Over $58M Awarded to Advance Fort Worth Rare Earth Magnet Manufacturing Plant

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A rare earth magnet manufacturing plant being built in Fort Worth just got a financial boost to advance its planned delivery of products for General Motors electric vehicles. 

Las Vegas-based MP Materials—which began building the plant in Hillwood’s AllianceTexas development in April 2022—has received a $58.5 million award in the form of a 48C Advanced Energy Project tax credit allocation issued by the IRS and U.S. Treasury Department. The award followed “a competitive, oversubscribed process administered by the Department of Energy that evaluated the technical and commercial viability and environmental and community impact of approximately 250 projects,” MP Materials said.

The 200,000-square-foot facility will produce neodymium-iron-boron (NdPr) magnets—”the world’s most powerful and efficient permanent magnets,” according to MP Materials. They’re an “indispensable component” used in electric motors and generators in hybrid and electric vehicles, robots, wind turbines, drones, electronics, and defense systems.

As the world moves further toward electrification, global demand for the magnets is expected to triple by 2035, according to an Adamas Intelligence report.

 

Finished magnets to be produced by late 2025

MP Materials said it’s currently producing “magnet precursor materials” in a North American pilot facility. The company expects to begin commercial production of “precursor materials” at the Fort Worth plant this summer and begin producing “finished magnets” by late 2025. Both products will be delivered to General Motors, MP Materials’ “foundational customer,” to support its North American EV production.

The Fort Worth plant could ultimately power some 500,000 EV motors every year, the company said in 2021.

MP said it will source the factory’s raw materials from Mountain Pass, California, where the company owns and operates “America’s only scaled and operational rare earth mine and separations facility.” At the factory, NdPr oxide from Mountain Pass will be reduced to NdPr metal and converted to NdFeB alloy and finished magnets—”delivering an end-to-end supply chain with integrated recycling and world-class sustainability,” the company said.

 

Addressing a ‘serious national security risk’ with $700M investment

More than 90% of the world’s NdFeB magnets are produced in China, MP Materials noted.

A Commerce Department investigation found that sintered NdFeB magnets are “required for critical infrastructure” and “irreplaceable in key defense applications,” while noting that the U.S. is “essentially 100% dependent on imports,” leading to what MP Materials summarized as a “serious national security risk.”

“We’ll bring the supply chain home,” MP Materials CEO James Litinsky said at the plant’s 2022 groundbreaking event. “This is actually the corner of Independence and Liberty, which is very fitting for us to be building a new foundation right here.”

At that time, MP Materials said it was investing about $700 million over the next two years to fully restore the rare earth magnetics supply chain to the United States. 

“Magnets are synonymous with modern life,” Litinsky said in 2022. “Rare earth magnets are really what will power motion—electric vehicles, wind turbines, drones, robots, air taxis, whatever.”

The company announced a $35 million DOD heavy rare earth elements contract in February 2022. About that award, Litinsky said that “a multibillion dollar supply chain is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take capital, it’s going to take perseverance. It requires a real coordination between our upstream and downstream industries.”

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Gage Zero and Hillwood Announce Plans to Develop State’s First EV Fleet Charging Hub in Texas

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FORT WORTH, TX – April 2, 2024 – Gage Zero LLC (Gage Zero), an Austin-based fleet electrification solutions company that deploys and operates reliable electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, and Hillwood, known for its forward-thinking approach to development, are proud to announce plans to develop Texas’ first public commercial EV charging facility, catering to trucks and last-mile fleets. Nestled within the 27,000-acre master-planned, mixed-use development of AllianceTexas, this project signifies a significant leap forward in sustainable infrastructure.

The EV fleet charging hub marks Hillwood’s commitment to future-focused development, addressing both today’s transportation needs and tomorrow’s resiliency challenges.

AllianceTexas is a global logistics hub consisting of the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone (MIZ), BNSF Alliance Intermodal Facility, one of the largest intermodal hubs in the nation, Perot Field Fort Worth Alliance Airport (AFW) and direct access to I-35W and State Highway 170.

“This groundbreaking initiative exemplifies our unwavering commitment to advancing sustainable infrastructure solutions that prioritize our customers’ needs,” said Russell Laughlin, Executive Vice President of Hillwood. “Through the deployment of innovative technologies, we expect to significantly enhance transportation efficiency, particularly in the crucial first and last mile segments of the logistics supply chain. Our vision is to enhance AllianceTexas’ forward-thinking infrastructure ecosystem, further empowering businesses to thrive while enabling them to take steps toward meeting tomorrow’s supply chain resiliency and reliability challenges.”

The Gage Zero team, led by Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Zeina El-Azzi, has $10 billion in combined experience deploying innovative, utility-scale clean energy projects around the globe. The company will develop, own and operate the AllianceTexas EV charging hub as part of its network of sites planned throughout the U.S. 

“Hillwood is exactly the type of collaborator Gage Zero wants to work with to fulfill our mission,” El-Azzi said. “As innovators and leaders in our industries, together we can solve the complexity of both land development and electrification for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in a convenient location for fleet customers. Projects like this serve as a blueprint for how fleets across the country can partner with land and clean energy developers to reduce their carbon footprint and meet sustainability goals.”

Last year, Gage Zero announced a commitment of $300 million from ARC Financial Corp. to develop charging infrastructure sites for medium- and heavy-duty (M/HD) electric fleets because of the scale of impact these vehicles have on the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), though they make up less than 5% of vehicles on the road in the United States today, M/HD fleets account for almost 25% of the transportation sector’s emissions with most of that impact on local communities where those trucks operate.

