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33 posts from March 2012


Texas jobless rate drops to 7.1 percent in February

Texas added 27,900 jobs in February and the state’s unemployment dropped to 7.1 percent from 7.3 percent a month earlier and 8 percent a year ago, the Texas Workforce Commission said Friday.

Private employers added 15,100 jobs of the total, the commission said.

Over the last year, Texas added 273,900 jobs, the commission said.

"Texas’ job growth over the past year points to a steady and sustained expansion of our state’s economy," Tom Pauken, the Workforce Commission chairman, said in a release. "Texas has experienced positive annual job growth for the last 22 months, and that’s because Texas continues to be a great place to work and do business."

Eight of 11 major industry segments were up from a month earlier.

  •  Manufacturing was up 800 jobs over the month, and up 24,400 from a year ago.
  • Construction was up 4,500 jobs for the month and 8,100 from a year ago.
  • Trade, transportation and utilities was up 8,300 jobs from a month ago, and 68,300 from a year earlier.
  • Education and health services was up 3,800 jobs from a month ago, and up 49,500 jobs from a year earlier.
  • Financial activities was up 1,700 jobs from a montha go, and 16,000 from a year earlier.
  • Other services was up 1,300 jobs from a month ago, and 18,900 from a year earlier.
  • Government was up 12,800 from a month ago, and down 57,900 from a year earlier.
  • Information was up 800 jobs from a month ago, and down 1,800 from a year earlier.
  • Mining and logging was down 900 jobs from a month ago, and up 36,600 from a year ago.
  • Professional and business services was down 3,000 jobs from a month ago, and up 57,700 from a year earlier.
  • Leisure and hospitality was down 2,200 jobs from a month ago, and up 54,100 from a year earlier. 

Fort Worth-Arlington added 26,000 jobs from a year earlier, and the jobless rate was 7 percent in February, down from 8 percent a year earlier. - Scott Nishimura


Best Buy closing 50 big boxes, opening Mobile stores, refocusing resources

Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn says he’s not satisfied with the pace of change at his company, “especially considering the opportunities we have in the marketplace.”

So the company announced Thursday that it will close 50 Best Buy big box stores that “don’t meet our investment criteria” this year, open 100 Best Buy Mobile boutiques, and run a test in the Twin Cities and San Antonio in remodeling big box stores to Connected Stores. The Connected Stores will focus resources on computing and mobile solutions, in hardware, service and accessories, Dunn said. The stores will feature a “Central Knowledge Desk” in the center to help customers with services and instructions, and offer training and classes, he said.

Best Buy isn’t commenting further on which stores it’s closing, and where it’s opening the mobile stores, said Kelly Groehler, a spokesperson.

“We are working to ensure the impact to our employees will be as minimal as possible, while serving all customers in a convenient and satisfying way,” Groehler said. “We will announce details about specific store locations and timing for closings once they are finalized.”

- Scott Nishimura

Old St. Joseph Hospital property on south Main to come down beginning this summer

FORT WORTH — The Tarrant County Hospital District plans to spend about $5.5 million to tear down the vacant St. Joseph Hospital complex on south Main Street and begin the process this summer.

On Thursday, the tax increment finance district that helps with development on the near south side approved giving the hospital district $2.5 million toward that work. The money, $833,333, will be paid annually for three years beginning in June 2013.

Paul Paine, president of Fort Worth South, the nonprofit that manages the TIF district, in asking the TIF board to approve the expenditure, said a redevelopment of the property is cost-prohibitive. The property is also rapidly deteriorating after sitting vacant for nearly a decade, he said.

"We have looked at this thing for years," Paine said. "The building’s got to go. It’s rapidly becoming a safety issue. Let’s help them so it can be done now."

The tax-supported hospital district, which operates as the JPS Health Network, will start the demolition in the second quarter with an asbestos abatement. The demolition, though, will take about a year to complete because the 12-story building will be dismantled, and not taken down by implosion or a wrecking ball.

The complex consists of 10 buildings totaling about 570,000 square feet of space and covers 6 acres. A parking garage will not be torn down.

The hospital district bought the property in 2008 for $5.1 million from Diversified Capital in New Jersey. Diversified Capital bought the property out of foreclosure in 2005 and planned to redevelop the buildings into apartments, offices and shops.

