City leaders in Sherman and Denison are making plans to try to keep up with the growth in the housing market as Finisar Corp. prepares to begin operations in the former MEMC building. The optical communications components manufacturer announced last month it will be hiring 500 new employs for its new Sherman location.
Sherman City Manager Robby Hefton said the area’s current housing market is at about half of the six months of available inventory many housing professionals would prefer and the addition of nearly 600 new jobs to be created by Finisar — based on its tax abatement application filed with the city — could exasperate that issue.
“I think Finisar’s impact here is going to be significant,” Hefton said. “Even if zero houses came, which I don’t think is going to be the case, just their investment here and that their employees are here and are going to be shopping here and eating here and those things — particularly as we continue to develop the south side of town — with the things that would serve those restaurants and whatnot, is still a great deal for the city.”
Finisar will be producing vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers for Apple and its iPhone products at its new Sherman facility. Hefton said the tax abatement application Finisar filed with the city shows the company expects to employ 587 at the facility.
Denison City Manager Jud Rex said the city plans to continue with its current plans and strategies for growth, especially in the housing market. With the components producer coming to Sherman, Rex said it serves as yet another reminder that the region still needs more housing, with Finisar only exacerbating that need.
“Finisar coming doesn’t change a lot, it just means we have to move faster,” Rex said. “We are going to capture some of the people who move for Finisar, but we need to build more homes.”
Hefton said city leaders are looking to remove the barriers to things that could be impediments to people wanting and being able to live in Sherman.
“While we know that 600 jobs — plus or minus — are going to be coming with Finisar, we don’t know what other things that may spawn,” Hefton said of other companies possibly following Finisar to the area. “If you take our base level need of 150-200 houses and you add to that the Finisar effect of what we would need and you add to that the secondary effect and the other spinoffs — I don’t really have a good feel for what that means other than we need more than we have right now.”
Finisar did not offer a projected average salary range for the 500 jobs it is creating, but said they will include positions for engineers, technicians and maintenance teams. The company’s payroll for its North Texas operations — Sherman and Allen — is expected to be a combined $65 million.
For the city of Denison, 2017 saw more than 150 permits for new residential construction — the most it had received in more than a decade. This came just one year after the city broke the same record with more than 110 permits. In turn, 2016 broke the record set by 2015.
Rex said Denison recently updated its housing master plan and is currently updating its comprehensive plan — an overview and guide of preferred land use within the city moving forward. Both of these plans gave projections of growth and development in the region in years to come. While these plans did not directly anticipate Finisar coming to the region, it fell within what was projected for future growth within Denison, Rex said.
Since 2014, Sherman has seen more than 100 permits for new residential construction each year, with the number of permits growing each year, Hefton said. For 2017, the city reported a total of 170 permits for residential construction, making this the best year in this latest cycle of growth. Sherman recently gathered local Realtors, developers and bankers as part of an effort to put together a packet of information on the city for Finisar and its prospective employees.
“We’re not being bashful about what we’re trying to do,” Director of Administration Terrence Steele said. “We’re trying to corral as many of those families that will be moving to this area as a result of Finisar — we’re trying to corral them to Sherman.”
Steele explained the city intended the packet to include samples of the types of homes local builders do and price ranges for them.
“I know for a fact that some of these people that are coming in will be coming from California,” Steele said. “A 1,400-square-foot home in California is priced totally different than a 1,400-square-foot home in Sherman. So what we want to do is give them samples of the types of homes that they can look forward to having or living in when they come here.”
With Finisar coming to the region, Rex also said it highlights a need for all aspects of housing in Denison and not just single-family residential development. This includes all levels of single-family homes but also multifamily components and assisted living facilities for aging and elderly family members.
“We don’t want to be a community that only builds single-family or multifamily,” Rex said. “This is going to be a multifaceted approach.”
For 2018, Rex said one of his goals as city manager was to bring a production builder to Denison who could bring 50 to 100 new homes to the city in one year. One of the challenges with this mission will be finding the land for it, Rex said. While the city has ample space within its borders, they are typically smaller parcels that would not support a larger development. Instead, development would need to be more spread out across the city, he said.
“Somebody has to find a sizable tract of land in our ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction) and annex it, or put together land within the city itself,” Rex said.
Rex also noted that he was unsure how many of the new employees with Finisar would move to the region instead of commuting each day from other communities in Collin and Denton counties.
“We definitely want to get as many in Denison as possible,” Rex said. “Those are good families and good jobs for our community.”