About Gage Zero LLC

Gage Zero is a fleet electrification solutions company based in Austin, Texas building a zero-emission future for people and the planet. Our women-led team of clean energy and transportation experts deploys capital, builds reliable infrastructure and provides comprehensive, cost-effective electrification services that benefit commercial transportation operators, enrich communities, and support local economies. We believe industries working together can empower everyone to participate in a cleaner future. Learn more at gagezero.com.

About AllianceTexas

Developed by Hillwood, AllianceTexas is an unparalleled regional success story that has transformed the North Texas economy and connected the area to global industry. Consisting of 27,000 acres, the development is anchored by the world’s first dedicated industrial airport, Perot Field Fort Worth Alliance Airport (AFW), and hosts one of the nation’s premier intermodal hubs. Today, AllianceTexas is home to 575 companies that have created more than 66,000 direct jobs and have approximately 58 million square feet of developed commercial real estate assets. The development’s cumulative impact since 1989 is an estimated $120 billion for the North Texas region. For additional information, please visit www.alliancetexas.com.

The AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone (MIZ) spans the 27,000-acre industrial-focused, public-private ecosystem that brings policymakers and industry innovators together to propel surface and air mobility forward. By leveraging its one-of-a-kind infrastructure, the MIZ offers unparalleled resources to comprehensively scale and commercialize the latest logistics and mobility technologies. For more information on the AllianceTexas MIZ and how your organization can be part of this industry-shaping environment, visit www.alliancetexasmiz.com.

NCTCOG plans for 2 hydrogen stations in North Texas

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The AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone and Southern Dallas County Inland Port were identified as sites for two proposed hydrogen fueling stations in North Texas during a March 11 presentation.

What’s happening?

The North Central Texas Council of Governments was awarded $70 million in January to build five hydrogen fueling stations in Texas near DFW, Houston, San Antonio and Waco. The stations will create a hydrogen fueling network for medium- to heavy-duty freight trucks.

Stations are planned for the innovation zone and inland port areas, Air Quality Planner Joslyn Billings said during the NCTCOG meeting. Seven other potential sites have been identified throughout the Texas Triangle, according to the presentation.

“We’ll be selecting the rest of the stations from the potential ones near Houston, San Antonio and Waco to complete and fill in that triangle,” Billings said.

Staff have already begun coordinating with local governments in the project areas, but they are at the beginning of the contracting process, she said.

What they’re saying

Laura Freeland, executive director of the Southern Dallas County Inland Port Transportation Management Association, said in an email they were excited to have one of the fueling stations built at the port.

“The location of a hydrogen fueling station in the DCIP will help transition freight transport from conventional diesel fuel to zero-emissions hydrogen fuel cell technology,” she said.

Freeland said the grant was particularly impactful because it was secured for refueling stations across the triangle.

“Given the amount of truck traffic that passes through the Texas Triangle, securing fueling stations for the entire area helps trucking companies make the investment to convert to hydrogen,” she said.

Also of note

The NCTCOG was also awarded $15 million to build up to 100 electric vehicle charging ports across the region. At least half of those chargers will be built in disadvantaged communities known as Justice40 areas. Staff will also emphasize adding charging ports to rural communities excluded from other funding opportunities, Billings said.

Other grant projects include:

Partnering with Oncor and DFW Airport to develop an electric vehicle charging plan for the region focused on power failure: awarded $1.5 million

Repairing or replacing existing nonoperational charging stations in the region: awarded $3.6 million

AllianceTexas Enters 35th Year with $120 Billion in Economic Impact for North Texas

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FORT WORTH, Texas (February 6, 2024) – AllianceTexas, Hillwood’s 27,000-acre master-planned, mixed-use development in north Fort Worth, continues its legacy as one of the nation’s most formidable economic engines, generating an estimated $119.8 billion in regional economic impact over the past 35 years. According to Insight Research Corporation’s annual economic impact report, more than $9.84 billion of the development’s economic impact was created in 2023 alone.

Widely considered one of the country’s most successful public-private partnership endeavors, total investment at AllianceTexas surpassed $15.2 billion in 2023, with a staggering $14.1 billion coming from the private sector. Public investment totaling $1.1 billion has been invested in the project to date, representing more than a 13-to-1 private-to-public-dollar investment multiple. In addition, over the past three decades, AllianceTexas has produced over $3.8 billion in total taxes paid to local public entities.

See the full AllianceTexas Annual Economic Impact Report here.

A leading driver for regional success, AllianceTexas is now home to 574 companies, with 58 million square feet of office, retail and industrial space built since 1989.

From the newest homeowner to the most well-known Fortune 500 companies, opportunity thrives at AllianceTexas. It boasts corporate headquarters, healthcare providers, higher education centers, shopping and entertainment destinations and vibrant residential communities.

 “We’re just as forward-thinking today as when we created AllianceTexas 35 years ago, and that transformative philosophy — anchored by the collaborative partnership between public and private sectors — has brought nearly $120 billion in economic impact for the North Texas region,” said Mike Berry, president of Hillwood. “AllianceTexas continues to be a sustainable economic engine for the State of Texas, creating thousands of jobs while serving as a corporate base to some of the world’s most iconic brands, including Amazon, FedEx, BNSF Railway, Meta, Charles Schwab, Fidelity Investments, Deloitte and UPS, among dozens of others.”

Economic impact at AllianceTexas is also created through access to multiple modes of transportation combined with the latest, most innovative technologies that ensure uninterrupted supply chains and on-time deliveries. For example, the Alliance Westport sector offers a one-of-a-kind location across from the entrance to the BNSF Intermodal Facility with over 15 million square feet of developable next-generation distribution facility space designed and master planned to be fully integrated with a smart-infrastructure platform featuring remote and autonomous freight optimization capabilities.

