In 1993, Randy Burks of Frisco’s famed Randy’s Steakhouse opened his first restaurant, Randy’s Country Kitchen, offering great comfort food. Seeking extreme affordability in rent in addition to growth potential, Mr. Burks happened upon the far north suburb of Dallas, with its one, blinking yellow light, miles and miles of open farmland and minimal retail shopping. “To be perfectly honest,” he notes, “I could not afford any other location at the time. Originally, I was hoping to be closer to Dallas proper or in Addison, but for my small budget, I could only make Frisco work.” Fast forward to today, and Mr. Burks could not be happier with his decision, having absolutely no regrets. “Having been here throughout the tremendous growth of Frisco, things have really changed, and I have been fortunate to experience and watch it all,” continues Mr. Burks. “It is pure luck that I ended up opening in Frisco, but by far, it has been the best thing I have ever done.”
Mr. Burks is not alone. As of January 1, 2017, the population of Frisco was estimated to be at 159,920 people, and not unlike other years, the city has received numerous accolades, including being named one of the fastest-growing cities within the U.S., according to the U.S. Census. Frisco’s population and growth is staggering when one thinks back to 1990, when the census recorded just 6,141 individuals within the city, and in 2000, when the population counted 33,714 people within the suburb. Of course, those were the days before the opening of Stonebriar Centre and the extension of the Dallas North Tollway, further expanding the city. It was well before all of the city’s notable affiliations with the Frisco RoughRiders, FC Dallas, the Dallas Stars, the Texas Legends and, of course, the Dallas Cowboys. These groups are all factors that have fueled the growth of the city.
Another major contributor to Frisco’s growth lies within city leadership. “When we opened Randy’s Country Kitchen, we were busy right away and glad to be in Frisco.” Mr. Burks continues, “But, I can say, without a doubt, the reason Frisco has grown like it has is due to the city’s leadership. Every single one of the city’s leaders is absolutely fabulous. Frisco would not be where it is today without them.”
“I agree,” says Maher Maso, mayor of Frisco. “One of the keys to Frisco’s success is its longevity and consistent leadership over many years, starting with our first City Manager in 1987, George Purefoy, who is still here today. I just saw Bob Warren, a former mayor of Frisco from 1990-1996, and he still serves in a number of capacities. While some individuals may change in different positions, the heart of the city beats within the leadership team, doing all they can, day or night, to protect the community at every position. We have been very blessed by this.”
Many years ago, Frisco’s leadership developed a unified, comprehensive plan, making sure individuals were updated about where the city would go and how it would get there. Today, leaders update the plan every five years through a six-month process. Thanks in part to this diligence, new ideas are gleaned and refined, allowing leaders to create and modify the vision of Frisco while staying on course with the plan. Within the city planning, Frisco also developed ways that would strongly differentiate it from neighboring cities. This action ignited healthy, significant tourism interest in Frisco by becoming a destination venue for youth, amateur and professional sports, benefiting the entire community.
Both of these initiatives attracted corporations and companies, increasing relocation to the area. “Frisco offers a tremendous business climate, and because of this, many companies are relocating here,” explains Mayor Maso. “Corporations have identified an educated, diverse professional community within the city, which is an added benefit to them. Our median age in Frisco is 36, but almost 60 percent of adults ages 25 and older have a four-year degree, and that is almost unheard of.”
Of course, there have been frustrating experiences for those who have grown with the city. Increased prices for land and limited availability of office space are both by-products of Frisco’s hyper growth. Mayor Maso laughs and says, “I do not call this a negative. This phenomenon is indicative of a successful community. Sometimes, one has to pay more money to make more money. This is a good problem to have.”
Mr. Burks adds, “The lengthy road construction on Main Street almost killed me.
Pairing this with some economical issues immediately after September 11, 2001, we had a few hiccups along the way, but it has all turned around. This year has been my best yet.”
Nowhere in Frisco has the growth been more evident than in the schools. In 1997, the Frisco ISD educated fewer than 4,000 students in just five schools. In fact, Frisco High School had moved to its new location on Parkwood Boulevard just the year before, in 1996, and its graduating class had fewer than 100 students.
Today, the FISD’s student population has changed drastically, exceeding more than 56,000, in addition to the nearly 7,000 employees within 68 schools. Just keeping up with the growth is a significant challenge. The FISD typically adds between 2,500 and 3,500 students every year. No one knows this factor better than Amanda Campbell, a former Frisco student who is currently serving as the director of secondary curriculum and instruction. After graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2000, she began teaching at a private school, but could not wait to return to the Frisco area to teach. “Things here have evolved significantly since I first lived in Frisco. In fact, when I attended school, every person in my class knew one another. In fact, everyone knew me and everyone knew my mama, which could be both a good thing and a bad thing. One disadvantage of classes available during that time was limited ability, and today, our students are afforded so many more opportunities, including dual credit, pre-AP and college credit classes,” notes Ms. Campbell. “Additionally, from an educator’s point of view, keeping up with the growth for teachers has been a tremendous logistical challenge. Today, however, we have predictive tools that help ensure all students have the supplies to be successful.”
Throughout this explosive growth, the FISD has been intentional to invest in a small school model. Dr. Jeremy Lyon, the FISD superintendent, explains, “Frisco has evolved from a one high school town to a multiple high school district, with more high schools on the horizon. Students and parents have experienced a great deal of change, but we find they always love their new school just as much as the old one and appreciate the many opportunities smaller schools provide. The small school feel and community spirit are just a few things that draw thousands of families to Frisco each year.”
Ms. Campbell adds, “With this philosophy, we have a number of students who are able to participate in color guard, band, athletics, theater and a number of other programs simultaneously. Indeed, we still have football players who march the halftime program, which we believe is quite different and allows kids the opportunity to try all sorts of activities to find their place.”
One factor that has remained the same within Frisco is the people. Even in its growth and prosperity, everyone seems to agree that the culture of Frisco is still family-oriented, friendly, kind and giving. “Even though Frisco is huge now, it still has that small town vibe. To me, it is still a very close-knit place, but things that were not once available to us back then, now are,” continues Ms. Campbell. “There is a new richness in community and definitely in the schools, and for me, I knew I wanted to raise my daughter here. There is no other place I would rather be.”