Let me start by saying that I have no problem with the city giving $11.5 million in economic incentives for AT&T to relocate its corporate headquarters to downtown Dallas from San Antonio (the incentives story is reported in the Dallas Business Journal today; here’s the link, although you might have to "sign-in" to read it). That’s apparently the only way to get businesses to relocate here instead of, say, Chicago or Denver or Atlanta — everyone else is giving big corporations money and/or incentives, so we have to do it, too.

But if you take a look at the discussion earlier here on Balk Talk about how to "hip" up downtown, you can see there’s quite a divergence of opinion on what to do and how to do it.

Instead of continuing to throw huge chunks of money at large companies looking to relocate and large developers looking to develop, maybe we should start looking at subsidizing the rents of smaller businesses, retailers and shops willing to give downtown — and other depressed areas of the city — a try. I’m not a big fan of government subsidizing private business, but since that what seems to be happening with great regularity and big numbers at city hall anyway, maybe we should start requiring developers asking the city for subsidies and building new retail/office projects downtown — or anywhere in the city, for that matter — to set aside specific amounts of retail space for small businesses at below-market, fixed and more-affordable rents as part of the tradeoff for what they want from us. It could be our own version of the "microloan" program, speaking in a vernacular that is popular elsewhere these days.

It won’t solve the problem of making downtown or elsewhere "hip" overnight, but it could certainly be a step in the direction of making sure that there’s a place for small, neighborhood-owned and neighborhood-centered businesses in all of these new projects. And typically, regardless of whatever else is happening in a neighborhood, if small businesses are successful, the rest of the neighborhood follows suit.

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