The economic downturn in the late 2000s did not hit just the United States; it affected countries all over the world, including the United Arab Emirates.
But the state of Texas seemed to be unaffected by the recession, and Frisco was the hottest city in the market in which to develop, said Anas Kozbari, CEO and managing partner of Dubai-based Invest Group Overseas.
“We did our due diligence and hired a couple of companies to do the necessary research and found out that the city of Frisco is fresh, and it is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, if not the fastest-growing city in the United States,” he said.
Rapid growth, coupled with encouragement and cooperation from the Frisco Economic Development Corp., is why Kozbari’s Dubai-based company decided to invest in a 41-acre mixed-use development called The Gate along Frisco’s $5 Billion Mile.
IGO is not the only foreign company to lay claim in Frisco. Companies such as India-based HCL Technologies and Germany-based GEA have already established operations in Frisco, and more may be coming.
A survey by the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate published in January says 64 percent of respondents expect to have modest or major increases in their U.S. real estate investments in 2016.
City officials have made a concerted effort to strengthen and build international ties in Frisco, whether that involves attracting companies or increasing international trade. Frisco Mayor Maher Maso has made numerous trips overseas to meet with investors interested in coming to the city.
“Frisco as a whole will go anywhere to attract the right kind of companies and get the world’s attention,” Maso said.
One of the key reasons for wanting foreign companies to come to Frisco is job creation, Maso said.
“The city revolves around our residents and the region being able to be gainfully employed,” he said. “Any time we can bring an international company over here, that’s less jobs going overseas and more production taking place here.”
Under the EB-5 Program—a U.S. program designed to promote job creation—foreign investors can receive permanent U.S. green cards when they make a monetary investment in new commercial enterprise that creates 10 permanent U.S. jobs per investor. The Frisco Texas International Development Center, which is a regional EB-5 Program center under the FEDC, has a focus on EB-5 programs that result in office buildings, hotels and convention centers, medical facilities, entertainment venues and mixed-use developments.
Creating international ties helps put Frisco on the map for the global market and can increase trade opportunities for Frisco businesses, said Tony Felker, Frisco Chamber of Commerce president.
Several Frisco businesses are already doing international trade, and the chamber is identifying how many to see how to best assist them, he said.
“[International trade] adds opportunities in terms of connections and ways to expand,” Felker said. “…I think it just helps take Frisco out there beyond being known across the county; we could be out there being known across the world.”
Each Frisco entity has its role to play when it comes to building international ties, Felker said. For instance, city staff and City Council are responsible for upholding the reputation of the city, which affects how Frisco is viewed outside of the U.S., Maso said.
“The city of Frisco has a direct role with any abatements or grants and also the quality of life: public safety, great parks, great education system,” he said.
The FEDC and the Frisco Convention & Visitors Bureau are in charge of attraction: the FEDC attracts companies, and the CVB attracts events. Finally, the chamber helps companies get plugged into the business community once they relocate to Frisco and aids with trade opportunities. The chamber’s International Business Council is responsible for promoting international trade and investment in the Frisco area.
“It’s shutting the door if you don’t pay attention to the extent of your market,” IBC Chairman Dan Bollner said. “None of the businesses that I’ve encountered would say, ‘Oh no, I’m just fine where I am. I have no interest in [expanding internationally].’”
Though Frisco officials are actively bridging international ties, it is really a regional effort, Felker said. The Frisco chamber works with other area entities, such as the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce, he said.
A look ahead
The Gate plans to open its first stage of development—a multifamily component—by the end of this year, Kozbari said. IGO is currently working on the design of the infrastructure.
The current plans for The Gate include office buildings, retail/restaurant buildings, urban living and a hotel.
Maso said the city is making great progress in attracting other international companies to Frisco.
“Frisco’s future is being an international city that has a strong job base here and is attractive in many ways to the international community,” he said.