BusinessDallas Everybody’s BUSINESS


Everybody knows OnStar, the nifty, on-board computer system that GM offers in its cars. Well, a Texas-based company has a technology that actually pre-dates OnStar and is offered in Fords, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Lincolns, and Infinitis. ATX Technologies was originally a division of Westinghouse. But when West-inghouse decided to concentrate on its CBS broadcasting division, ATX was given its freedom. Since then, the company has attracted the attention of an 800-pound gorilla in the communications business, Mannesmann TeleCommerce GmbH-the German division of 1,200-pound gorilla, UK-based Vodafone AirTouch Plc-which purchased 20 percent of ATX.

CEO Steve Millstein ultimately wants to take ATX public, but in the meantime, the company continues to expand the capabilities of its own system. Like OnStar, ATX provides satellite-based emergency roadside assistance and tracks stolen vehicles. And if your teenager is out in the car, well, you can track them, too. Millstein says that one of the secret pleasures of the business is that he gets to see new cars well before the public. Jaguars and Mercedes and the like are routinely delivered to the ATX facility just north DFW Airport so they can be outfitted with the latest in hi-tech gadgetry before they are shipped off to car shows. Millstein was recently driving one of the new models down LBJ when a policeman pulled him over. He knew he wasn’t speeding. Turns out that the officer just wanted to know was what kind of car Millstein was driving.


Dallas Social Venture Partners is a venture capital outfit launched by 30 wealthy Dallas business leaders who have pooled their money and their expertise to help not-for-profit start-ups. The partners made two-year financial and volunteer commitments to the group. Such Dallas new media players as Louis Borelli, CEO of iSoft, and Jeff Marcus, CEO of eVentures, have ponied up.

Partners each put up a minimum $5,000 a year for two years. Anybody can join, but this isn’t just check writing: Partners are expected to work with the recipients just as VCs work with fledgling companies. If you’ve been feeling guilty that you’re taking more than you’re giving, give a call to Chad Coben at eVentures (214-777^140). So far, it looks like your money and your time is needed: One hundred different nonprofits have contacted them- since April. If you want to learn more, check out the web site at

One local company is testing cell phones in vending machines. They aren’t competition for Southwestern Bell’s payphones; they’re reporting devices. Sending a route man out to every vending machine to see if it needs replenishing or more change costs a lot of money. This device allows the company to place a ’’call” to the machine and finds out what the route man would have discovered.

In Europe, they’ve taken the concept a step further. Many machines have telephone numbers posted on them, The customer calls the machine, enters the number that corresponds to the desired item, opens the machine and retrieves it, and pays for it on his phone bill.

Think you have trouble explaining all these 976 calls on your bill? Just wait till your spouse sees 30 Little Debbie snack cakes next to the calls to Grandma.


Did you see all those television ads for the yellow robotic mower this summer? The company that makes and sells the little bugger has its North American headquarters in Las Colinas. Friendly Robotics says the mower has already become a “cultural phenomenon” in Europe. Occupying the front cover of the gadget bible Hammacher-Schlemmer catalog, the 42-pound mower sells for $795 and is beginning to sweep (or at least mulch) the nation. The mower runs on rechargeable batteries and uses an on-board computer with ultrasonic sensors and sensitivity bumpers. You lay out a “perimeter wire” and the robot knows that it must stay within the confines of that space, like some people do with their dogs. Think of it as an electronic goat.

So, what’s next? The Friendly people say they’re looking to robotize snow blowers, vacuum cleaners, and steam carpet cleaners.



Number of new business projects-including expansions, consolidations, relocations, and startups-announced in 1999 by area cities and economic development organizations.


Number of new jobs created in 1999 as a result of new business projects in Dallas-Fort Worth.

36 million

Number of square feet of office space absorbed in 1999 as a result of new business projects in Dallas-Fort Worth.


Number of expansions announced in 1999.


Number of new jobs created by expansions in 1999.

21.4 million

Amount of office space absorbed by expansions in 1999.


Number of business startups announced in 1999.


Number of new jobs created by business startups in 1999.

SOURCE: The Economic Development Report compiled by the Greater Dallas Chamber Research Department.

Stockbroker David Johnson has covered the Dallas business scene for more than 20 years for WFAA-TV Channel 8. KRLD radio . 1080-AM, and for I Public Radio Inter-naiional’s Marketplace.


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