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21 posts from December 2012


Texas jobless rate lowest in nearly four years

 The Texas unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent in November, down from 6.6 percent in October and the lowest since December 2008, the Texas Workforce Commission said Friday. The state's jobless rate was down more than a percentage point from 7.3 percent a year ago and remains well below the national rate of 7.7 percent.  Texas employers added 22,100 total nonfarm jobs in November for a total of 278,800 jobs added over the year,  TWC said.

In Fort Worth-Arlington, the jobless rate improved even more, falling to 5.6 percent in November from 6.1 percent in October and 7 percent a year ago. Those local metro numbers are not adjusted for seasonal fluctuations, while the state numbers are. The comparable unadjusted jobless rate in November was 5.8 percent for Texas and 7.4 percent for the United States. The state's lowest jobless rates were 3 percent in Midland and 3.6 percent in nearby Odessa, in the middle of the Permian Basin oil boom. Brownville-Harlingen had the highest rate at 9.7 percent.

-- Jim Fuquay


Higher 2012 profit boosts compensation for top two D.R. Horton execs

Top officers at Fort Worth-based D.R. Horton didn't get a raise in base salary in 2012, but the home builder's chairman and its CEO each saw their total pay increase, according to its latest proxy statement filed Thursday. Chairman Don Horton's total compensation was $5.9 million, and CEO Don Tomnitz's was $5.2 million. Don Horton's total compensation was up 33 percent from a year ago, and Tomnitz' was up 32 percent.

Both executives received sharply higher incentive awards that are based on the company's pre-tax income, which soared from a year ago.  Don Horton and Tomnitz each were awarded 1 percent of the company's $242.9 million in 2012 pre-tax income, or $2.43 million. That was up from $240,798 in 2011, when the company has just $12.1 million in pre-tax income. D.R. Horton's fiscal year ends Sept. 30. 

Those compensation figures are calculated using The Associated Press' formula, which counts salary, bonus, non-equity incentive plan compensation, grants of plan-based awards and all other compensation, as listed on the company's proxy. 

-- Jim Fuquay



Air Liquide adds nitrogen liquefier in Cleburne, to add 21 jobs

Air Liquide, a French supplier of industrial gases to various industries, has expanded its Cleburne operation with a second nitrogen liquefier.

The company, which has operated an air separation facility in Cleburne since 1998, said it plans to add 21 employees over the next two years to support the increased production capacity, including production technicians and truck drivers.

The liquefier, which recently began commercial production, will enable Air Liquide to increase its supply of liquid nitrogen to customers in a range of industries including food & beverage, manufacturing, glass, electronics, oil and gas, and chemicals. the company said.

-- Steve Kaskovich

Centennial says it's restructuring, not liquidating

Centennial Beverage Group, the Dallas-based liquor retailer that last week closed a undisclosed number of  stores and promoted an "inventory liquidation," issued a statement dated Friday that said it “has been strategically restructuring in recent months but is not shutting down operations." The company did not return telephone calls seeking more information Friday, but a company representative on Saturday morning left a message with the Star-Telegram saying Centennial had posted a statement on the website PRWeb.com.

In that release, Greg Wonsmos, CEO of Centennial Beverage Group, said: "Recent rumors that Centennial Beverage Group is shutting down are incorrect. However, we have closed locations that do not fit within our strategic plan for 2013 and beyond. Centennial is grateful for all our loyal customers and we look forward to continue serving them at a number of locations going forward, including stores operating under the Centennial, Majestic and Big Daddy’s brands.” 

Centennial had been the subject of reports in November that it was closing some stores and that it also had a string of unpaid bills to distributors. As of  this morning, dozens of the stores Centennial, Majestic, Big Daddy's and Arlington Bottle Shop locations were still on the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's list of outlets with delinquent payments. Wonsmos, however, said "rumors Centennial had not paid taxes and rent were false." In his statement, Wonsmos said "Centennial is current with all of its payments to taxing authorities and all of its landlords. We have a plan to pay our delinquent accounts payable to our alcohol beverage distributors. We will be meeting with them in the next week to discuss that plan. We are current with all other vendors.”

-- Jim Fuquay


Baylor, Scott & White to combine systems

Dallas-based Baylor Health Care System and Temple-based Scott & White Healthcare have scheduled p.m. news conferences to announce what they are calling "the creation of the largest not-for-profit health care system in the state of Texas." Baylor has more than 30 hospitals in North Texas, including locations in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine and Trophy Club. Scott & White manages "12 hospital sites, two additional announced facilities, more than 65 clinic locations and a 240,000+-member health plan." 

The Waco Tribune reported in March that there were serious negotiations in the works between Dallas-based Baylor and Temple-based Scott & White, "but both systems have been mum in recent months," according to the Texas Tribune.