Recently, Southwire, one of the leading manufacturers of wire and cable used in the transmission and distribution of electricity, chose to expand its operations within AllianceTexas, leasing 1.18 million square feet at Alliance Westport 25. Further underscoring North Texas’ prominence as a premier job center, Southwire’s expansion includes job creation for 250 new team members.

Hillwood continues to look to integrate the next-generation movement of goods across the supply chain, convening visionaries in logistics innovation at the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone (MIZ). To name a few, Manna, Europe’s leading delivery operator, announced its last-mile delivery services entry into the U.S. at the MIZ. On the surface side, mile-middle leader Gatik continues using the platform to further commercialize its autonomous technology.

Perot Field Fort Worth Alliance Airport (AFW) serves as the catalyst for the 27,000-acre AllianceTexas development. Designated in 1989 as the world’s first industrial airport, AFW enters its 35th year as the regional cargo hub for Amazon and FedEx, and the only non-passenger airport ranked in the Top 20 U.S cargo airports, moving 2.5 billion pounds of cargo. Alliance Aviation Services, the fixed-base operator (FBO) at AFW, was also ranked among the top 20 percent of service providers in the 2023 AIN FBO Survey: The Americas.

Geographically, AllianceTexas encompasses nine municipalities, five independent school districts and two counties. Since 1990, more than $3.8 billion has been paid in property taxes cumulatively to the Cities of Fort Worth, Haslet, Roanoke, Northlake, Westlake and Corral City; Tarrant and Denton Counties; and Northwest, Keller, and Argyle Independent School Districts (City of Denton, Denton ISD, the City of Justin, and the City of Argyle were not included in the 2023 report, as development is still forthcoming). In 2023 alone, the project contributed nearly $344.6 million in property taxes to these local entities.

“Hillwood’s impact at AllianceTexas and numerous urban developments throughout the region have been immeasurable in their impact on North Texas’ continued leadership and success,” Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said. “AllianceTexas remains a constant powerhouse and sets the standard in our region and nationally for providing companies with innovative resources and opportunities for growth while also creating an environment that offers an array of outstanding housing options and lifestyle amenities.”

In addition to its industrial, aviation, and office core, AllianceTexas also features an array of shopping, dining, medical, recreational, and entertainment options seamlessly integrated into its diverse and highly sought-after residential options.

Expanding its presence, Hillwood recently acquired a full city block in the heart of downtown Fort Worth. The property is located at the front door of the rapidly growing downtown southern corridor, bounded by 6th and 7th Streets to the north and south and Calhoun and Jones Streets to the east and west. The purchase reinforces Hillwood’s longtime commitment to Fort Worth and marks its first investment downtown.

For a more detailed overview of AllianceTexas’ economic impact report and additional information about the development, including expansive sections covering available asset classes, sector locations, and lifestyle amenities, please visit AllianceTexas’ online resources page at www.alliancetexas.com/resources.

 

About AllianceTexas

AllianceTexas is an unparalleled regional success story that has transformed North Texas’s economy and connected the area to global industry. Consisting of 27,000 acres, the Hillwood development is anchored by the world’s first dedicated industrial airport, Perot Field Fort Worth Alliance Airport (AFW), and hosts one of the nation’s premier intermodal hubs. Today, AllianceTexas is home to 575 companies that have created more than 66,000 direct jobs and have approximately 58 million square feet of developed commercial real estate assets. The cumulative impact of the development since 1989 is an estimated $120 billion for the North Texas region. AllianceTexas boasts corporate headquarters, healthcare providers, higher education centers, shopping and entertainment destinations, and vibrant residential communities. From the newest homeowner to the most well-known Fortune 500 companies, opportunity thrives at AllianceTexas. For additional information, please visit www.alliancetexas.com.

 

About Hillwood

Hillwood, a Perot company, is a premier industrial, commercial and residential real estate developer and manager with projects throughout North America and Europe. With a diverse portfolio of properties that have become home to many of the world’s leading companies, Hillwood is committed to bringing long-term value to our customers, partners, and the communities we serve. Hillwood also served as the lead developer of marquee projects nationwide, from the Air Force Memorial in Washington, D.C., to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the American Airlines Center in Dallas. For additional information, please visit www.hillwood.com.

All Charged Up: LG Opens Its First U.S. EV Charger Factory in Fort Worth

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LG Electronics sparked a new chapter of North Texas innovation in Fort Worth Friday by opening its first U.S. factory for assembling EV charging stations.

With the opening, LG—based in South Korea with USA headquarters in New Jersey—aims to support the growth of America’s EV charging infrastructure while creating new local jobs.

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker was among the officials on hand to cut the ribbon at the new plant, joining LG senior executives Alec Jang, president of the LG Electronics Business Solutions Company; H.K. Suh, global head of LG’s EV Charger business; and Nicolas Min, president of LG Business Solutions USA. 

“The EV charger business is a growth engine for LG’s future, supporting the company’s transformation into a smart solutions company,” Jang said in a statement. “LG will leverage the reliability and uncompromising quality of its chargers, maintenance services, and vertical sales capabilities with the goal of becoming a leader in the EV charging business around the world.”

 

Today’s LG plant opening expands Dallas-Fort Worth’s EV charger manufacturing footprint. Last June, South Korea’s SK Signet opened a new facility in Plano to manufacture ultra-fast chargers for the U.S. market. In September 2022, Plano-based Universal EV Chargers secured nearly $10 million in government green energy grants to help the hospitality industry and other businesses offer EV charging services. 

