03/19/2014

Fort Worth's Renfro Foods named finalist for U.S. Chamber award

Fort Worth-based Renfro Foods, Inc. Wednesday was named one of seven regional finalists for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award.

The salsa maker represents the Southwest and South Central region. The selection is made on exceptional business practices and community involvement.

“These businesses are examples of the powerful contributions small businesses can make not only in their communities and their states, but also more broadly to the country’s economic recovery,” U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement. “The Chamber is happy to honor these regional finalists for the policies and achievements that have made them leaders among small businesses and a driver of job creation, economic growth, and opportunity.”

The winner will be named at the 10th Annual America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C. June 11-13. The winner receives a $10,000 cash prize.

The finalists include American Custom Exteriors & Interiors in Rochester, N.Y.; Quality Float Works in Schaumburg, Ill.; Xylo Technologies in Rochester, Minn.; Sanderson Stewart in Billings, Mont.; Modernizing Medicine in Boca Raton, Fla.,; and, Cuisine Unlimited Catering & Special Events in Salt Lake City.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses.

_ Sandra Baker

03/18/2014

BNSF planning to add 5,000 workers in 2014 as railroad expands

Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway plans to hire 5,000 workers this year as part of a $5 billion investment in the railroad, Carl Ice, the company's new president and CEO, said this morning during an interview on CNBC.

Ice, who recently took over the CEO post from Matt Rose, said the new jobs will be spread across the railroad's many functions but that the biggest number will be in train crews to serve its growing business. The company is also adding 500 locomotives and recently announced plans to purchase 5,000 next-generation tank cars to haul crude oil from fields such as the Bakken Shale.

Ice said the U.S. economy is showing broad-based growth and that BNSF wouldn't argue with economists who estimate that GDP is growing at a rate of 2.5% a year or more. He said there was a surge in commodity shipments in the fourth quarter, such as grain, oil and coal, but that severe winter weather slowed down momentum in the early part of 2014.

Rose is now executive chairman of BNSF, which is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. The company has more than 41,000 employees.

-- Steve Kaskovich

 

 

03/17/2014

Livability.com names downtown Fort Worth No. 1 for 2014

Downtown Fort Worth tops Livability.com’s best downtowns for 2014.

Livability.com likes the horses, wagon and longhorn steers paraded through downtown, but it also cited downtown’s residential and commercial growth in its selection for the No. 1 spot.

“Few downtowns have achieved the cohesion between cowboy culture and urban sophistication that Fort Worth has,” the online resource said. “City and community leaders support a number of rehabilitation and improvement projects that help bring in more businesses, create a more walkable environment and ease traffic congestion.” 

The website noted a 2.6 percent drop in retail vacancy from 2012 to 2013 in downtown, a 3.3 percent average income growth, and 6.6 percent unemployment.

Livability.com said the Top 10 downtowns list is based on such things as retail and office vacancy rates, population gains, income growth and the ratio of people who live and work in the downtown, but also what people are saying about the area.

Following Fort Worth is, Providence as No. 2; Indianapolis; Provo; Alexandria, Va.; Frederick, Maryland; Fort Lauderdale; Bellingham, Wash.; Eugene, Oregon; and, Birmingham Ala., in the tenth spot.

_ Sandra Baker

03/14/2014

TPG lending unit files to go public

TPG Specialty Lending, which says it provides financing to mid-size companies, said in a regulatory filing that it intends to go public next week. The company was formed in July 2010 and is part of TPG Capital, the big private equity firm founded by former Robert M. Bass advisors that include David Bonderman and James Coulter.  TPG  Specialty Lending says it has co-chief executive officers: Michael Fishman and Joshua Easterly, and lists its headquarters in Fort Worth. In its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, TPG Specialty Lending said it expects to issue 7 million shares at between $16 and $17 a share, or up to $136.9 million before expenses.

According the company's filing, it had just over $1 billion in outstanding investments at year's end to what it describes as highly leveraged companies. It reported $90.4 million in interest income on those investments in 27 portfolio companies, and said its average yield on those investments as of Dec. 31 was 10.4 percent at fair market value. It also holds some equity securities in eligible portfolio companies.

TPG Specialty Lending does business as a Business Development Co., which can be either publicly held or private, but in any event is regulated by the SEC. They distribute most of their earnings as dividends to shareholders. According to its SEC filing, TPG Specialty Lending last year declared a stock dividend of $1.56 a share.

-- Jim Fuquay

 

03/13/2014

Study: Texas gained 6,368 jobs in 2013 from clean energy and transportation

Texas projects involved in clean energy production and energy-efficient transportation projects added 6,368 positions last year, according to a new report by Environmental Entrepreneurs. The state ranked No. 2, behind California's 15,397 jobs. One example cited among the eight projects in Texas was the 80-turbine, 165-megawatt Cameron Wind farm in South Texas announced by Apex Clean Energy, which could create more than 200 jobs.

The study looked at jobs in power generation and manufacturing, building efficiency, public transportation and other sectors. It counted more than 78,600 jobs nationally at newly announced projects, projects under construction or job additions at existing projects. The report said 32,500 jobs were power-related, with solar power was the biggest in that sector with more than 21,600 jobs.

Texas was No. 1 nationally in new jobs in the fourth quarter, the report said, with about 3,286 jobs, including 1,400 in five different wind power projects. Texas is No. 1 in wind power capacity, with more than 11,000 megawatts.