-- Jim Fuquay

Centennial Beverages downsizing apparently now more than that

What was first reported last month as another round of store closings by Centennial Beverage Group, owner of the Majestic, Big Daddy's and Centennial liquor stores in North Texas, apparently is now much more than just a few more stores. In ads today the chain says its "Inventory Liquidation!" is at all locations, where "Everything Must Go!" At its office on Pioneer Parkway in Arlington, signs promoting the event have popped up just since Thursday. Company officials could not be reached for comment this morning. But a woman identified as the manager of the Big Daddy's at 5301 W. Pioneer Parkway in Arlington said that to her knowledge, that store wasn't slated to close. She declined to give her name. Inside, the store was busy but appeared to be fully stocked.

The DFW liquor market has become markedly more competitive with the entry of new retailers. Total Wine & More has opened big stores in Fort Worth and Dallas, Dallas-based Goody Goody has added three Tarrant County stores and Houston-based Spec's Wine and Spirits has jumped into the market. Centennial Beverage closed seven Dallas-Fort Worth stores in February, a year after buying former competitor Majestic out of bankruptcy. At that time, the company still operated 63 stores in DFW. The Star-Telegram reported last month that the company planned an undetermined number of store closings, as well as that many of its stores were behind on millions in payments to distributors, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

-- Jim Fuquay

THR facility in Parker County could gain steam

A medical facility planned by Texas Health Resources in Parker County could be nearing reality. THR, parent of the Harris Methodist and Presbyterian hospital groups in North Texas, bought about 30 acres on the north side of Interstate 20 in Willow Park in 2010, and city officials have previously said they hoped a facility might be built in 2012.

THR representatives on Nov. 15 showed Willow Park officials preliminary plans for a campus at the site starting as early as 2014, the Weatherford Democrat reported last month. Those plans included a 40,000-square-foot campus, starting with an emergency department, imaging center and medical office building. Eventually the project could grow to a hospital with perhaps 40 beds, but not until after 2020 and only as demand warrants, the newspaper reported.

-- Jim Fuquay

Fort Worth housing market among nation's top 10

Fort Worth is one of four Texas markets that are among the nation's "healthiest" housing markets, according to Jed Kolko, chief economist for real estate information site Trulia. By healthiest, Kolko explains, he doesn't just mean that home prices are rising -- "because many of the markets with the largest price gains in 2012 were rebounding from huge price declines during the bust, but they still have weak fundamentals," he says. Here are his fundamentals: strong job growth (supporting housing demand); low vacancy rates; and low foreclosure inventory.

Those are his markers, and here are his picks: 1. Houston; 2. San Francisco; 3. Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md.; 4. San Antonio; 5. Austin; 6. Seattle; 7. Omaha; 8. Peabody, Mass. (Boston suburban); 9. Fort Worth; 10. Louisville.

Some of the markets that didn't make his list and the reasons why, are:  "Las Vegas and Phoenix -- both have high vacancy rates and large foreclosure inventories going into 2013, despite having year-over-year asking-price increases of 14 percent  and 27 percent, respectively, according to the November Trulia Price Monitor. And Detroit has a sky-high vacancy rate and is suffering job losses, even though asking prices in Detroit rose 10 percent year-over-year." Trulia says asking prices in the Fort Worth market were up 5.3 percent from a year ago and rents were up 7 percent

-- Jim Fuquay



Pier 1 Imports reports higher sales and profit, boosts its dividend

Pier 1 Imports reported slightly higher third-quarter profits today as total sales increased by 10.9 percent, and raised its dividend.

Net income was $23.7 million for the three months ended Nov. 24, up from $23 million in the same period a year ago. Total sales were $424.5 million, compared with $382.7 million last year, and comparable store sales -- at stores open at least a year, an industry benchmark -- increased 7.9 percent.

Pier 1 attributed the higher sales to increased store traffic and higher average purchases.

"This marks the company’s first full quarter of e-commerce sales and we’re pleased with the initial results, as the level of both new and existing customer visits indicates the long-term opportunity is significant," said Alex W. Smith, president and chief executive officer.

The Fort Worth-based home furnishings retailer said that gross profit as a percentage of sales rose 70 basis points to 43.9 percent, and operating income increased by 18 percent.

The board of direrctors authorized a new $100 million share repurchase program, and increased the  quarterly cash dividend by 25 percent to 5 cents per share.

-- Steve Kaskovich



Tom Cravens named Tarrant banker of the year

CravensAward-2Longtime North Texas banker Tom Cravens (left), a director at Fort Worth-based Southwest Bank, is the Tarrant County Bankers Association's 2012 Banker of the Year. He was honored Dec. 6 at a luncheon at Shady Oaks Country Club. Cravens was chairman and CEO of First National Bank of Arlington, where he started a banking career 48 years ago. He was co-owner of Coble Cravens Inc., a financial services and insurance agency, executive vice president of Security Bank, president of SouthTrust Bank in Arlington, CEO of Northwest National Bank until its purchase by Texas Bank in 2005, director of Texas Bank, later acquired by Compass Bank, and a director at Southwest Bank since 2009.

Southwest Bank CEO Vernon Bryant said the award "is an outstanding achievement and speaks to the impact that Tom's experience and expertise has had on the North Texas banking industry." Cravens was recently named chairman of the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation, the not-for-profit organization funded by mineral rights bonuses and royalties on city-owned property. He also serves on the boards of Texas Health Resources and the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

-- Jim Fuquay


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