It is November — the month with a special event called “Thanksgiving,” a day set aside for us to recall many of the blessings for which we are thankful. And, we know that those of us privileged to live in this great country automatically have much to be thankful for.
This year, as our tables groan with feasts of turkey, dressing and all the trimmings, let’s look beyond our individual blessings and recall some that the city of Frisco has enjoyed over the years. Since the city cannot talk, allow me to be its voice as we flip back through the pages of Frisco’s history.
First, Frisco is no doubt thankful for its “birth mother,” the Frisco Railroad, which, in 1902, brought a rail line through this part of the country, built a lake here to water its steam engines and decided to lay out plans for a town. Those plans materialized, and the town was named “Frisco” for the railroad.
Then, the little town would tell you about a tragedy that actually brought multiple blessings.
In 1922, much of the downtown business section was destroyed by fire. At that time, most of the buildings, and even the sidewalks, were made of wood, and the water system was privately-owned. There were no fire hydrants. The town’s only fire-fighting equipment was little more than a chemical fire extinguisher mounted on a Model T Ford truck, which, it turned out, was no help in fighting a large fire. Some of the blessings resulting from the tragic fire included building codes being revised, calling for brick and mortar construction and the business section soon sprang back to life with new brick buildings. The citizens approved bonds to purchase the privately-owned water system and fire hydrants wre installed. A new, fully-equipped fire engine was purchased, helping make Frisco’s volunteer fire department much more efficient.
In the 1920s, things were going well in Frisco, and the population hit 733 people. It was a great farming community — cotton was king. At one time, there were five cotton gins here, and there was much to be thankful for.
However, if the city could talk, it would tell you about a period of time with little to be thankful for. The so-called Great Depression hit our nation starting in 1929. Banks failed, cotton prices fell and many farmers lost their farms. In 1940, while the Depression was in full swing, World War II started, involving our nation in 1941. About the only blessings we see from these two events are that they helped bring the people of our nation together and the war was won.
The city would surely tell you it is thankful for a far-reaching decision made in 1966. While the population was about 1,200 people, a very visionary council annexed a 10-foot city limit strip around a 100-square-mile area, thereby preventing encroachment from other cities and setting important boundaries for Frisco’s service area. Since that time, various adjustments have reduced the city’s area to about 70 square miles, but that early council’s decision has served an extremely valuable purpose.
Then, in 1970, the Frisco Chamber of Commerce was established, setting the stage for the present Chamber, which is recognized as one of the finest — truly a blessing.
By 1987, Frisco would tell you that its population had reached the magic number of 5,000, making it eligible to be deemed a “Home Rule City.” Our ever-supporting citizens voted to incorporate, adopt a city charter and hire a city manager. Those actions brought about the hiring of our first, and only, city manager, George Purefoy. We are thankful that Mr. Purefoy is still serving. Many people (including yours truly), feel strongly that his excellent leadership has been the stabilizing factor in Frisco’s recent years of success.
The 1990s saw the beginning of a long list of blessings. First, Frisco’s citizens, ever willing to tax themselves to bring about civic improvements, voted an additional one-half-cent sales tax in order to establish the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Then, a little later, another half-cent sales tax was voted on to establish the Community Development Corporation. Both of these corporations have proven tremendously invaluable in Frisco’s growth.
In rapid succession, other blessings came the city’s way. In 1995, the long-sought-after Collin College Preston Ridge campus opened here. The same year saw the approval of plans to extend the Dallas North Tollway from State Highway 121 to Frisco’s Main Street — a major accomplishment made possible only by the city’s partnering with North Texas Tollway Authority, Collin County and generous landowners who donated 166 acres of right-of-way needed for the project.
Then, in April of 1996, the signing of a contract with the mall builder, General Growth, to build Stonebriar Centre, marked the end of a long “battle” with our neighboring city, Plano, over which city the mall would be located in. After negotiating with builders for eight years, the mall opened in the year 2000 and has been acclaimed by many as the economic engine that has continued to propel Frisco’s booming economic growth. Frisco would want you to know how thankful it is for the mall. Someone predicted that it would bring a “retail revolution” to the town, which it certainly has. Not only has it brought phenomenal retail growth, it has sparked many other developments such as Hall Office Park, which is still building. It has helped attract sports venues for professional soccer, hockey, baseball and basketball teams and, just recently, The Star, the beautiful new headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys. This is an integral part of what has been called the “$5 Billion Mile.”
Growth and excellent leadership have brought many blessings to the city. There is a state-of-the-art public library, multiple museums, an active Senior Center, a fine park system, the Heritage Center, and the unending list of blessings goes on.
Frisco is thankful for the many accolades it has garnered in the last few years. It has been named one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities, one of the friendliest and one of the most successful. But, the city would tell you it could not have reached these successes without a great deal of help from individuals and partners. There is the stellar school system, which helps attract many newcomers to the city and has partnered with the city on several major projects and supportive citizens who are faithful to vote and are willing to volunteer their service on boards and committees. There is longevity of those in leadership positions such as our city manager, Mr. Purefoy, our EDC director, Jim Gandy, and many of the elected officials, and there is a practice of partnering with other entities on projects that would have otherwise been impossible.
All of those blessings are on the city’s “Thanksgiving table” this year, but with success comes jealous naysayers. I read recently that someone thinks “Frisco is snobby.” I do not agree with that opinion, and I pray that our fair city never lets success go to its head. Together, we can help keep Frisco a friendly, neighborly place. This Thanksgiving, let’s count our blessings and continue to be a city with the heart of a town.