Category Archives: business news

What will happen to the Barfield Building? Anything?

I have taken great pleasure in cheering on the progress I’ve witnessed in downtown Amarillo, Texas.

Abandoned buildings have been revived. New structures are being erected. Businesses are coming back into the district. They’ve broken ground on a new minor-league baseball park. Downtown is home to two first-class hotels.

Then we have the Barfield Building.

I drive by it a couple times a week and so help me, it seems as though every time I see that rotting hulk of a structure it looks more dilapidated than it does the previous time I looked at it.

I have lost track of the ownership changes that have occurred there. It’s been vacant for as long as my wife and I have lived in Amarillo; that’s more than 23 years.

An investor once started gutting the ground floor. Then the work stopped. The owner boarded up the floor. Nothing has happened since.

A Dallas-based investor took over the building with a promise to do something with it, or to it.

Then a consortium of local investors took it over.

That’s the last I heard of anything.

This past summer there was some reporting about tax incentives to turn the Barfield into a hotel/apartment structure. The incentives were to total $17 million.

The Amarillo Globe-News reported it as a possibility.

That was then. Nothing has happened.

I cannot help but think that a wrecking ball might be in the building’s future. The old Barfield Building keeps taking on the appearance of a structure that isn’t worth saving.

They’re pitching this new flight service — seriously!

I’ve lived in Amarillo, Texas for more than 23 years.

During that time I have not seen such a concerted advertising campaign to pitch airline service out of this city’s international airport.

Until now.

American Airlines is about to launch new daily non-stop service from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. It’s a big deal. I’ve said as much already on this blog. I get the attraction for business travelers as well as for families seeking quick and convenient air service to a vacation destination.

AMA: economic lure for Amarillo

This new service appears to hold considerable promise for the airline and for the city. I appreciate and understand the value of modern, convenient air service. We have it here, to the great credit of City Hall and the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

That promise must explain the TV advertising I keep seeing.

It  makes me curious as to why.

  • Delta Airlines once launched daily non-stop service between AMA and Memphis, Tenn. It didn’t take. Delta terminated the service after a brief period of time. Then the airline stopped flying to Amarillo altogether.
  • Southwest has been flying daily to Las Vegas out of Amarillo for several years. I haven’t seen the TV ads promoting that service.
  • United has flown non-stop to Denver for some time, too. No ads. Now the airline is flying non-stop to George Bush-Houston Intercontinental Airport; it assumed that service when United merged with Continental Airlines. No ads, either.

Perhaps we are witnessing a new, more aggressive marketing strategy with American’s new service between AMA and PHX.

Given that TV ad time doesn’t come cheap, I hope the investment pays off for the entire city.

Enjoying a front-row seat of progress

Our new “home” across the way from Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport and the Bell Helicopter aircraft assembly plant has given me a front-row seat to an amazing display of engineering and economic progress.

My wife and I have been living at an RV park within spittin’ distance of AMA and Bell. From our living room we are able to watch jets fly in and out of the airport while also witnessing test flights of a state-of-the-art combat aircraft that is put together right here on the High Plains.

I refer, of course, to the V-22 Osprey, the notable tilt-rotor aircraft that’s seen plenty of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years. The Marine Corps has been using the bird to ferry troops and supplies on and off battlefields in both countries for, oh, about the past decade.

The Osprey hasn’t been without controversy. Many of us recall the terrible crash in Arizona that killed nearly 20 Marines on a test flight.

The Osprey, though, has been re-engineered since that crash. It has been improved. It has been modified to some degree. Today, from what I have heard, it has performed its mission well. The aircraft gives American fighting personnel quicker entrance and exit from the battlefield.

Amarillo used an interesting — and occasionally mocked — economic tool to lure Bell/Textron to the High Plains in the late 1990s. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation offered a lot of money that it collects from sales tax revenue to Bell/Textron, which ended up receiving about $45 million in various inducements, including tax abatements and free land next to AMA.

Bell returned to Amarillo, where it once repaired and maintained Huey helicopters during the Vietnam War.

AEDC hit a home run when it lured Bell/Textron to the region. We have seen it grow over the years, expanding its mission.

I think of all this on occasion as I watch the Osprey take off and land. I recall the ridicule we heard from the Fort Worth area that lost the Bell operation, thanks to Amarillo’s aggressive and creative marketing campaign.

I also look with some pride at what this community has been able to accomplish for its local economic health as well as contributing to the nation’s vaunted military establishment.

I spoke once with a Marine pilot who was stationed in Amarillo to test-fly the Osprey earlier in its development. He mentioned to me how this aircraft was so hard to learn to fly, but once he got the hang of it, the Osprey has turned out to be a lot of fun to fly.

On occasion I think of that Marine as I watch the Osprey glide through its paces above us, and I wonder how much fun they’re having overhead.

