Denton Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon

Denton City Council candidates answer questions about business issues during Friday’s Denton Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center.

The business community got to hear on Friday how each of the Denton City Council candidates will interact with business owners large and small.

Both incumbents and the four challengers seemed to all agree that something needs to be done to expand the city’s mix of jobs — whether by making things easier for small businesses, updating city codes, looking for specific types of jobs or adding a nondiscrimination ordinance. Their ideas told the story of how each of the candidates thinks about business.

“Are we an inclusive place?” District 1 candidate George Ferrie said. “Do we care about every resident who lives here?”

The Denton Chamber of Commerce hosted the candidates during a membership luncheon at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center. With early voting underway and election day on Saturday, May 4, this was among the last chances the candidates had to say what they think.

Tax incentives and Frisco were on the brain.

“We do not have a level playing field in that regard,” District 1 incumbent Gerard Hudspeth said on incentives.

His colleague and District 4 incumbent John Ryan said, “Incentives are quite often misunderstood,” adding that the city should try to change perceptions about how incentives function.

“I think it’s time for Denton to create a permanent economic development fund,” said Jesse Davis, who is seeking to replace outgoing council member Don Duff in District 3. He pointed to cities like Frisco that have such a fund, which he said would allow Denton to “more creatively” attract new businesses.

One of Davis’ opponents, Diana Leggett, had an eye toward Frisco as well. She said Denton should welcome opportunities to attract more corporate jobs and build high-rises in the ever-crowded city.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a copycat,” Leggett said. “Look at what Frisco’s done, look at what Plano’s done.”

Emily Meisner, who is challenging Ryan in the District 4 race, said the city and the chamber should look for companies that will bring in job opportunities in technology sectors. And she said officials here need to look for companies that value environmental sustainability.

“Maintain that high expectation for others to follow,” she said.

Ferrie said the city should consider the types of wages incoming companies will offer to Denton residents and not simply focus on how many jobs are being created.

“If 75 of them are getting $12 an hour and 25 of them are getting six-figure salaries that equate to above the median wage, is that really a livable wage for the majority of those employees?” Ferrie said.

Ryan said he’s in favor of updating numerous development codes to expedite businesses moving in and growing in Denton.

Matt Farmer, a District 3 candidate, said that if elected, he’d work to give small businesses more protections, especially those who rent.

“There are quite a few businesses here that are a little bit afraid of their rent going up,” he said. “They’re constantly afraid of having to front costs on a property they don’t even own themselves.”

DALTON LAFERNEY can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @daltonlaferney.

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