100,000-SF factory will use ‘100% green power’

LG’s 100,000-square-foot Fort Worth plant will have an annual capacity of 12,000 units, while operating with “100% green power,” the company said, adding that it will bring “dozens of new tech jobs” to North Texas—reinforcing LG’s commitment to the region as an innovation and manufacturing hub of the future.

LG is far from a stranger in the Panther City. Its million-square-foot distribution center for consumer electronics and home appliances in Fort Worth has been active for three decades. The company said its decision to open its EV charger factory in the city reinforces LG’s “commitment to the region as an innovation and manufacturing hub of the future.”

“This is a great day for Fort Worth,” Mayor Parker said in a statement, “with this global leader choosing to establish its U.S. manufacturing base for EV chargers and creating new jobs here. We take pride in knowing that LG’s advanced EV charging stations that will be deployed across the United States will be built right here in Fort Worth.”

Steve Montgomery, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, called LG’s choice of Fort Worth for its first U.S. factory for advanced EV chargers “a prime example of our city’s commitment to innovation and cutting-edge technology.”

“This exciting announcement further cements our status as a prime location for business and technological growth,” Montgomery added in a statement. 

With many Americans reluctant to buy electric vehicles due to a lack of adequate EV charging options, LG says its new factory is a step in helping to solve that issue.

“Today marks a major step in LG’s roadmap to support the electrification of America by making the EV charging infrastructure smarter, more accessible and more profitable for operators,” said LG Business Solutions USA’s SVP Michael Kosla.

Kosla said the Level 2 and Level 3 EV chargers produced in Fort Worth “will open new opportunities for businesses, municipalities, and other public places to support the electrification of America with independently owned and operated charging stations that create new revenue streams, additional marketing and income opportunities, and differentiation with competing businesses.”

Recognizing that the U.S. needs “hundreds of thousands” of new Level 2 and Level 3 chargers to support the growing number of EVs on the road, Kosla said LG has developed owner-operated EV charging stations so that hotels, restaurants, venues, transit hubs, municipal buildings and other locations “are empowered to set their own rates, keep the profits that are generated and ensure enough capacity to meet local demands.”

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Clevon’s Robot Couriers Push the Frontier of Autonomous Last-Mile Delivery

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The Estonian company’s U.S. headquarters at AllianceTexas is a success story of the development’s Mobility Innovation Zone.

Maneuvering the streets of Northlake nowadays is a driverless electric delivery vehicle powered by a combination of remote drivers and autonomous capabilities. The vehicle, which made its debut earlier this year, is the size of a golf cart and delivers packages for printing and shipping business Postnet Northlake. The company behind the robots is Clevon, an Estonian innovator with its U.S. headquarters at Hillwood’s AllianceTexas. 

Clevon spun off from Cleveron, the first company to get permission for driverless last-mile delivery in Europe. It focuses on ground-based transportation and partners with AllianceTexas to pilot and develop its technology as part of Alliance’s Mobility Innovation Zone, which works with companies pushing the boundaries of transportation and logistics technology. After searching nationwide for an incubator, Clevon viewed Texas’ legislative framework and entrepreneurial mindset as the right fit. “AllianceTexas strives to change the status quo,” says Meelis Anton, Clevon’s U.S. chief operating officer. “The ecosystem and environment provide potential customers, with many large companies based here.”

The vehicles travel within a 10-mile radius of the Postnet hub and are limited to 20 miles per hour. The robots have three driver settings: fully autonomous, partially autonomous with some remote human support, and fully driven by a remote human operator. After proving its concept through pilot programs and a commercial launch with Postnet, Clevon wants to expand. The company sees an opportunity to provide reliable, safe, last-mile delivery for grocers, restaurants, and other retailers. “COVID showed that our supply chain is vulnerable,” says Ian Kinne, Hillwood’s director of logistics. “Clevon is willing to solve the last mile gap, which is hard to automate and where so much of the cost and risk exists in the supply chain.”

Anton sees Clevon’s advantages in the autonomous delivery space as a combination of size and energy efficiency. The electric vehicles have low carbon footprints but are large enough to deliver several sizable parcels. That said, he believes the market is big enough for many providers. “The need is so large, and there are so many use cases, it is about finding the best fit,” Anton says. “There is no silver bullet.”  

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Venture Titans Gather at Circle T Ranch to Power North Texas’ ‘Next-Level’ Growth

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Circle T Ranch in Westlake recently opened its gates to an elite group of more than 200 investors, innovators, and business leaders. The private reception at Ross Perot Jr.’s scenic ranch at AllianceTexas has become an annual tradition for the Venture Dallas franchise—and a coveted invitation for founders and funders alike.

Even a downpour couldn’t dampen spirits. “It was a 10 out of 10,” one guest said. 

“When you put great founders and investors together, magic happens,” said Aaron Pierce, Venture Dallas Chair and a partner at Perot Jain.  The setting—Circle T’s one-of-a-kind development blending business with a working cattle ranch—is part of the alchemy.

Pierce said it’s a draw that brings some of the best investors in the nation to Dallas. The reception—now in its fourth year—at the rustic Texas Barn on Oct. 24 anchored the Venture Dallas conference with “high-impact” conversation and connections the night before the main event in Dallas. “When investors come here from out of town, their eyes are opened to what’s happening in Dallas,” he said. “It sets the stage for partnerships.”

Investors from coast to coast

Getting together in a social setting, especially one as unique as Circle T Ranch, builds relationships that “lead to the exchange of deal flow and co-investment,” said Bryan Chambers, a founding board member of Venture Dallas. Judging by the roster of VCs, angels, family offices, and corporate venture investors at the ranch, that formula is working.

