Mike Berry: Big Deals and Job Gains for DFW

Mike Berry

As we move solidly into the final quarter of 2011, the Hillwood team is seeing some promising activity, which I believe will bode well for the larger North Texas commercial real estate market. In particular, there has been renewed interest in the industrial and manufacturing sectors, which until recently had been in somewhat of a holding pattern.

Last week, RealPoints announced that Kohl’s will be building a massive, 1 million-square-foot e-commerce distribution facility at Hillwood’s Crossroads Trade Center in DeSoto. Adding close to 400 new jobs (200 permanent and nearly 200 seasonal and temporary positions) and increasing Dallas County’s tax base by nearly $60 million, this is terrific news for the DeSoto area and our local governments.

The Kohl’s news came on the heels of more good news from GE Transportation, which is increasing its commitment to the Alliance market in North Fort Worth by adding an additional 160 jobs at a new mining equipment plant that will be located next door to the new GE locomotive plant announced earlier this year. These represent high-paying manufacturing positions, and this announcement brings the total number of potential North Texas jobs from GE Transportation to more than 900.

From an AllianceTexas perspective, October turned out to be a very big month for us, with the completion of one of the region’s single biggest construction projects: Deloitte University, our newest corporate resident at the Circle T Ranch. The long-awaited opening of the 712,000-square-foot global training center took place on October 17, and is already hosting Deloitte employees from around the world. Each year, the five-star facility (which features 800 guest rooms, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom and 71 classrooms and meeting spaces) will bring more than 45,000 of the company’s employees annually to the North Texas region, and will have an enormous impact on our local economy.

That same day, executives from FedEx Freight, the heavy-cargo hauling arm of its parent company, were at AllianceTexas to celebrate the opening of the company’s 17-acre, 41,000-square-foot facility. The new service center features 79 loading docks and more than 6,500 square feet of office space, adding more than 115 jobs to the 700 employees already based at the FedEx Southwest sort hub at AllianceTexas.

All of this good news is coming at a time when the overall economic impact of AllianceTexas to the North Texas region is approaching $40 billion. We were very proud that economist Ray Perryman recently called Fort Worth Alliance Airport one of the “top 10 biggest events” in Texas’ economic history.

However, I should point out that we encounter many of the same challenges faced elsewhere in the U.S commercial real estate market. Completing deals seems to be taking longer than in the years before the recession, with financing continuing to be a challenge for the industry as a whole. And, during the lag time between deals, we’ve been working very hard to ensure completion of important infrastructure projects, such as the expansion of Interstate 35-W from downtown Fort Worth to Denton County, and a potential commuter rail line from downtown Fort Worth to the Alliance region.

With nearly half a million people living and working in the corridor now, and AllianceTexas only 40 percent built out, it is essential for us to keep our community mobile. We’ll remain vigilant in that task!

Serving as president of Hillwood Properties, Mike Berry leads development efforts the 17,000-acre AllianceTexas development north of Fort Worth.