John Peter Smith Hospital is across Main Street from the St. Joseph property.

The land will be converted to green space until the hospital district determines its expansion plans, and it will feature an exercise course, said Robert Earley, CEO and president of the JPS Health Network.

"We’ll put it to good use until the next building goes up," he said.

More than 20,000 bricks will be saved in the demolition and used to build a memorial, fountain or walkway to commemorate St. Joseph Hospital, Earley said.

St. Joseph Hospital was founded in by nuns in 1885 as Tarrant County’s first hospital. The property had been expanded several times during the past 100 years. In 1994, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. bought St. Joseph and closed the facilities a year later. The property was sold in 1997 to a California company that operated an Alzheimer’s center from a portion of it for about two years before going into bankruptcy.

A few small tenants continued to use the property until 2004, when they were forced to leave when the building’s cooling system failed.

_ Sandra Baker

Dunkin' Donuts, Jerry Jones, Troy Aikman team up on North Texas venture

Dunkin’ Donuts, which re-entered North Texas several years ago with plans for an aggressive expansion before encountering problems with locations and brand awareness, is hitching its star to two of the region’s highest-profile businesspeople and personalities: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman.

The company, Jones, and Aikman said Thursday morning they've entered a limited partnership that will initially own 11 of Dunkin' Donuts' 19 Metroplex stores, and serve as Dunkin' Donuts' primary expansion vehicle in the region.

The partnership agreements calls for up to 50 stores over five years, but Aikman called that a “minimum” and Jones said he views that number as a “starting point.”

Still to come: What kind of a public face Jones and Aikman, who won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys, will put on the venerable franchise.

“We clearly see this as a growth opportunity,” Nigel Travis, CEO of the Massachusetts restaurateur, which has more than 10,000 locations in 32 countries, said. “I think people identify very closely with Jerry, and Troy is a person a lot of people have great respect for. We’ve got three great partners, all of which bring a different piece to the partnership.”

Under their agreement, Dunkin’ Donuts, based in Massachusetts,  will operate the stores, and the Jones family and Aikman will be responsible for strategic planning, expansion and marketing.

In interviews, the three declined to disclose the financial terms of partnership.

“Obviously, there is a financial transaction, and everyone is looking for a return on their invesatment,” Travis said.

Jones said he thinks the partnership could eventually double or triple the 50 stores outlined in their agreement.

“That would be a goal of mine,” he said.

The partnership is unusual for Dunkin’ Donuts, whose business is heavily focused on franchises, and it’s only the company’s third joint venture, behind two others in Asia, Travis said.

The agreement grew out of a longtime friendship between the Jones family and Travis, former CEO of Papa John’s and former president of Blockbuster in Dallas. Papa John’s became the long-running Official Pizza of the Dallas Cowboys and Jones a joint owner of dozens of Texas Papa John’s, and Jones, Cowboys players, and cheerleaders have appeared in Papa John’s advertising.

Travis became Dunkin’ Donuts CEO little more than three years ago, and the company became the Official Coffee of the Cowboys in 2009.

Aikman said he became familiar with Dunkin’ Donuts as a board member of the Wingstop restaurant chain, serving with Jon Luther, who also is chairman of Dunkin’ Donuts parent Dunkin’ Brands.

“He and I got to talking about Dunkin’s interest in getting a bigger footprint west,” said Aikman, who also is a Wingstop investor and endorser.

Travis, Jones and Aikman said they haven’t yet sat down to discuss how to incorporate the personalities into the advertising and marketing for the stores.

They were quick to say what worked in the Papa John’s relationship might not work for Dunkin’ Donuts. But all three said they expect a meld of the personalities and Cowboys’ profile into the Dunkin’ Donuts marketing plan.

“You grow your brand through the association with other great brands,” Jones said.

“Jerry controls the Dallas Cowboys property; that’s something we may talk about,” Travis said. “Papa John’s did ads with the Cowboys; that could be part of it, but we’ve not discussed anything specific.”

After several years away, Dunkin’ Donuts re-entered North Texas in 2007, with plans to sell more than 100 franchise stores over several years. Those plans didn’t come to bear, and Dunkin’ Donuts ended up buying back the franchise stores that are part of its deal with Jones and Aikman.