This year’s Circle T Ranch event drew more funders nationwide, including Evan Baehr, managing partner of Austin-based Learn; Kevin King, partner at Boston’s General Catalyst; and Atlanta-based Anant Patel, director at Koch Disruptive Technologies.

Others making the trip to Dallas included Keith Bank of KB Partners in Highland Park, Illinois; Cyrus Sigari of UP.Partners in California; Amy Kruse of Satori Neuro in Washington, D.C.; and representatives from funds like LiveOak Venture Partners, NextCoast Ventures, and more.

EP Golf Fund, golf tech demos  

Earlier in the day, investors and leaders celebrated the launch of the EP Golf Fund, a partnership between the PGA and Elysian Park Ventures aimed at supporting startups in the golf space. The fund’s inaugural portfolio companies were on hand, including Golf+, a VR golf game that allows people to play on real-world courses with “true-to-golf” physics, and Dryvebox, a mobile golf simulator that can be rented.

Pierce said the event focuses on real investment opportunities in the ecosystem. And that translates to more capital for Dallas entrepreneurs. Leaders of million- and billion-dollar businesses said the event hosted a group you can’t find anywhere else in one room. And more than one entrepreneur told us they cleared their calendar for the event.

But Michael Ulwelling, who flew in from Oregon, may have said it best: “If you are a founder, inside or outside of Dallas, who had an invitation to the VIP event and did not attend the event—that was a major mistake.”

Startups from stealth to exit

The event rounded up successful North Texas startup founders, including Scott Harper of Dialexa, who successfully exited to IBM last year. Others were serial entrepreneurs like Mizzen+Main co-founder Kevin LaValle, currently pursuing his next venture in stealth; Linear Labs’ Brad Hunstable; ByteTrails’ Brenda Stoner; and Power To Pitch’s Kat Weaver.

Venture Dallas Startup of the Year winners were also on hand: CollateralEdge’s Joe Beard, a VC-turned-entrepreneur, as well as Firehawk’s Will Edwards, on the cusp of a major test-launch site deal, and Testfit’s Clifton Harness, who compared notes on computer vision with Spacee’s Skip Howard.

Fireside chat: Sizing up the Dallas-Fort Worth ecosystem

Dealmakers and disruptors came for the connection and the conversation. One of the most important conversations focused attention on advancing Dallas-Fort Worth’s venture ecosystem to the next level. In a fireside chat, the spotlight shifted to another C-word—collaboration.

On stage at the Texas Barn, Pierce highlighted the region’s assets—capital, corporations, and talent. “As an ecosystem, Dallas-Fort Worth has a lot going for it,” he said. About a year ago, Anurag Jain and the Perot Jain team saw even more potential: “We did a lot of work around that, talking to leadership in the region and beyond,” Pierce added. “Tonight’s program is sharing a little bit of that.”

Jain, chairman and founding partner of Perot Jain, sat down with Hillwood’s Henry Ross Perot III and McKinsey’s Brendan Gaffey to explore the state of the ecosystem and plot what happens next. 

Jain looked back on progress. “Look around—these are the movers and shakers of Dallas,” he said. “At this event three and a half years ago, we had a [fraction] of the audience in the room today. But we got together and said, ‘We’ve got to make Dallas relevant; we’ve got to put it on the map.’”

And we did, he said. Now he wants all those movers and shakers to help put it even more on the map.

“Dallas is a unique ecosystem”

Working alongside Perot Jain, Gaffey, head of McKinsey’s venture business, saw potential to expand Dallas’ presence. “Dallas is a great spot to do much more than it’s currently doing in the startup and innovation world,” he said. Through extensive interviews with founders and investors, locally and beyond, Gaffey and Perot Jain formed a panoramic view of the ecosystem here.

They heard, “Dallas is a unique ecosystem,” Gaffey said, which is both a challenge and an opportunity. In terms of venture capital, Dallas has a “lot of the components that would make it a tier-one venture city.” He drew comparisons to Los Angeles’ VC growth from tier two status around 15 years ago. Dallas now has the chance to “step up.”

“There are a lot of ways of doing [that],” he said. “Venture is not the only measure of success,” nodding to Dallas’ business diversity and well-noted strengths. 

Jain ticked off a few, highlighting the financial capacity of the city: Dallas has a lot of money, family offices, corporates, capital, and later-stage companies. But, he asked Gaffey, “Where do you see the innovation in the city?”

Logistics, biotech, defense, SaaS strengths

“Where innovation is going, and where it’s coming from … play stronger in Dallas,” Gaffey said.

He sees a strong foundation in B2B innovation like logistics tech, biotech, defense, and enterprise SaaS. “With things that have transpired over the last two years, I’m bullish on the capabilities that reside in Dallas,” he said.

However, the local VC landscape doesn’t yet “fully reinforce” that potential, he said. Gaffey recommended shifting more private capital from real estate toward funding startups and venture.

“There’s a ton of private capital that doesn’t always flow into the VC sector,” Gaffey said, pointing to a key opportunity in the region. We also need more big successful exits to reinforce the “looping” of VC capital and exits, he said.

Not surprisingly, “Dallas has a unique way of building its startups,” he said. Dallas is a pioneering place that celebrates risk, but “the tech founder pathway needs more recognition and support,” similar to what you might find in a Silicon Valley, he said.

Gaffey stressed that real change requires the collective action of the community. “We have to pull at the same time to radically change the trajectory,” he urged.

Jain agreed that Dallas has ingredients like B2B expertise in place. And more big, successful founder exits are a key for success: “We need a few more Scotts.” Jain said, pointing to Dallas-based Dialexa founder Scott Harper, noting his successful exit to IBM last year. The acquisition was IBM Consulting’s first in the digital product engineering services market, which it estimated as a $700 billion market by 2026. Those kinds of success stories cycle resources, talent, experience, and credibility, he said. 

