The Fort Worth Business Press honored the Top 100 businesses in Tarrant County on Wednesday, Dec. 1, handing out honors to several individuals and companies that have shown leadership and innovation.
The event’s presenting sponsor was BKD. Sustaining sponsors were The Kimbell Art Museum, D&M Leasing and United Way of Tarrant County. Entrepreneur sponsors were BMO Harris Bank, Interbank and Amber Shumake Photography.
Full stories about the honorees and the Top 100 list of the largest private companies in Tarrant County will be published in the Dec. 6 issue of the Business Press.
The honorees were:
Legacy of Business Leadership – Debbie Cooley, M-Pak Inc.
“My favorite mantra is, ‘Every part of your life shows up in every other part of your life,’” Cooley told the audience at Ridglea Country Club. “An example is, if you get fired from your job, you’re probably not too chatty around the dinner table that night or care about what your kids did. If you come home and your spouse has cleaned out your bank account and your furniture and your house, you’re probably not too alert at business the next day. So hence, every part of your life shows up in every other part. And everything happening in Fort Worth shows up in every other part of Fort Worth. While we have so much to be proud of, did you know that Tarrant County bounces between number two and three in incidences of child abuse in the state of Texas? That’s nothing to be proud of.”
Nonprofit CEO of the Year – Kara Waddell, Child Care Associates.
“I think we all know enough about young children to know that they’re not just cute,” Waddell said from the stage. “Their brains are growing at amazing rates of development. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be people to invest in young children. There’s been no greater pleasure than for Child Care Associates. Through our own work with 20 campuses, we work with about 1,800 children, families at 100% poverty. We also help pay for child care for about 12,000 low-income women and parents in the area. It’s our pleasure to be able to help give that boost that children need at a young place, as well as work with those families. Thanks for giving us that chance and opportunity. Thanks for recognizing the nonprofit sector as an area that that does require business savviness.”
Executive Leadership Award- Sloan Harris – VLK Architects.
Harris talked to the audience about what he learned during the pandemic.
“I wanted to stay positive, but I also wanted to acknowledge and be honest that I had no idea what was going to happen,” he said. “We had those meetings every Friday for a year, which at this time seems a little bit extreme, but at the moment, a weekly meeting with the entire company was definitely appropriate. Being able to have everybody come together and celebrate the victories we were having and to talk about some of the hardships we were having, I learned many things, several things, but two that I wanted to point out.
“First is acknowledging lack of control. Not that I can control these things before the pandemic, but I certainly realized I couldn’t control them during the pandemic. I can’t control the media. I cannot control the politics. I cannot control COVID-19. I could not control the CDC’s guidelines. I could not control the health department’s guidelines. I couldn’t control what the WHO was saying and all the things in between, but what I could control was what we were doing as a firm.
“I quickly and luckily acknowledged that I’m going to focus on what I can control and that’s service for our clients, the health of our employees, the happiness of our employees and the quality of our work.
“The second thing that I learned was empathy and truly understanding what empathy meant to me and the impact that empathy could have on my organization. And keep in mind, it wasn’t just a pandemic that was happening at this moment in time. There was a ton of other things that came to the forefront, rightfully so, regarding social justice, diversity, equality, equity.
“Everybody was experiencing different things in their lives and that notion of we’re all in this together … Can I use cuss words? Is that okay? Because, that’s bullshit. We weren’t all in it together. Everybody was experiencing COVID and other personal issues on a whole different level. And empathizing with that, to me, was the most important way that I could instill a sense of confidence amongst our employees.”
Economic Development – Brad Hickman, Hickman Family Investments; and Craig Cavileer, Majestic Realty.
Hickman talked to the audience about what has happened since redevelopment of the Stockyards began.
“It was eight years ago that we joined hands with Majestic Realty and decided to move forward with dad’s vision for the Stockyards,” he said. “We were really fortunate to get him hooked up with the right guys. They are very creative guys. Craig has been fantastic … We cannot have picked a better person to pick up dad’s vision and run forward with it than Craig Cavileer. He has really been amazing. Eight years ago, the Stockyards drew about two million people annually. We’re going to hit six million this year.”
Woman Owned Business – Debbie Frazier, etc group.
Innovation Award – Edward Morgan, Revitalize Charging Solutions.
Entrepreneur of the Year – Carter Johnson, XIT XTREME.
Spotlight Award – Fort Worth Film Commission.
Family Owned Business – Harris Packaging.
Realtor of the Year – Robbie Briggs, Briggs Freeman Realty.
Emerging Business Leader – Ahmad Goree, Muhlaysia Booker Foundation.
Business Advocate Award – Michael Moore, M3 Networks.