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Fort Worth

Shifting Ownership: Businesses change as outside investment comes to Fort Worth

 

Robert Francis

rfrancis@bizpress.net

 

The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign earlier this year to raise an extra $500,000 to boost its economic development efforts to increase workforce initiatives and international recruitment. The chamber’s economic development efforts, now redubbed Forward Fort Worth, will have an annual budget of $1.5 million, up from $1 million, said David Berzina, executive vice president for economic development for the chamber. The funds for these economic development programs are raised privately, not with public dollars, chamber officials noted. Since the Fort Worth Chamber began economic development work in 1989, it has influenced more than 1,100 business relocations or expansions creating about 250,000 jobs, according to the organization. In the past five years, the chamber’s 56 economic development projects created 12,701 jobs and $1.8 billion in capital investment, officials said. Berzina said several cities that compete with Fort Worth have much larger economic development budgets. Tulsa’s economic development budget is about $3.5 million and Austin’s is more than $4 million, he said. Mayor Betsy Price, who went on an international trip to South America to promote North Texas, noted the interest in Fort Worth in international markets. “There’s real progress being made in China, Australia, Brazil, Peru – even in Peru people were really interested – those are major emerging markets for us and we’ve come a long way,” said Price. The Fort Worth Business Press’ Top 100 list and the accompanying Top Public Companies list provide a snapshot of the North Texas economy that indicates the results of many of those efforts.

While the Top 100 list and the Top Public list offer clear evidence of the economic health of the area, there are several top employers that don’t appear on either list. In the health care field, for instance, many companies are nonprofit, such as Arlington-based Texas Health Resources, which employs about 18,866. That’s a massive economic impact. Also in the health care field, DFB Pharmaceuticals Inc., was No. 10 on our Top 100 Private Companies list in 2012, but was acquired by a public company last year, London-based Smith & Nephew. Disappearing from our Top 100 list this year is Euless-based Odyssey One Source Inc., which was No. 6 on the list in 2012. It was acquired by Florida-based CoAdvantage. Odyssey One Source is a human resources outsourcing company with about 4,100 area employees. In both cases, the new parent companies are maintaining a large presence in Tarrant County. That was certainly the case with Weir Group plc, an engineering company headquartered in Glasgow, Scotland. In 2007, Weir acquired Fort Worth-based SPM Flow Control Inc. for $653 million. In 2011, the company announced a $40 million capacity expansion. Of course, the champion of investing in Fort Worth companies is Warren Buffett. The Oracle of Omaha’s Berkshire Hathaway corporation operates more than 80 businesses that produce revenues of more than $140 billion. His Fort Worth companies include BNSF Railway, Justin Brands, Acme Brick, TTI and Mouser Electronics. Those five companies employ about 4,250 workers in Tarrant County.

Defense, too, plays a big role in the Fort Worth and North Texas economy. In Fort Worth, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.’s massive operations on the west side of town employ about 15,000 workers. The operation builds military aircraft including the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the C-130J Super Hercules airlifter, the F-117 Nighthawk, the F-22 Raptor and others. The company also has been awarded the contract to build the multiservice, multimission F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a project expected to keep lights on in the plant for many years. Near the Lockheed Martin plant is the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. By itself, it employs 11,350. Also playing a big role in the defense arena is Bell Helicopter Textron, a division of Textron Inc. With about 3,800 workers at its plant in east Fort Worth, Bell Helicopter produces commercial and military manned and unmanned vertical lift aircraft and tilt rotor aircraft. Bell is building a new global headquarters building in Fort Worth that is scheduled to be completed in March. General Motors has been a large employer in the area since opening a plant in Arlington in the 1960s. The plant, said to be one of the most efficient of GM’s auto plants, employs more than 4,000 workers. But in 2010, GM, then emerging from the recession, purchased Fort Worth’s AmeriCredit, which it uses to provide car loans through automobile dealerships to medium- and moderate-risk customers. GM Financial acquired Ally Financial’s auto finance and financial services operations outside of the U.S. earlier this year. Another General, General Electric, is also expanding its Fort Worth presence. GE Transportation has built a new locomotive plant in the Alliance development. The Fort Worth plant started building locomotives in January and is expected to employ as many as 550 workers as production ramps up.

Forward Fort Worth budget • 39 percent or $590,000 for domestic recruitment • 21 percent or $320,000 for talent attraction and development/education • 15 percent or $220,000 for existing industry • 14 percent or $210,000 for research • 11 percent or $160,000 for international recruitment  

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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