Perot: a “ringside view” of Dallas-Fort Worth

Shifting the focus to Henry Ross Perot III, or Hill, Jain said Perot has had a “ringside view” of the region for about four decades. As the son of Henry Ross Perot Jr. and the grandson of H. Ross Perot Sr., he brings a unique third-generation perspective on the region. And as vice president of Hillwood, Perot has been instrumental in overseeing industrial and warehousing interests within AllianceTexas.

Perot recalled the transformation he’s seen firsthand. “As a native growing up here, it’s amazing what I’ve seen in my lifetime, growing from around 5 million people to about 8 million today.” he said. “Houston and Chicago are ahead of us—depending on how you count it—but in the next 10 to 15 years, we’ll be the third-largest metropolitan area in the United States.”

We “really are all grown up,” Perot said, attributing much of the region’s maturity to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

In comparing Dallas to Austin, he said: “Austin is great, but if you’re going to build your business and you’re traveling around the world or the U.S., it’s not easy to do if you’re flying in and out of Austin.”

“I’m going to say Dallas-Fort Worth and North Texas a lot tonight.”

Talking about Dallas, Perot reinforces the regional perspective. “In our business,” Perot said, “We always say Dallas-Fort Worth. And I’m going to say Dallas-Fort Worth and North Texas a lot tonight.”

Perot is proud of the economic powerhouse the region has become. “We’ve come a long way since the 1980s with the savings and loan crisis,” Perot said. At the time, “we were really just banks, cattle, real estate, oil, and gas—and they all crashed at the same time.”

Today Perot sees a “diverse DFW,” leading in sectors that play to its strengths. Our current—and future—success owes to the historic foresight of the region’s business leaders, he said. While acknowledging Gaffey’s point that DFW is not necessarily known for its consumer tech, Perot, like Jain, sees advantage in the region’s B2B expertise. And he highlighted a key sector where Dallas excels: logistics tech.

“Our firm is very involved in mobility innovation,” Perot said, noting Hillwood’s strategic AllianceTexas location. The 27,000-acre development has been part of the company’s vision since the ’80s, which took a long view to regional growth, he said. Circle T Ranch itself is part of that vision, with its master plan for multiple corporate campuses surrounding acres of lakes, parkland, and range land.

Perot pointed to innovative endeavors happening at AllianceTexas, which recently hosted the invitation-only UP.Summit on rethinking the future of transportation, which brought more than 250 of “the world’s most innovative minds” in the sector to North Texas. Those visionaries represent over $1 trillion worth of investable capital, according to the UP.Partners group.

Perot is working to “position North Texas to be the mobility innovation zone in the entire world,” he said. Alliance Airport’s own Mobility Innovation Zone makes the region a frontrunner already. “We’re testing drone delivery, autonomous trucks, drone delivery to people’s front doors,” Perot said.

He emphasized the region’s advantage in supporting new businesses, particularly through proactive efforts and resources. “We’re getting regulatory approval and political resources people need right now here in North Texas,” he said.

Comparing Texas to California, Perot highlighted the Lone Star State’s low-tax, low-regulation, pro-business environment. “There’s no reason Texas should beat California in business development,” he said, “but we do it because of our culture, because of our people.”

“As I look at the population growth, the economic growth, the political and regulatory environment,” Perot said, “whether you’re a fund or a founder, this is a really good place to do business.”

“No silver bullet,” but models of success

Jain shifted the spotlight to how other cities are progressing and what Dallas can learn from their strategies. As Gaffey put it, “There’s no silver bullet.” But he sees interesting models for success around the country:

Chicago, for example, has “a great network” and a solid startup ecosystem supported by families and individuals with the “means and the will” to invest, both politically and financially, he said.

In Houston, the city is embracing a “fund the funds” strategy and has initiated a “reverse pitch” concept to galvanize local investment, encouraging venture capitalists to bring their money and expertise to the table.

Miami is utilizing the clout of “two or three very high-profile investors,” creating a buzz that could potentially transform its business landscape, he said. Its PR efforts have been turning heads and shifting perspectives about Miami’s role in the tech and entrepreneurial landscape, he said, adding that “fundamentally, the PR … was pretty transformational.”

And in Atlanta, Gaffey sees some “great things” in startup mentoring and incubation.

Boosting the Dallas’ “metabolic rate”

To accelerate Dallas’ “metabolic rate,” it needs to pursue multiple strategies simultaneously, Gaffey said. Dallas can do “four or five of those things” at the same time,” he said.

The key is compounding efforts, rather than operating in isolation. Collaboration can “stitch them together in parallel.” He described the flywheel effect, where enough synchronized components reach critical mass and feed ongoing growth.

We have a lot to work with. Dallas, he said, is an “unbelievable and vibrant ecosystem.” Among our innovation advantages are its strength in B2B tech, calling out logistics and biotech as key sectors, noting the rise of life science hub Pegasus Park in Dallas.

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Manna Drone Delivery Launches in U.S. with Texas Trick-or-Treaters

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Cold, dreary weather is always a threat to derail Halloween festivities, as was the case in Dallas-Fort Worth this year. But for trick-or-treaters in one of the area’s neighborhoods, drones came to the rescue.

“We are taking Halloween to new heights with a fun new way for kids to trick or treat—especially when the weather isn’t very Halloween compatible,” said Andrew Patton, the head of Ireland-based Manna Drone Delivery’s U.S. business.