AMA: economic lure for Amarillo

I read with some interest a story this week about the Amarillo City Council approving a contract with American Airlines that sets up direct flights between Amarillo and Phoenix, Ariz.

The non-stop flights begin in April. The contract will be for one year; American Airlines will decide at the end of that year whether to extend it depending on its profitability.

My sincere hope is that American keeps the jets in the air between AMA and PHX.

Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport has been a favored lure for the city as an economic development tool. The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation once subsidized American Airlines jet service between AMA and Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport; AEDC took a portion of the sales tax revenue it collects and paid the airline to maintain jet service.

AEDC eventually ended the subsidy. The airline dropped jet service for a brief period, but since has restored full jet service to DFW. It now will fly jets out of Amarillo to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

I’ve long touted the value of Amarillo’s air service to my friends and colleagues for as long as I have lived here. We don’t have many air carriers serving this community — American, Southwest and United. But two of those carriers, American and United, have plenty of international flights. When you depart AMA aboard either of those carriers, you are essentially just one stop away from connecting to flights that will take you anywhere on Earth.

Southwest is a highly profitable regional carrier and AMA gets service not just to Dallas Love Field, but also non-stop jet service to Las Vegas, Nev.

While much of our attention — mine included — has focused on downtown revival and on the extensive highway reconstruction along Interstates 40 and 27 as well as on Loop 335, we also can look with considerable pride at the airport that serves the Texas Panhandle.

I once spoke with Sarah Freese, the former aviation director at AMA, about the possibility of getting more carriers to serve this airport. She was hopeful at the time of attracting at least one more carrier. Freese has since moved on and I don’t know the status of the city’s effort to lure more carriers here. I hope it hasn’t withered away.

Amarillo’s airport remains a potentially big draw that will lead to the city’s brightening economic future.

Hoping this hotel building lights up again

I am generally disinclined to comment on private business in this blog, but at this moment I am going to make an exception.

A big hotel building has been abandoned along Interstate 40 in Amarillo. It’s the Wyndham Hotel, formerly known as the Ambassador Hotel.

When it was the Ambassador, this hotel was the cream of the Amarillo hospitality crop. It used to be the go-to place for local and regional conventions. The Panhandle Press Association would meet there annually; when Rotary District 5730 held its conferences in Amarillo, it headquartered at the Ambassador.

Then it was sold to someone else. They changed the name to the Wyndham, which is a decent national brand, from what I was able to discern.

The Wyndham didn’t make it in Amarillo. The hotel owners turned out the lights, apparently so suddenly that employees were caught by total surprise.

The place has been dark for some time. I don’t know the particulars of what — if anything — is being done to bring new ownership to the building or whether the current owners will be able to lift themselves out of bankruptcy and reopen the structure.

I just hate seeing it sitting there vacant whenever I zip past the site on the north side of I-40. When I look at it, I think often of another vacant hotel site my wife and I see when we drive along U.S. 287 through Wichita Falls on our way to the Metroplex.

That hotel used to be the Radisson. It’s been dark for several years. It, too, sits on a piece of prime commercial real estate property. The bad news is that the former Radisson is getting shabbier, seedier and more run down every time we drive past it.

I do not want that fate to befall the former Wyndham site.

Amarillo’s future is looking too bright as its downtown revival progresses. Surely there must be a way to bring back this once-vibrant hospitality site.

My heart hopes for the best.

Dow plunges … and they still clap?

It happened this week yet again.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average collapsed more than 1,100 points Monday, the largest single-day point drop in the history of Wall Street.

I commented on this strange reaction back in 2009. Here’s what I wrote then:

Clapping for what?

The earlier blog post questioned why those financial gurus standing in the balcony overlooking the trading floor were clapping after a measly 250-point drop in the Dow average.

Another set of financial types and perhaps a celeb were standing on that balcony clapping and grinning as if the Dow had gained 1,100-plus points rather than lost it.

I must conclude that they might know something about this latest financial collapse that the rest of us laypeople don’t understand.

Perhaps they foresaw what would happen today, that the Dow would gain back about half of what it lost Monday. The DJIA finished up a little more than 560 points today.

I’ll take it, folks. I also will accept that the podium cheering section had good reason to clap and grin today.

Where are the words to calm our fears, Mr. President?

I probably shouldn’t go there, but what the hey … I will anyway.

Donald J. Trump spoke to an Ohio crowd today to boast about the nation’s economic success. According to Politico, the president instead delivered a bitchy, meandering speech detailing his grievances at Democrats.

At the very same time he was delivering his remarks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was plummeting more than 1,100 points in the largest single point decline in stock market history.

To be clear, though, the size of the point drop isn’t as critical as the percentage of decline from the total market value.

