think now Clayton is 300,000 people, but I also worked in a county of five or eight million people. So, you got to be able to kind of adapt. I’ve work in the city of 2.8 million people in Chicago. Now, I’m in a city of 1.3 million people. So, I kind of happen to know about a wide range of activities that I wasn't afraid of taking on those challenges and I also started my own business, too.

So, it's really about taking on challenges, being ready to adapt, building your relationships. What I will say is in the midst of this current crisis with the pandemic and the battle of really understanding systemic racism, really be open to taking advantage of the moment, understanding the moment that you're in. Don't put things off. I think all of us six months ago had different plans; taking vacations and projects and engaging with you at the various conferences and so on, but now we're not doing that. So, I really encourage my counterparts to really take advantage of the time. Take advantage of the moment. Understand the movement and really understand the issues of this time and how you need to kind of pivot in a moment's notice. That's really critical right now.

Chad Chancellor: Well, I know you owned your own business for ten years, so it wasn't like you were just in business for six months or so. That perspective has to help you do your job. Now, I just think back to my own story. I’ve been in business ow six years and the stuff I’ve learned, I think boy, what a better economic developer I would be now that I sit on this side of the table. So, I would take those ten years that you’ve spent on your own business. It must help you be a better economic developer.

Courtney Pogue: You know it does. Being entrepreneurial you have to adapt. You have to kind of do everything on your own. You're the bookkeeper, the accountant, get your insurance in place, and go out there and be the marketer and the relationship manager and everything. You got to deal with A to Z. So, that's one of the things you kind of learn and that's what really attracted me to this job.

When I applied some three years ago, I looked at the job description and it said entrepreneur. You know it took all of the tools in your market, tax credits and tax abatements and loan programs and so on, but what really captured my attention was the word entrepreneurship in the actual job description. They were looking for an entrepreneur. So, that really picked my interest because being an entrepreneur you have to adapt, you have to be creative, you have to kind of be-- go out there on an island by yourself sometimes and you got to make it work. I think we're all kind of learning right now as relates to economic development. You have to get out there and take some risks and make changes to programs and policies and really address working on small business, but also make sure that our policies and procedures address the equality and equity and also that they are inclusive going forward because I think historically, economic development has been the Ubers of the world. hey, we’ve done that. So, I think now how do we actually work in a community and engage the community? How do we make key investments with small businesses? How do we build a quality workforce, not just for large corporate sectors but also work in the small mom-and-pops sectors and getting them ready for the 21st century by really providing the resources for them to be successful?

Chad Chancellor: All right. Last question; is there anything you’d do differently as you look back to your career? Would you make any different steps along the way?

Courtney Pogue: Even though probably one of the things I kind of alluded to earlier is that I think we all have plans and we go by calendars, my iPhone, it’s an Android and we got all these calendars all lined up in sync. We’ve got a clock for this and a clock for that, but I think you just can’t take things for granted. I think a lot of us take things for granted. I’ll get to it later or this is my schedule and I’m going to follow my schedule to a T.

We've got to learn how to adopt and not take things for granted. So, I will say time is precious and I will say really enjoy time and really enjoy time with your family and friends and loved ones. I think we all understand that some of us lost some loved ones during this current crisis pandemic and I’d just really encourage people to spend time with their family and friends and understand time cannot be taken for granted.

Chad Chancellor: All right. Courtney, thank you for spending a few minutes with us today.

Courtney Pogue: Thank you. Thank you.


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So, you always hear this; the economic developer's job is to improve the quality of life of everybody in their community. Well, whose job is it to improve that economic developer's quality of life? At Next Move Group, we're taking that task on for ourselves. So, to learn more about the movement that we're creating go to thenextmovegroup.com\movement.


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