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Opinion America’s homebuilder moves to home of America’s team

America’s homebuilder moves to home of America’s team

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Robert Francis
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.

D. R. Horton new headquarters

1361 Wet-N-Wild Way

150,000 square feet of office space

500 parking space

Investment: $20 million plus

Job: about 500

Incentives: Arlington will provide $5.5 million in three grant payments primarily in the form of drainage improvements and a deceleration lane along the frontage road

Requirements:

* D.R. Horton must provide a minimum of 350 jobs

* Conduct annual shareholder meeting in Arlington

• Maintain its headquarters in Arlington for at least 14 years, but to get the full amount it must remain there for 20 years.

There been plenty to cheer about in Arlington lately and not all the cheering has been for the revitalized Texas Rangers or Dez Bryant’s new contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

The city that has grabbed attention by landing major league sports teams and entertainment venues has suddenly scored some impressive economic development wins: a $1.4 billion investment in GM’s Arlington plant, a revitalized downtown and now the latest news, luring America’s homebuilder, D.R. Horton, from Fort Worth.

It’s that last score that saw less cheering from the sidelines in Fort Worth. The deal sees a longtime Fort Worth-based Fortune 500 firm with about 500 jobs head east, leaving a hole in downtown commercial space. Granted, it’s technically a move back to Arlington, where the company had its headquarters from 1993 to 2004, when it signed a 10-year lease for eight floors at City Center Tower 2, soon renamed D.R. Horton Tower.

But if Arlington wanted bragging rights, it got them.

“They are the No. 1 home builder in America,” said Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams following the city council’s Aug. 4 vote to approve $5.5 million in incentives for D.H. Horton. “This is the opportunity to spread the word – and we need your help – that companies value coming to Arlington, Texas. We are in an incredible location in the center of North Texas by the gateway to D/FW Airport.”

Williams then noted the GM announcement and said, “We want to continue this momentum as we move ahead. It is a landmark night as we bring D.R. Horton back home into our community.”

“D.R. Horton’s return to Arlington is exactly the type of transformative development that we envision for our Entertainment District,” said Economic Development Committee Chair and District 7 Councilman Jimmy Bennett. “The addition of quality, class A office product by a Fortune 500 company puts us well on our way to creating a central business district surrounded by Arlington’s world-class amenities, right in the heart of the Metroplex.”

The area where D.R. Horton is moving, Interstate 30 and North Collins, lies in the heart of a prime development site for the city. In April, Trammell Crow Company entered into an agreement with the city of Arlington to serve as the developer of an 18-plus acre site located on I-30 and Collins. The site has the ability to accommodate up to 1 million square feet of premier, Class A office space.

Aggressive

Arlington is likely not through with its new aggressiveness.

Revitalized with a new business-oriented mayor, the city council has been working to establish an Arlington Economic Development Corp. as another tool for business development in the city of 365,438.

For Sundance Square officials, losing the tower’s namesake may not have huge implications financially.

“Although we are sad to see D.R. Horton leave downtown Fort Worth, we anticipate significant interest in this high profile Class A office space,” said Tracy Gilmour, marketing director for Sundance Square, owner of the two City Center Towers.

While 180,000 square feet is a lot of space to fill, Downtown Fort Worth may not need to worry. With an office occupancy rate near 90 percent, downtown has absorbed more than 221,000 square feet of office space that came with Sundance Square Plaza in 2014.

D.R. Horton officials haven’t spoken publically as to why they decided to move the company’s headquarters, only issuing a statement from the company’s founder and current chairman, Donald Horton: “The proposed relocation of our company will provide us with a new, company-owned headquarters that is conveniently located in the heart of North Texas with great access to D/FW

International Airport. We look forward to returning to Arlington.”

The plans to move aren’t sudden. D.R. Horton acquired the land in 2013, according to Arlington city officials.

Horton founded his namesake company in 1978 and has grown to become the largest homebuilder in the country. The company weathered the recent recession with little trouble and recently reported third quarter results that beat analysts’ estimates as the company sold more properties at higher values.

Net income increased to $221.4 million, or 60 cents a share, for the three months through June 30 from $113.1 million, or 32 cents, a year earlier.

For Fort Worth economic development officials, the timing of D.R. Horton’s announcement could hardly have come at a worse time. The city in July pulled off a string of economic home runs that would be the envy of any city in the country.

In early July, Facebook broke ground on a data center in north Fort Worth expected to generate up to 100 new jobs and the potential to surpass $1 billion in capital investment. Later in July, London-based Smith & Nephew Inc. said it plans to make Fort Worth the U.S. headquarters of its Advanced Wound Management division, bringing at least 50 jobs to the city. Meanwhile, skin care products producer Galderma Laboratories LP said it would make a $13.8 million, 100,000-square-foot addition to its north Fort Worth headquarters, creating at least 342 new jobs. And York, England-based NiteSite confirmed plans in July to move into leased Fort Worth space to distribute its night vision firearms products.

And, just north of Fort Worth, in Northlake, Farmer Bros. Co. announced in May plans for a $40 million headquarters with over 300 jobs.

According to several officials, Fort Worth made attempts to keep America’s largest homebuilder, but were hampered by several factors, among them the fact that D.R. Horton was leasing space in the city and did not own property here.

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