The stores in the deal include two in Tarrant County – one on White Settlement Road in Fort Worth and another on Precinct Line Road in Hurst – and others in Dallas, Plano, Carrollton, Frisco, Rowlett, Highland Village, and McKinney. A 12th store, set to open in Southlake in mid-April, also is part of the package. The chain’s D/FW Airport stores are not part of the deal.

The partners said they see significant opportunity for new stores in growing parts of the Metroplex, as well as “infill” locations in more mature areas.

“It’s coffee, it’s tea,” said Jones, who recalled frequenting a Dunkin’ Donuts shop during his youth in Springfield, Mo. “It speaks to a lot of cultural aspects of our country and our commerce.”

Sixty percent of Dunkin’ Donuts sales come from beverages, and the rest from donuts, breakfast sandwiches, and other baked goods.

Aikman, as a sportscaster for Fox Sports, says he’s a regular consumer of Dunkin’ Donuts, consuming it out of a Keurig machine he bought.

The partnership will be Dunkin’ Donuts’ main growth vehicle in the North Texas area, which includes Dallas, Collin, Tarrant, Denton, Fannin and Grayson counties, Travis said.

Travis said he views the partnership as the gateway for the “Northeast-centric” company’s expansion in the South and Southwest.

- Scott Nishimura


Texas' service sector activity grew in March, but at slower pace, Dallas Fed says

Activity in Texas’ service sector increased in March, although some indicators suggested growth slowed, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported today in its monthly Texas Service Sector Outlook Survey.

Services represent 59 percent of the Texas economy, employing nearly 7 million workers.

The survey’s revenue index fell to 16.5 from 22.8, which “suggests revenue growth slowed slightly,” the Dallas Fed said.

Positive readings in the survey indicate expansion.

Labor market: “Indicators also reflected slower growth,” the Fed said. The employment index fell to 7.7, lowest in four months. The hours-worked index “edged down but remained in positive territory.”

Broader economy: General business conditions “remained strong but declined slightly.” The general business activity index moved down to 18.9, its fifth consecutive positive reading.

Indexes of future service sector activity “remained in positive territory,” the Fed said.

The survey’s retail component indicated retail sales rose to 22 from 17.5, “marking 10 consecutive months of sales increases. Inventories rose.”

- Scott Nishimura

Summer hiring outlook similiar to last year's, Snagajob says

Snagajob, the employment web site that specializes in hourly jobs, says in an annual outlook released Monday that this summer’s seasonal hiring is expected to be “at levels similiar to last year and much improved from the recession.”

“What’s more, hiring is expected to occur earlier in the season and teens will largely compete against themselves for jobs, with fewer experienced workers looking for summer employment,” Snagajob says in its report.

Findings from the fifth annual survey of 1,000 hourly hiring managers, with responsibility for summer hiring:

Hiring levels: “Three in 10 hiring managers expect to hire the same as last year. Similar to last year, one in 10 hiring managers expects to hire more staff.” Sixteen percent of hiring managers will hire fewer workers. About 45 percent of hiring managers don’t intend to make any hires, “consistent with last year’s findings.” In the 2008 survey during the recession, 49 percent of hiring managers expected to not make any summer hires.

Hiring schedule: 13 percent of hiring managers said they filled their positions in February, and 11 percent will complete hiring this month. Twenty three percent expected to finish hiring in April. “All told, 79 percent of summer hiring will be complete by the end of May,” Snagajob said.

Competition for jobs: Snagajob said its previous four annual surveys showed a drop in the number of hiring managers who felt other teens would a teenager’s greatest competition for summer work.

Those surveys showed the greatest competition would come from workers who entered the workforce due to “economic pressure and a tough economy.”

In this year’s survey, 57 percent of hiring managers believe high school or college students offer the greatest competition for summer jobs, up 6 points.

Twenty nine percent of hiring managers felt it would be “easy” for teenagers to find summer jobs this year,up 9 points over the last two years.

Wages still flat: iring managers with plans to hire said they expected to pay an average $10.90 per hour, statistically unchanged from last year.