The president has made lots of noise about how well the markets have performed since he took office. And they have! Does he deserve all the credit? No. The tax cuts, though, have played well in the minds of investors.

Today, though, was a time for the president to offer some words of wisdom about what the market was doing. I don’t mean to suggest he should couch it in some sort of personal sob story about how much money he lost while the market was plummeting.

It’s just he keeps reminding us of his Ivy League education, how well he did in the classroom, how much he learned about how to build his “amazing” business.

I keep waiting for some evidence of compassion, some ability to connect with his constituents at a level that gives them comfort that the head of state is in charge and that he’s going to do whatever he can to protect us against financial calamity.

If the president would simply stop the boasting when the winds are blowing at his back and deliver some assurance when it smacks us all in the face …

Market craters: Time for calming words from POTUS

Wall Street took a header today.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more than 600 points, signaling — possibly, maybe, perhaps — a new Black Friday.

I get that one day does not portend a stock market crash by itself.

However, I am wondering if the president of the United States is capable of offering some calm words of assurance rather than assigning blame for what happened today to millions of Americans’ retirement portfolios.

Ours took a beating today. I am not worried irrationally about our retirement future based on the market’s woes.

Donald Trump has spent a lot of emotional energy of late boasting about how Wall Street has reached record highs in record time. He has taken all sorts of credit for the market performance. He deserves some of it, although millions of the rest of us understand that the market has been climbing steadily during the past eight or nine years after it went through a serious crash to trigger the Great Recession of 2008-09.

Here’s what I would like to hear from the president: I would prefer he would provide some calm words of assurance. I mean, he is a self-described business whiz who’s made zillions of dollars. If he has any knowledge of what transpired today — and if it is a harbinger of more to come — then let’s hear it.

Talk to us, Mr. President, but speak to us like a grownup.

MPEV ground broken; city bolts toward brighter future

A crowd of about 200 or 300 folks came today to a vacant lot across from Amarillo City Hall. There was some back-slapping, congratulatory wishes and plenty of smiles to be seen.

And for a very good reason.

They broke ground today on a $45 million entertainment venue — aka The Ballpark — that is likely to help lead downtown Amarillo toward a future that few of us thought was possible.

I do believe the future is a bright one.

The multipurpose event venue has been called a “catalyst” that would spark downtown Amarillo’s revival and rebirth. They lit that catalyst this afternoon. May the spark now light an economic fire.

City officials welcomed executives from the Elmore Group, owners of the new AA minor-league baseball team that will play ball at the MPEV when it’s done, no later than April 2019. Elmore execs declared their intention to make Amarillo the nation’s top minor-league baseball city.

Given the hope and optimism I witnessed today under a bright winter sun, I have a hunch many of those in attendance today believe that high-minded goal is well within reach. I hope it comes true.

I am acutely aware that a big crowd at a ceremonial groundbreaking doesn’t guarantee success. Construction has to proceed quickly. It should be done at or under budget.

The MPEV will need to open with lots of people sitting in its seats to watch the baseball team that is moving here from San Antonio. Many high-profile supporters of the MPEV — and I can cite retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney as one of them — have contended that Amarillo is a “good baseball town.” We will determine the legitimacy of that claim in due course.

The catalyst also is slated to bring more business into the downtown district. It will help fill a shiny new hotel and a parking garage across the street from the Civic Center. It also might become a good promotional tool for the city to lure more convention business, which will bring presumably deep-pocketed visitors to Amarillo.

That’s all in the immediate future for a city that has embarked on a serious makeover of its central business district.

Today, they broke ground on the next big step on the city’s journey toward a brighter future.

Now … let’s get busy.

Deficit hawks have taken a powder

You have heard it said — I am quite certain — that “we ought to run the government like we run a business.”

I ask: How many businesses do you know operate on deficits approaching the scale of what we’ve had in the federal government?

None. Right? Of course!

But now we have the Business Mogul in Chief as president of the United States and those federal budget deficits are approaching $1 trillion annually, a figure not seen since early in the Obama administration.

I should remind you that Barack Obama took office in January 2009 with the economy in free fall. He pushed through some ambitious rescue plans that included tax increases to help pay for the significant boost in public spending to help failing businesses.

The result over President Obama’s two terms was a serious reduction in the annual budget deficit; it shrank annually by about two-thirds.

It’s now heading back up. Congress keeps spending while approving big tax cuts. I believe that’s a recipe for increasing budget deficits, which in turn pile on more money onto the national debt that now stands at a cool $20 trillion.

Deficit mounts

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin now wants Congress to boost the nation’s borrowing capacity to pay for all this spending.

Just wondering: Isn’t the Republican Party the party of fiscal responsibility? What’s more: How many businesses would survive such exorbitant spending?