The city that gave us Friday Night Lights is shining brighter than ever, thanks to some entrepreneurs who had the foresight to predict where the next big growth wave in North Texas would occur.
Welcome to Allen, a North Dallas suburb of over 100,000 people in the heart of a corporate expansion and workforce boom like none other in the country. Smack dab in the middle of the hottest corporate headquarters relocation market in the U.S., Allen is now making its own play for high-paying jobs and the industries that create them.
Robert Vanman, founder and CEO of WatchGuard, has witnessed the rapid rise of Allen firsthand. A police body camera system manufacturer, WatchGuard was recently acquired by Motorola for $271 million, but not before establishing its permanent home base in a new headquarters facility in Allen.
“We moved into our new headquarters in May 2018,” says Vanman. “It’s a 140,000-sq.-ft. facility designed to showcase WatchGuard and serve our employees well.”
The new building in Allen has also helped Vanman recruit the best talent. “From the time we moved, applications nearly tripled from the old building to the new one for each job opening,” Vanman says. “Lots of people would drive by the building and say, ‘Wow, I want to work there.’ We want our building to be a calling card for professionals.”
WatchGuard employed 300 workers at the time of the move and 330 by the time Motorola acquired the firm last July. Vanman says the Allen address made a huge difference.
“Allen was by far our first choice for where to locate the company,” he notes. “The Allen Economic Development Corp. was highly competitive in their proposal to have us build in the city. When the property came up for sale, I knew immediately it was going to be our new home. It was right on the edge of retail shopping zone at Watters Creek. Access on and off the highway was easy. It pretty much had everything.”
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Derrick Evers, CEO of Kaizen Development Partners, says Allen lures corporate investors like Vanman because it “provides the opportunity for employers to have a growing and tremendous housing market. We have a wonderful school system in Allen. The city provides an all-encompassing community for real estate developers. There is a true partnership with the city and the Allen EDC.”
That partnership has enabled Evers’ firm to develop several significant properties in Allen — from a five-story, 125,000-sq.-ft. office building that is now over 80% leased to the company’s newest project: an eight-story, 200,000-sq.-ft. building called One Bethany West. In between came a build-to-suit facility for Netscout out of Boston.
“We did a heat map analysis of the area,” says Evers. “We wanted to look at where folks are choosing to live and work. We looked at the growth patterns. We saw that this area was continuing to grow north. A lot of the growth in North Dallas was situated along the tollway corridor. Why is everyone moving north? Because that’s where the workforce is.”
Dan Bowman, CEO of the Allen EDC, says the city was still closing deals in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re closing some deals this week and next week,” he said in late March. “Our sales pitch for Allen is simple: If you’re coming to Collin County, you’re already landing in one of the hottest markets in the country. You’ll have an incredible labor force with a higher percentage of educated workers, and you’ll have access to a mixed-use environment, incredible quality of life, and the top-rated parks department in the nation.”
Assets like these propelled Allen to land major investments from Netscout, Credit Union of Texas, Highlands Residential Mortgage and others in the past 18 months.
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“Our schools continue to get the top rankings,” says Bowman. “Millennial families as they have kids are choosing to buy homes and live in Allen, and they’re demanding homes in walkable communities like Watters Creek. We have a number of large master-planned projects along our Highway 121 Corridor. Allen has the best office and industrial sites available anywhere in the North Dallas market. A company could come in and buy a substantial amount of land and still be part of a mixed-use development.”
No less than four new mixed-use projects are sprouting up in Allen: Monarch City, Allen Gateway at Twin Creeks, The Avenue, and a former Hines project once known as The Strand.
When these developments are built out, notes Bowman, no North Texas suburb will be able to compete with Allen’s overall package. In other words, the city of Friday Night Lights is on the verge of being known for what it offers every day of the week.
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the Allen EDC.
For more information, go to www.AllenEDC.com or or call 972-727-0250.
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.