- Scott Nishimura


CHRISTUS Health plans 1,000 at Irving headquarters

CHRISTUS Health says it plans to relocate 1,000 employees to its new corporate headquarters at One Macarthur Ridge, located at 919 Hidden Ridge in Irving's Las Colinas development. CHRISTUS will lease approximately 210,000 square feet of space in the building, it said Friday. The company moved its headquarters to Irving from Houston and San Antonio in 2000, but only has about 40 people there now.

 “We are looking forward to bringing our CHRISTUS Associates together in the Dallas area and investing in our local communities, much as we do in the communities where our hospitals and health care centers are located,” said Ernie Sadau, president and CEO of CHRISTUS Health.  “We are eager to play our part as a responsible corporate citizen in this thriving business community,” he said.

 The building space will be reconfigured to offer a small primary care facility on site to provide health care services to CHRISTUS Associates, and will be upgraded to include access to an on-site deli and fitness center as well.

-- Jim Fuquay


Dallas lender barred from FHA program

AmericaHomeKey Inc., a Dallas-based mortgage lender, has permanently lost its approval to originate and underwrite new mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Mortgagee Review Board said today. The Review Board also imposed $268,000 in penalties "for repeated and serious violations of FHA requirements." It said AmericaHomeKey failed to adequately document borrowers' source of  down payments, the amount and stability of their income, and eligibility for FHA loans of either the borrower or the property. It said the lender also charged unallowable fees and did not comply with HUD requirements government property flipping, with one case involving a home purchased for  $14,100 and resold three months later for $125,000.

AmericaHomeKey officials could not be immediately reached for comment. 

-- Jim Fuquay


Hulen Mall wants in on Fort Worth's outdoor dining scene

Hulen Mall wants in on the Fort Worth outdoor dining scene.

The mall has scheduled area jazz bands for 6 p.m.-9 p.m. April 5, 12, 19, and 26, and May 3 on its new Restaurant Plaza, the area on the mall’s east side that has BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse and the new Abuelo’s.

“Party on the Plaza is our way of adding a special touch to the end of the day,” says Debi Martinez, the mall’s marketing manager.

Both restaurants have outdoor dining. The bands will perform on the walkway between the restaurants and the mall.

Martinez said there’s seating in the plaza walkway, and customers are welcome to bring their own chairs.

There’s one more pad site left in the Restaurant Plaza, Martinez said.

The mall’s owner, General Growth Properties, is looking at two options for the pad: splitting it into two restaurants, or leaving it as one, Martinez said.

“I think they expect to have an announcement in the next couple of months,” Martinez said.

- Scott Nishimura

Stores announced for Renaissance Square in southeast Fort Worth

FORT WORTH — Marshall’s and Ross Dress for Less will each open large stores in the Renaissance Square development in southeast Fort Worth, the shopping center developers said Friday.

Each apparel retailer will have 25,000-square-foot stores, according to the list of retailers who so far have leased space in the center, along U.S. 287, between Berry Street and Vaughn and Mitchell boulevards.

Last April, Walmart announced its plans to build a 180,000-square-foot supercenter in Renaissance Square. Walmart will have a grocery and pharmacy.

The list of retailers also includes Shoe Carnival, 12,000 square feet; Dots, a women’s apparel store, 4,500 square feet; rue 21, a trendy clothing and accessories store for young men and women, 5,500 square feet; Dollar Tree discount store, 9,000 square feet; GameStop, 1,600 square feet; and, T-Mobile, 2,400 square feet.

Fast food chains McDonalds and Jack in the Box will also have restaurants.

Robert Smith, president of Lockard Development, based in Cedar Falls, Iowa, said the retailers will launch the first phase of Renaissance Square. The stores should be completed in early 2013. The stores will be adjacent to Walmart on the westside of the center, closest to Mitchell Boulevard, according to a site plan.

"This community has waited so long to have a local destination for retail services and the day of its arrival is finally upon us," Smith said.

Lockard is a development partner in the project with Midland-based Moriah Real Estate Co.

Roads and other infrastructure work have been completed at the site. In 2009, the City Council approved up to $12 million in tax breaks for the 67-acre project, planned to have about 425,000 square feet of stores and restaurants.

The shopping center will be adjacent to Mason Heights, a residential area planned for 100 acres south of the site.

- Sandra Baker


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