It's the second year for the study, which listed more than 100,000 jobs in 2012. The decline could be related to a change in methodology, the group said. Environmental Entrepreneurs describes itself as a national group of business leaders who promote sound environmental policy and economic prosperity. Its web site is here.

-- Jim Fuquay

 

Texas wind power cutting emissions, environmental group says

A new study says Texas' renewable energy standards have been by far the biggest contributors to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The study, released today by Environment Texas, estimates that the state has reduced GHG emissions by nearly 20 million tons in 2012, of which 12.6 million tons came from policies mandating electricity production from renewable sources, a requirement largely filled with wind power. Texas is the  nation's biggest producer of electricity from wind, and last year wind supplied nearly 10 percent of all the electricity used in the state. Also contributing to lower GHG emissions were energy-efficiency requirements and other state and federal policies, the study said. The study said that nationally, emissions of carbon dioxide declined more than 12 percent between 2007 and 2012.

-- Jim Fuquay

03/11/2014

ERCOT details outages during Jan. 6 cold snap

It's good that the operator of the state's largest power grid is able to show exactly where the problems are when power gets in short supply during unusual circumstances, but it doesn't always inspire total confidence in the system. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas on Friday released a report on the Jan. 6 cold snap that pushed ERCOT into what it calls a Level 2 Energy Emergency Alert. By the end of the day, 97 power generation units around ERCOT's system had experienced some sort of issue - tripped offline, failed to start or were derated (saw their output decline). Problems according to ERCOT's report included:

  • Generator outages specifically tied to the weather hit units representing 3,541 megawatts of capacity. The bulk of that, units with close to 3,000 megawatts of capacity, reported "frozen instrumentation." (A unit is an individual machine generating electricity; there can be several units at large power plants.)
  • Another 1,643 megawatts, all at natural gas-fired units, were unavailable because of restrictions in their supply of fuel.
  • More than 30 wind farms said were out because their turbines reached their "low temperature limit." Lindsay North, a spokeswoman at the American Wind Energy Association, said that's related to the performance of lubricants and concerns about brittleness of components in Texas wind turbines, which don't have the same cold-hardened designs used in colder climates. North noted that “wind was only 5.7 percent of the capacity taken offline by the cold, even though wind is about 15 percent of the state’s capacity, so wind energy fared far better than the average for other fuel types."

 All told, 9,355 megawatts of capacity was unavailable when the emergency alert was first issued.

In comparison, ERCOT enters a Level 1 Energy Emergency Alert when it has less than 2,300 megawatts of capacity in reserve, meaning that generation supply is available if needed. ERCOT goes to Level 2 when that reserve drops to 1,750 megawatts, and the response includes calling on users that have agreed to have their power curtailed at such times. Level 3 is rotating blackouts, where local utilities drop customer load piecemeal.

ERCOT said it underestimated demand going into Jan. 6 by about 2,400 megawatts, although by 4 a.m. that morning it's expected load "was closer to the actual load for most of the day," owing to updated temperature forecasts.

-- Jim Fuquay

 

 

03/10/2014

Bank of America to cut 156 jobs in North Texas

Bank of America plans to lay off 156 workers in North Texas, including 36 at an office on Amon Carter Boulevard in Fort Worth, it told the state in four WARN notices today. The Fort Worth layoff and two others, one in Addison and one in Plano, are effective April 13, while a fourth, in Richardson, is effective April 23. A bank representative wasn't immediately available to elaborate on which operations are affected. Bank of America has previously announced cuts in its mortgage operation and in technology.

-- Jim Fuquay

03/05/2014

ERCOT sees slim power reserve going into summer

The scheduled arrival of four new power plants in early summer should mean adequate electricity supplies this summer, although conservation could be needed if temperatures are high before those new plants come online, says the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, the state's largest power grid. ERCOT said peak summer demand could top 68,000 megawatts, just short of the 2011 record peak. “We typically experience highest demand later in the summer,” said Warren Lasher, ERCOT's director of system operations. “If the new generating plants become commercially available as scheduled, we expect to have sufficient reserves to serve anticipated peak demand.” That outlook uses ERCOT's historical method of counting just 8.7 percent of wind power capacity, which it is considering upgrading significantly. Last week ERCOT said it had lowered its outlook for power demand in future years, a move that improved the grid's reserve margin.

-- Jim Fuquay

03/04/2014

Fort Worth-Arlington home prices rise nearly 9 percent in January, says CoreLogic

Fort Worth-Arlington home prices rose 8.6 percent in January from a year ago, according to the latest CoreLogic Home Price Index released Tuesday.

Home prices nationwide increased 12 percent in January in the index, which shows 23 months of consecutive year-over-year increases, CoreLogic said.

Texas, Louisiana and Nebraska set new record high home prices peaks in January, the report said.

 "Polar vortices and a string of snow storms did not manage to weaken house price appreciation in January," said Mark Fleming, CoreLogic’s chief economist. "The last time January month-over-month and year-over-year price appreciation was this strong was at the height of the housing bubble in 2006."

Anand Nallathambi, CoreLogic’s CEO, said home prices should continue to increase, particularly in the spring selling season.

“Excluding distressed sales, all 50 states and the District of   Columbia showed year-over-year home price appreciation for January. "

_ Sandra Baker

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