On Tuesday, Manna drones flew chocolate, candies, and other sweet treats straight to the doorsteps of clamoring children (and adults) in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Northlake. The Halloween-themed deliveries marked the company’s official U.S. launch, first teased in March.

But Manna, which is backed by Coca-Cola HBC and operates one of Europe’s largest drone delivery services, will deliver more than just Kit Kats and Sour Patch Kids.

“After over four years of operations and over 150,000 flights logged in Europe, we are excited to be touching down in the United States to offer the residents of Dallas-Fort Worth a lightning-quick and sustainable home delivery service,” said Patton.

Patton brings some traditional aviation expertise to the table—the Manna executive holds a commercial pilot’s license with 1,900 hours of flight time and multiple jet type ratings. He flies a Yakovlev Yak-50 aerobatic airplane whenever time permits.

Moving forward, residents of Northlake’s Pecan Square community will be able to order drinks and food (including more chocolate and candy) from local retailers Farmhouse Coffee & Treasures and The Touring Chocolatier, as well as from a few “notable national brands.”

The service will run on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, delivering items in less than three minutes on average, Manna said. Patton told FLYING the company plans to deliver to the yards of all 1,600 households in Pecan Square, rolling out service with a “staggered” approach.

According to the company’s website, when an order is placed through its app, Manna drones take off from a delivery hub, flying at 60 mph (52 knots) at a height of around 200 feet. When they arrive above the customer’s yard, the drones descend to about 100 feet, lowering packages gently to the ground using a tether. That allows it to deliver delicate items such as eggs.

Manna claims that when its drones are soaring at their cruising altitude, they’re perceived as silent by people on the ground. And when descending to complete a delivery, the company describes the aircraft’s buzzing as inaudible to customers indoors.

To kick off its U.S. launch, Manna also partnered with the local Tarrant Area Food Bank, which provides close to a million meals per week to North Texans. The company will make a donation for every flight it conducts this year.

 

The Start of Something Bigger?

While Pecan Square is Manna’s first and only U.S. drone delivery service area, it’s unlikely to be the last.

Pecan Square was developed by Hillwood Communities and is located near the company’s AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone (MIZ). The MIZ aims to test and scale drone delivery and unmanned aircraft technologies in a real-world environment.

Manna’s Dallas-Fort Worth launch came a few months after it and Hillwood announced the beginning of trials at the MIZ, with the ultimate goal of offering drone delivery to “a select number of Hillwood’s residential developments.”

The implication is that Pecan Square is only the first site. Per that announcement, Manna plans to eventually offer its service to more than 10,000 local residents.

“Hillwood is the premier developer of best-in-class residential communities in Texas,” Patton told FLYING. “Hillwood’s legacy of technology-forward communities and its investment in next-generation autonomous transportation technology through the AllianceTexas MIZ make it an extremely well-suited partner for Manna as we move into the U.S.”

Another major drone delivery player, Alphabet’s Wing, tested its service at the MIZ’s Flight Test Center in 2021. A year later, it launched a delivery hub at Hillwood’s Frisco Station mixed-use development in partnership with Walgreens. Bell Textron has also demonstrated drone package delivery at the AllianceTexas site.

“Drone deliveries are here to stay, and we’re leaning into this efficient and innovative delivery option,” Chris Ash, senior vice president of aviation business development at Hillwood and the leader of MIZ, told FLYING. “We will continue to build great relationships with more companies to further develop and commercialize this technology that reduces roadway congestion and emissions.”

In August, Wing expanded its Dallas-Fort Worth operations to a Walmart Supercenter in Frisco, which FLYING received an inside look at last month. Israel’s Flytrex has offered drone delivery in the DFW suburb of Granbury since 2022. And elsewhere in the state, Amazon Prime Air last year landed in College Station, adding prescription drone delivery to that service in October.

Manna, meanwhile, has primarily focused on growing domestic operations. Its largest markets are the Dublin suburb of Balbriggan and a few other locations in Ireland—per an interview with Forbes, it has completed thousands of flights per day in multiple Irish markets. According to CEO Bobby Healy, those services are one-tenth the cost of a human driver in a car.

Healy told Forbes the company’s philosophy is to target highly populated U.S. markets, drawing from its experience flying over urban densities of 10,000 people per square mile. Dallas-Fort Worth, one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the U.S., appears to fit that bill. At the same time, Manna is eyeing an expansion into mainland Europe.

World-First: Trick Or Treat Takes To The Skies With Manna Drone Delivery

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FORT WORTH, TexasOct. 31, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — In a world-first, Manna Drone Delivery, Europe’s largest and most-advanced drone delivery operator, took trick or treating to new heights – delivering candy to families in North Texas by drone. Given the incredibly wet weather the Dallas/Fort Worth area has been experiencing, kids can stay dry and still participate in the Halloween festivities.

Trick or treating kicked-off Manna Drone Delivery’s first US operations – where they’ll be delivering to residents at Pecan Square by Hillwood Communities. Residents will have the opportunity to order a range of food and beverages from both national and local retailers – including a wide selection of Halloween chocolates and candies.

“After over four years of operations and over 150,000 flights logged in Europe, we are excited to be touching down in the United States to offer the residents of Dallas/Fort Worth a lightning-quick and sustainable home delivery service,” said Andrew Patton, Head of US for Manna Drone Delivery. “We are taking Halloween to new heights, with a fun new way for kids to trick or treat – especially when the weather isn’t very Halloween compatible!”

“We’re excited to see Manna commercialize drone delivery in the US at the AllianceTexas Mobility Innovation Zone, bringing an innovative last-mile delivery solution to Pecan Square residents,” said Christopher Ash, senior vice president of aviation business development for Hillwood. “At Hillwood, we are a team collaborating to bring innovative supply chain technologies to North Texas and provide next-level amenities to the communities we reach.”

