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The Year in Review: The Business Press looks back at stories that topped the news in 2017

🕐 14 min read

As 2017 draws to a close, the editors of the Fort Worth Business Press take this opportunity to look back over the top stories of the year. Some are fond memories, others not so much.



In a move that delivered an economic gut punch to Fort Worth, Exxon Mobile Corp. announced in June that it will relocate about 1,600 jobs in its Fort Worth-based XTO Energy division to the Houston area over the next three years.

XTO had been a key player in developing Fort Worth’s place in the shale revolution taking place in the energy industry. Aside from the loss of jobs and talent, the move also means six of the seven buildings XTO owns in Fort Worth (most in downtown) are now on the market.

Mayor Betsy Price described the plan as a “blow” to the city.

However, the announcement may have been a wake-up call. In the city’s first Economic Development Plan, released in December, it notes that XTO’s announcement “illustrates the need for a strong, proactive business retention and expansion program.” As soon as Exxon acquired XTO, the plan says, “the alarm bells should have been rung about the firm’s potential to vacate Fort Worth.”



It was a big year for financial institutions in Fort Worth and North Texas.

The year ended on a sad note when Colonial Savings founder and financial innovator James DuBose died at 93.

Other changes:

• Mark Drennan, 44, was named president of the North Texas Region for Southside Bank, one of the largest locally based financial institutions. He replaces longtime leader Tim Carter (see below).

It was earlier this year that he joined the company as an executive vice president for commercial lending for the North Texas Region.

• Pinnacle Bank Place, a public-private mixed-use development on the south end of downtown Fort Worth, opened and received several awards, including one for best mixed-use development.

• Bank of America, already one of the largest banks in Tarrant County in terms of deposits, is taking an even higher profile with its move in September into what can only be termed the heartbeat of Fort Worth – Sundance Square.

• During the year, Dallas-based Veritex Bank made two acquisitions that affected Tarrant County. It acquired Sovereign Bankshares, which gave it several branches in Tarrant County, and in August it announced plans to acquire Fort Worth-based Liberty Bank. On Oct. 19, Veritex announced that the Federal Reserve System board of governors approved the company’s regulatory application to merge with Liberty Bancshares Inc.

• Arkansas-based Simmons First National Corp. announced the completion of its purchase of both Southwest Bancorp Inc. of Stillwater, Oklahoma, and First Texas, BHC of Fort Worth. First Texas is the parent company of Southwest Bank, run by longtime local banker Vernon Bryant.

• CapTex Bancshares Inc., a Fort Worth-based bank holding company, acquired First National Bank of Trenton, Texas. The 116-year-old community bank has five locations that serve towns throughout North Texas including Trenton, Melissa, Bonham, Farmersville and Leonard. A sixth location in Fort Worth will be open in 2018.

• Banks began to move into the Clearfork development area with Worthington National and Frost both opening branches there.

• In September, longtime Dallas-Fort Worth banking and community leader John Gavin, Wells Fargo’s community bank region president for Dallas-Fort Worth, announced his retirement. Gavin was succeeded by Scott Wallace and Gary Hudson, who have been named to the new position of region bank president and will continue to oversee the DFW-East and DFW-West markets, respectively.

• In May, Houston-based Amegy Bank named Brandon Bledsoe as Fort Worth market president, signaling the bank’s intent to build a presence in the city.

• Ciera Bank, led locally by longtime banker Charlie Powell, completed the redevelopment of its office building at 1501 Summit Ave. on the highly visible northeast corner of Interstate 30 and Summit Avenue.

• Guaranty Bancshares Inc., the parent company of Guaranty Bank & Trust NA, announced in August that the bank will expand into the Fort Worth market, with Casey Tibbets as president.

• Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc. announced that it has its sights on North Texas and has hired Julia Harman as Dallas-Fort Worth market president.



Economic development officials are not normally known as an excitable bunch, but whisper the words “Amazon headquarters” in their ear and they act like 3-year-olds amped on sugar.

Amazon will be sorting through 238 proposal packets from cities and regions in the United States, Canada and Mexico that are hoping to land the company’s second headquarters and the projected 50,000 new jobs and $5 billion in construction spending. Among those were several packets from Texas, including a proposal from North Texas.

The goal is to make it to the next phase of Amazon’s selection process, said Brandom Gengelbach, executive vice president of economic development for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

“So we’re not going to win the project with this submittal, we’re going to get into the ‘yes’ pile,” he said.

Amazon is expected to sort through the proposals early in 2018, after it counts all its cash from Cyber Monday.



Tim Carter, longtime area banker and president of the North Texas region for Southside Bank, stepped down from that position in late September, saying he would remain on the bank’s board and as a liaison to the North Texas community.

