Mike Berry regards himself as a fortunate guy who has been blessed with amazing opportunities.
In his career, he has the chance to be directly involved with the growth and development of AllianceTexas, an 18,000-acre master-planned mixed-used community anchored around a multi-model inland port known as the Alliance Global Logistics Hub.
The sprawling development includes homes, offices, retail stores, restaurants and industrial spaces and has been recognized as one of the most unique and trendsetting master-planned communities in the United States.
But, when he was growing up in Fort Worth, the thriving development was nothing more than an expanse of wide-open space hovering between the Fort Worth Stockyards and Denton.
“For me personally, to have been part of this and to be able to do this in my hometown is incredible,” Berry said. “Most people would be happy to move long distances to have a dream job and I was able to have that in my hometown.”
Berry, 58, heads two divisions of Hillwood, the developer of AllianceTexas. He serves as president of Hillwood Properties, where he leads development efforts of AllianceTexas. In his role as president of Hillwood Urban, he is focused on development sites in downtown and Uptown Dallas as well as new investment and development opportunities across North Texas.
Berry’s imprint on the North Fort Worth landscape and other areas of North Texas has earned him numerous honors and awards throughout his career. But none is as close to his heart as his latest honor of being selected as the 2017 recipient of the Exchange Club of Fort Worth’s Golden Deeds Award. He will receive the award May 10 at a dinner at the Fort Worth Club.
The award puts him the company of some of Fort Worth’s most distinguished citizens, including his grandfather, who received the honor in 1963.
“I could not think of a better honor for the tireless efforts Mike Berry puts forth on behalf of the community of Fort Worth and North Texas,” said Ross Perot Jr. “Mike is committed to bettering our community and I am proud to join others in congratulating him on this recognition.”
Berry’s grandfather, Clay Berry Sr., developed and managed significant downtown Fort Worth buildings for Houston-based Jesse Jones Interests. Berry recalls spending Saturday mornings with his grandfather at the office opening mail and walking through the Oil & Gas Commerce building, the Electric Building, the Medical Arts building and the Worth Hotel.
“He was a great role model to me and a great man so this makes the honor very special to me,” Berry said of his grandfather.
Little did he know that someday he would make his own mark in real estate and development.
Berry comes from a close-knit family that takes pride in its Fort Worth roots. His father, Sam, was a successful stockbroker and his uncle, Clay Jr., was a partner at a major Fort Worth insurance company.
Berry attended Fort Worth Country Day and then spent one year at Arlington Heights High School before transferring to Episcopal High School in Virginia for college preparatory studies. He chose Vanderbilt University, where he became good friends with Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brother Ross Perot Jr.
After graduation, Berry returned to Fort Worth and enrolled in the MBA program at Texas Christian University while Perot went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force.
Berry was in graduate school during the development boom years of the early 1980s and was fortunate to land an internship with Woodbine Development Corp., a Dallas-based development company owned by billionaire Ray Hunt.
After earning his MBA, Berry’s internship became a full-time position with Woodbine as the firm was working to develop a presence in Fort Worth through the development of projects such as Continental Plaza and Fossil Creek.
Berry’s job of leasing space in the new Continental Plaza put him under the tutelage of industry legend John Scovell, who instilled in him the benefits of teamwork, customer service and importance of public-private partnerships.
While working for Woodbine, Berry met his future wife, Marilyn French, and the two married in 1985.
Meanwhile, Perot returned from duty and was approached by the FAA about building a general aviation airport on the vast acreage the Perot family owned north of Fort Worth. Already ensconced in a successful real estate career, Berry balked when Perot asked him to help him with the project because of his real estate background and Fort Worth connections.
But Berry eventually grasped the opportunity before him and joined The Perot Group, now Hillwood, on July 9, 1988.
The Perot team recognized the potential for developing not a general aviation airport but an industrial airport even though nothing of the sort “existed in the FAA’s vernacular,” Berry said. In 1989, Fort Worth Alliance Airport opened as the country’s first industrial airport, the result of a public-private partnership between the FAA, the city of Fort Worth and the Perot firm.
The airport’s earliest tenants included American Airlines, which operated its maintenance base there along with Lockheed Martin (then General Dynamics) and Bell Helicopter.
Berry said one of the projects he is most proud of is also one of the most complex he has been involved in – the decision by BNSF Railway to create an intermodal hub at Alliance. It was a project that transformed Alliance from an industrial airport into the nation’s first inland port.
“It was a huge, huge deal and a real game-changer for us,” Berry said. Now known as the Alliance Global Logistics Hub, the facility, including the airport, is a major logistics and supply chain provider for many industries beyond aviation and aerospace.
The success of the inland port has spurred development of a city within a city. AllianceTexas is now home to 470 companies that have spread across 43 million square feet. The development has generated more than $64 billion in economic impact and created more than 47,500 jobs.
And there is still more to come as Alliance emerges as a significant center as it welcomes Facebook’s $1 billion data center.
Berry, who arrived as the first shovel of dirt was being turned on the airport, is proud to have been a part of it all.
For his many accomplishments, Berry has been recognized by many organizations including induction in the North Texas Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame and the Fort Worth Business Hall of Fame. He received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Long Council of the Boy Scouts of America and has served as chairman of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. He has also served on many local board, include TCU, the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association and the Texas Business Leadership Council.
We asked Berry for some personal reflection of his life and career:
What is your business philosophy?
Operate with integrity at all times; customer first; be entrepreneurial; quality attracts quality
Who have been strong influences on your life?
My father, Sam Berry; my grandfather, Clay Berry Sr.; former Mayor Bob Bolen
Tell us about your family.
I am blessed with five beautiful women. My wife, Marilyn, and my four daughters, Kristen, Kendall, Samantha and Annette. We are very close and have much of our fun going to sporting events and Camp Berry at Eagle Mountain Lake.
Tell us about your hobbies.
Boating/lake, hunting, golf
Tell us what you enjoy most about Fort Worth.
Big city with its original culture and personality still intact. The people!