Jim Austin is a familiar sight around Fort Worth. As owner of The Austin Company Commercial Real Estate, and as a private citizen, he has long pushed economic growth in Southeast Fort Worth.
His recent ventures include the Austin Event Center and Jim’s Java and More.
The Austin Event Center is a 10,000-square-foot rental space available for banquets, weddings, private events and more.
Austin also serves on the Neeley School of Business Board of Directors and employs interns from Texas Christian University, the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Wesleyan University. Working with his wife, Gloria, the two procure historical memorabilia and artifacts for their National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum.
Often seen with a cowboy hat, Austin didn’t start out in Texas. He was raised in North Carolina and New Jersey and at 18 he decided to attend Howard University.
As president of the Howard business school’s student body, he was recruited by a number of companies and eventually decided to join the American Express Management Training Program.
That decision brought him to Texas, where he eventually worked with broker Sam McCall. After working for McCall for two years, he launched The Austin Company Commercial Real Estate in 1981.
Recently Austin has been involved in other urban ventures in Fort Worth. In November, he helped Mercury Chophouse relocate to new quarters in downtown Fort Worth. He is current seeking buyers for what may be one of the hottest real estate areas of the city: 13 acres in the Panther Island project with plenty of riverfront area.
Austin took a little time to visit with the FWBP, providing insight into his life and career.
Was going into the business world always on the back of your mind through college, or was it just how it worked out?
Once I transferred from the school of pharmacy to the school of business I immediately fell in love with it. I started doing sales for the school directory. I interviewed with 20 companies and decided to go to work for American Express. Upon working for them I realized my real want was to become an entrepreneur.
What did you see that others didn’t to help revitalize Southeast Fort Worth?
Getting in commercial real estate at that time, over 35 years ago, there weren’t that many people interested in Southeast Fort Worth. In fact, I probably held over 50 percent of the listings and felt there was really an opportunity to do work in an area where many people didn’t see an opportunity. A lot of the commercial brokers would send me referrals, but now market is up and there is a different psyche.
With an upbringing in North Carolina and New Jersey, what kept you in Texas once you got here? Was it simply business or did you fall in love with the state?
Doing business in Texas, the best kept secret in the world, not any more. It’s one of the fastest growing markets in the world. That’s why I resigned from American Express, to do business in Texas. I fell in love with the state and the way that they do business and the kind of folks that live here. Lots of real estate to sell.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Some of my land assemblages for the health department. I put nine blocks together right on the corner of Rosedale and Main Street. I did that for JPS Hospital. Also, putting together the Evans-Rosedale corridor. But I guess being appointed to the Texas Real Estate Commission by then-Gov. George Bush was probably one of my biggest accomplishments, serving for eight years.
If you could travel and have a conversation with any character in history, who would it be and why?
If I could meet someone and get to pick their brain it would probably be Dr. Martin Luther King, as one of my heroes and a man who stood for justice and meant so much in this world.
What’s ahead for Jim Austin?
Building a team. To share what I have learned over the years. Also, supporting my museum, the Western Heritage Museum, making sure it does what it’s supposed to do and educate the people about the great things the cowboys of color have done.