Manna is also partnering with the Tarrant Area Food Bank, which serves nearly 1 million meals a week to residents in North Texas, by making a donation for every flight conducted this year.

Service will be available on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays to members of the Pecan Square community. Select products and sweet treats from popular local retailers Farmhouse Coffee & Treasures, and The Touring Chocolatier, as well as some notable national brands, will be available for purchase.

To learn more about Manna’s drone delivery services, please visit www.manna.aero.

About Manna Drone Delivery

Manna is the world’s leading residential drone delivery provider, delivering goods quickly, affordably, and safely to customers homes on two continents. Our service operates in the highest population density of any drone delivery operations in the world, partnering with a range of businesses from global giants like Coca-Cola, Tesco and Samsung to dozens of local businesses, delivering goods to customers in just a few minutes.

 

AllianceTexas aims to become ‘catcher’s mitt’ for northbound goods

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Multinational real estate developer Hillwood is working to position AllianceTexas as a “catcher’s mitt” for goods traveling north as reshoring has caused manufacturing growth south of the border as well as across the United States, according to a top Hillwood executive. 

Dallas-based Hillwood, the company behind the sprawling 27,000-acre AllianceTexas master-planned development, has historically focused on goods flowing in from Asia and reaching the center of the U.S. Now, as momentum builds around reshoring efforts in Mexico, AllianceTexas is positioned to benefit on the receiving end of goods flowing northward, Mike Berry, president of Hillwood, said in an exclusive interview with the Dallas Business Journal. 

Efforts to bring manufacturing stateside, including advanced manufacturing, have created other positives for AllianceTexas. Last year, Las Vegas-based MP Materials Corp. (NYSE: MP) broke ground on its first rare earth metal, alloy and magnet manufacturing facility, located within AllianceTexas.  

The plant represents a large component of a $700 million investment MP Materials will make to fully restore the U.S. rare earth magnetics supply chain over the next two years. 

Hillwood has had a strong focus on transportation technology since the beginning of AllianceTexas. The creation of the airport in Alliance, now called Perot Field Fort Worth Alliance Airport, helped Hillwood develop what has become an inland port. 

Over the years, the company began hosting firms focused on the cutting edge of transportation within AllianceTexas. It turns out, technologies like autonomous trucking and eVTOLs, or electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, were exactly the sort of things some of the development’s major corporate users were interested in, Berry said. 

Some of those corporate partners include Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway Company and Memphis-headquartered FedEx Corporation (NYSE: FDX).  

“We decided to really take advantage of this 27,000-acre platform that we have in Alliance, with all this infrastructure and all this movement of freight on a daily and hourly basis, to see if we could bring the industry together here and really act as a convener,” Berry said.

AllianceTexas has roughly 8,000 acres left for development. In future industrial projects, Berry said Hillwood will work to incorporate emerging technologies as they become more prevalent within the industry. 

Berry spoke with the Dallas Business Journal about the future of transportation, reshoring and the impact of both those on industrial real estate at the recent UP.Summit event

 

How will changing technologies, such as autonomous trucks, impact the future of commercial real estate?

You’ve got to put in technology and communications systems in your facility that allows these autonomous vehicles to talk to the building and the real estate. On the long haul side, you’re finding now, these long haul autonomous trucking companies will carry a load from, say, Houston to Dallas, but when they get to the destination, say an Amazon facility, they need a place to drop that trailer.

Then, another autonomous vehicle from the yard will come out, pick it up and place it at the right location…

So yard management systems and transportation management systems now have to talk to each other, which requires a very complex set of infrastructure, as well as communications systems. Those are ways that it’ll affect real estate. We’re now looking at designing these drop lots outside our buildings, adjacent to the gates, so that this transfer can happen. 

 

What about drones involved in last-mile delivery? 

On the air side, we had one client that we built a building for and they’re working with one of these drone carriers on package delivery. They requested, in the lease, the ability to build a drone landing facility adjacent to the building. 

They can literally deliver packages via drone directly from the warehouse to the end user without having to have a step in the middle. From a design standpoint, those are the kinds of things we as a developer and designer have to start incorporating into our thinking.  

 

How will reshoring and the growth of domestic advanced manufacturing impact AllianceTexas as well as the region? 

MP Materials is a great example, because they are trying to bring back into North America what currently resides in China – our control of the manufacturing ecosystem around battery production. That’s a great example of how reshoring is really happening here in our backyard. 

That’s another thing we’re really focused on right now, how we tap into this movement of manufacturing back to North America. You’re seeing it now with the CHIPS Act and what’s happening with semiconductor expansion in this country. 

Intel is doing a huge project in Ohio. Samsung is doing a huge project in Central Texas. Texas Instruments is doing a huge project in Sherman. 

There’s one thing that’s happening, while not directly U.S., but certainly something that benefits our position here at Alliance. There’s a huge amount of manufacturing expansion and reshoring happening in Mexico. 

 

Tell me a little more about that.

It’s not just the automotive sector. It’s a number of high-tech industry players. Although we’ve been focused on supply chain movement from Asia to the U.S., and then here to the center of the U.S. and Alliance, we’re now seeing a shift and a growing activity south to north from Mexico. I think that’s only going to continue. 

We’re kind of excited about it as well, because it gives us an opportunity to create a story and become a giant catcher’s mitt for a lot of product that’s being manufactured in Mexico that needs to move up into the U.S. market. It can come right here, and then we become a central place for final assembly, for additional manufacturing, for distribution.   

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