“It’s the right time,” he told the Fort Worth Business Press in an interview. “It has been a great 10-year run working with a fabulous team of bankers at OmniAmerican and now Southside for the last two and one-half years.”

Southside Bank acquired Fort Worth-based OmniAmerican Bank in 2010. OmniAmerican, a credit union that began serving employees of what was then Carswell Air Force Base, converted to a bank charter in 2006. Carter joined in 2007. He previously had been head of Chase Bank in Fort Worth and United Way of Tarrant County.

Carter said it is important for business people to be involved in the city, citing Leadership Fort Worth as one venue, and the number of volunteer needs in the area as another.

We’ll see how he does in retirement.

“I know I can’t tell what it’s like. If you’re a banker you’re active every day; you’re making a lot of decisions every day,” he said. “So this will be a little different. I want to try to take on nothing new for four to six months and see if it drives me nuts.”



Williamson-Dickie Mfg. Co., a 95-year-old Fort Worth-based, family-owned company that designs, manufactures and delivers workwear and apparel, announced in August that it would be acquired by VF Corp. for $820 million. Williamson-Dickie sells its products in over 100 countries across six continents, employs more than 7,000 people and operates a network of stores under various brands.

“For nearly a century, we’ve worked hard to judiciously grow our company and portfolio of strong brands to maintain our leadership in the global workwear marketplace,” Philip Williamson, Williamson-Dickie CEO, in a news release at the time. “Today’s announcement is an authentic and natural next step as we look to combine the strengths of our two companies to create significant opportunities for our employees, vendors, retail partners and ultimately our customers.”

In April officials broke ground on the 14,000-seat multipurpose arena that will serve as the host of the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo and a number of other events, and they announced that Williamson-Dickie had secured the naming rights for the building. Dickies Arena is scheduled to open in November 2019.

Less than an hour after the groundbreaking, the organization Multipurpose Arena Fort Worth announced that the arena has been selected as a host for the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball First and Second Rounds. In addition, Fort Worth will be the host city for four years for NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships, beginning in 2019. The event will be held at the Fort Worth Convention Center the first year and move to the new arena in 2020.

And also in August, after the announcement of the Dickies-VF deal, American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco announced that the ACC will hold its 2020 men’s basketball tournament at Dickies Arena in a three-year deal.



Not since the Omni Fort Worth’s debut in January 2009 had a new hotel come to downtown Fort Worth, but 2017 saw a renaissance of hotel construction and development for the area. John Cychol of the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau reported that between in-progress and coming projects, about 4,000 rooms will be added to the city through 26 hotels — 12 coming to downtown, one to the Cultural District, two to the Stockyards and 11 to North Fort Worth, the Near Southside and the Southwest. Though other areas of Texas have seen a decrease in this kind of development, the Dallas-Fort Worth market remains a hot one for new hotels.

Tim McKinney (left) and TD Smyers at the United Way office.



Longtime civic leader Tim McKinney retired at the end of June as president and CEO of the United Way of Tarrant County, a position he had held since November 2007. He was succeeded by TD Smyers, who became executive vice president and chief operations officer of United Way in November 2015. Smyers was CEO of the North Texas region of the American Red Cross, a United Way partner agency, for four years before joining United Way. Prior to that, Smyers spent 31 years in the Navy and was commander Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base from April 2008 to July 2011. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. McKinney spent 36 years as a banker and civil leader in Fort Worth, including board service at United Way, before the joined the agency.



The TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine took a giant step toward accreditation in November with submission of a 900-page document to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting body for allopathic medical schools. The huge report is required of applicant medical schools and includes information about the curriculum, faculty, facilities, by-laws and more.

Details about this one-of-a-kind medical school and the collaborative public-private partnerships between two Fort Worth universities was put together during the past year. Now that materials have been submitted, a site visit from the LCME is expected in late spring and an accreditation decision will be rendered in October. When accredited, the new school can start recruiting students to enroll in July 2019. The new medical school has hired about 120 faculty who are already in faculty development training, program development and community engagement.

In April, Dr. Stuart Flynn, founding dean of the medical school, announced at a Leadership Fort Worth event that Paul Dorman, CEO and chairman of DFB Pharmaceuticals, had donated the first year’s tuition for the inaugural medical school class. Flynn estimated the value of that gift at more than $3 million.

In 2012, Dorman sold 70 percent of DPT Laboratories to RoundTable Healthcare Partners (Renaissance Pharmaceuticals) and later that year sold Healthpoint Biotherapeutics, another DFB portfolio company, to Smith & Nephew. The two sales were worth more than $2 billion.

Dorman later told the Fort Worth Business Press the tuition gift was in part payback to an early boss who created a job for him so he could go to school. But it also was because he wanted to make it attractive for first-year students to gamble on a new medical school.

“We want to have the best students, we want to have the medical school recognized as graduating top doctors,” Dorman said. “So why would you come to the new medical school here if you had a shot at going to Baylor or wherever? Well, the difference could be if you could get in here without having to pay tuition,” he said.



From Baylor Scott & White All Saints’ new emergency room to the opening of the Fort Worth Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Coalition, there was no shortage of medical developments in Fort Worth. The year also saw Southwestern dedicate its new Moncrief Medical center, JPS Health Network break ground on a new Northeast Tarrant County medical home, Medical City Arlington celebrate its new rehab unit and start construction on its Women’s Hospital. And let’s not forget that 21 North Texas hospitals were honored in the 2017 U.S. News and World Report.



Lillie Biggins began her career in health care by sweeping floors as a housekeeper while she went to high school to earn her nursing degree. She spent 45 years in the profession before announcing her decision to retire in early December as the first female president of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.

Biggins graduated from John Peter Smith School of Nursing in 1971 and also earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington and a master’s degree from Texas Woman’s University in Denton.

She was named a Great Woman of Texas by the Fort Worth Business Press in 2008. She also was recognized in the 2017 Mentor Awards by the newspaper. (See: Biggins, Page 10)



DFB Pharmaceuticals of Fort Worth, owned by Paul Dorman, CritiTech Inc. of Lawrence, Kansas, and US Biotest Inc. of San Luis Obispo, California, announced in September the formation of a new company, NanOlogy, to develop an advanced form of cancer treatment using nanoparticles injected directly into tumors as a more efficient and safe way to use chemotherapy to treat cancer and other serious illnesses.

In rapid succession, NanOlogy announced clinical trials for ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer and pancreatic mucinous cysts. In addition, NanOlogy and its affiliate, DFB Soria, are progressing toward clinical trials for Soria-developed SOR007 ointment in cutaneous metastases and actinic keratosis. An inhaled version of NanoPac is in a preclinical pharmacology study for lung cancer.

The clinical trials are testing a patented nanotechnology process to deliver proven cancer-fighting drugs to specific areas without the usual side effects of traditional chemotherapy.



The long-hoped-for renovation of the New Isis Theatre on North Main Street could become reality by the end of 2018. The theater dates to 1914, but burned in 1935 and was rebuilt in its current configuration in 1936.

Others have tried to restore the icon, but Jeffrey Smith, president and founder of BendOverBackwards, which is planning the restoration, says this time it’s different. He’s in it for the long haul, he says, because it is a labor of love.

Smith said on Dec. 11 that the purchase of the building is completed and the renovations are underway. The revived building will be called Downtown Cowtown at the Isis.

Smith has a long history in theater education and holds a bachelor’s degree in theater arts and communications and a master’s in education. He spent 24 years in education, most of it in the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District, where he also was principal of Wills Point High School. He’s taught theater at Saginaw High School, Grapevine High, Boswell High, Mansfield Summit and Arlington Bowie High.

The architect on the project is Arthur Weinman, grandson of the building’s original architect, Ludwig Bernhardt Weinmann. (Ludwig changed the spelling of his last name during World War I.)



North Texas Community Foundation President and CEO Nancy E. Jones announced in June that she would retire at the end of 2017. The board of directors immediately selected Executive Vice President Rose Bradshaw to succeed Jones. Since 2009, when Jones joined the Community Foundation, assets have increased by $174 million, 140 percent.

“It’s such a perfect time for the Community Foundation because of Rose’s knowledge, her expertise and her strong reputation in the community; it just seemed natural,” Jones said.

Jones previously was the founding president of the Community Foundation of Abilene, growing that organization from an initial base of $750,000 to $80 million in endowed assets. She holds a doctorate in business administration, finance and organizational theory from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, and a degree in economics from the University of Southern California.

Bradshaw has worked with philanthropists, foundations, corporations and nonprofits in San Francisco, New York and Chicago. She is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago.



After being on hold for about a year, 2017 saw the construction on the Trinity River Vision bridges resume. Originally estimated for completion at the end of 2018, the bridges are now expected to be finished in 2019. The bridges are part of the TRV project, and for TRV, 2018 will include continued bridge construction, demolition of the RadioShack storage building and more development announcements. The bridges are being built over dry land before the Trinity River is re-routed as the project continues.



This hurricane season Texas, Florida and the Caribbean saw a devastating onslaught of storms, but when the going got tough, the tough in North Texas came together to offer donations, services and shelter to those in need.


Writer Brett Hoffman’s article “From TCU to rodeo: Bailey anchors Horned Frog sports” was the Fort Worth Business Press’ most active post on social media for 2017. The post featuring the article reached 13,222 people and was clicked on 1,085 times. It also drew 393 reactions, comments and shares. The article profiled 63-year-old Ross Bailey, Texas Christian University’s senior associate athletics director for operations.

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