Tag Archives: Bell Helicopter

AQHA needs more than signatures to stay in Amarillo

Here is what I have gleaned so far from news that Fort Worth might be making an effort to lure the American Quarter Horse Association Museum from Amarillo to Cow Town …

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson has launched a petition drive to collect signatures from Texas Panhandle residents seeking to persuade the AQHA movers and shakers to stay put, to avoid relocating.

Fort Worth City Council has signed a 50-year lease agreement that well could result in the development of a site where the AQHA Museum, a fixture in Amarillo for 70 years, could be relocated.

The story apparently is causing a stir in Amarillo, which doesn’t want to lose the iconic institution, created in Amarillo to salute the ranching industry that has been so vital to the development of the Panhandle since the mid-19th century.

This is no great flash, but it is going to take a whole lot more than thousands of names attached to a petition to keep the AQHA anchored in the Panhandle. It will take some financial inducements, as in real American money. 

I don’t know what those inducements would include. I do know that the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation in the past has employed an aggressive strategy to lure businesses to the region in the name of job creation. It uses a portion of sales tax revenue it collects to help start-up businesses, or to lure big-time employers to the region. The Bell-Textron aircraft assembly operation and the Hilmar Cheese plant in Dallam County are two prime examples of the success enjoyed by AEDC’s strategy.

I don’t know if there is a provision in AEDC’s charter that allows such inducements that would apply to retaining an existing organization, or even if there is much actual job growth associated with such a plan.

All I am left to presume is that signatures on a petition carry the same tangible value as political leaders sending “thoughts and prayers” to victims of gun violence.

This effort to keep AQHA where it’s been for seven decades doesn’t look terribly promising.

CAVE people: Eating their words?

A friend of mine — who communicates with me these days on social media — brought up an unofficial group of Amarillo-area residents who have had their heads handed to them.

He mentioned “CAVE” people. “CAVE” is an acronym for Citizens Against Virtually Everything. I commented briefly the other day about how the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the city’s new Texas League baseball franchise, are leading the league in average attendance while playing ball at Hodgetown, the new 7,000-seat ballpark in downtown Amarillo.

My friend noted that the CAVE folks were “against” the baseball team, against building the ballpark, against efforts to revive Amarillo’s once-moribund downtown district.

The CAVE folks aren’t an official group, such as Amarillo Matters, which has formed to promote downtown revitalization and other economic development efforts.

But they’re out there.

Sure, there has been healthy skepticism about downtown efforts. Some folks want he Herring Hotel to get a boost from City Hall. Others have lamented the absence — yet! — of any retail outlets springing up in that parking garage across the street from Hodgetown.

I do recall the CAVE cadre/cabal saying the multipurpose event venue would fall flat. I’m happy to notice, even from some distance these days, that the MPEV hasn’t done what the CAVErs predicted.

If anything, it is proving — and, yes, it’s still early — to be one of the wisest investments the city has made since, oh, the arrival in 1999 of the Bell/Textron aircraft assembly plant next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

That project has worked out well. I believe the Sod Poodles, Hodgetown and the city’s effort to pump new life into downtown will work out, too.

AEDC keeps earning its spurs

Amarillo has just witnessed yet another example of the wisdom its voters exhibited in 1989 when they approved the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation.

AEDC has pledged $69 million to Texas Tech University as an inducement for the construction of a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

For the past 29 years, AEDC has had its share of successes of varying degrees of significance. Has it batted a thousand? No. There have been some misfires. But the Tech vet school initiative is a big deal that over time is going to rank up there with another huge catch that AEDC managed to reel in.

I refer to the Bell/Textron aircraft assembly operation along Airport Boulevard, next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. AEDC kicked in about $45 million in 1998 to bring Bell back to Amarillo from Fort Worth.

Critics of that initiative bitched out loud about it. But the funding mechanism that AEDC uses was put to good use when Bell decided to build the assembly plant where it puts together the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft; the Bell operation has expanded as well, with work on various military helicopters.

AEDC collects money from a half-cent sales tax derived from the purchase of goods and services. Over many years, AEDC has built a significant fund that it invests to allow it to grow and which AEDC then uses to lure prospective businesses to Amarillo — and to the greater Panhandle region.

The Hilmar Cheese project is another AEDC project that has paid off handsomely for the region. Yes, the plant is in Dalhart and AEDC’s involvement in granting public money did attract some negative response. Then-AEDC head Buzz David dismissed the criticism, noting correctly that the jobs created by the cheese operation would ripple across the Panhandle and, yes, into Amarillo. And they have.

Amarillo voters delivered a visionary endorsement at a time when the city — indeed, the region and the state — were going through a difficult economic period. The late 1980s was an unhappy period in Amarillo, but the creation of AEDC perhaps demonstrated a community’s need to roll the dice on a new endeavor that at the time presented only the promise of a better day.

That promise has been delivered.

Cities throw big money at big business

I am not privy to economic development deliberations in Amarillo, but I’ll presume that the city didn’t compete for a big plum that’s become the subject a major-league bidding war among 20 cities in the United States and Canada.

Amazon, the big online retailer, has narrowed its search to a list of finalist cities. Two of them are in Texas: Dallas and Austin.

The payoff is — to borrow a term — yuuuge for the city that wins the right to become Amazon’s second major headquarters.

But here’s the fascinating element of this bidding war: Cities and states are throwing lots of money at Amazon to persuade the company into their communities. Texas isn’t planning, in the words of Gov. Greg Abbott, “to give away the farm.”

Why the fascination? Because little ol’ Amarillo has used this kind of incentive to lure businesses to the Texas Panhandle.

In 1989, voters approved creation of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation. AEDC then began collecting sales tax revenue generated from within the city limits. It builds a cache of money from a half-cent sales tax allotment. It then uses that money as a lure to businesses.

The city has scored many hits and has had its share of misfires along the way.

But it did land a big one in the late 1990s, when Bell/Textron relocated its aircraft assembly operation to Amarillo. AEDC offered Bell roughly $45 million in various inducements, including donated land and tax abatements. Bell built its plant and has been assembling the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, along with other state-of-the-art helicopters.

It lured Bell here from Fort Worth, where there was plenty of teeth-gnashing over being outbid by this isolated burg out here on the High Plains.

States and the cities within them are willing to offer plenty of cash to Amazon. I hope it comes to Texas, not that our state needs much of an economic boost; we’re doing pretty well these days as it is — which no doubt is going to be part of the state’s pitch to lure Amazon either to Big D or the People’s Republic of Austin.

If only Amarillo had a bigger base from which to operate.

Amarillo’s EDC needs to get after it

Amarillo has a new director/president/CEO for its economic development corporation.

Welcome, Barry Albrecht, to Amarillo and good luck to you as you start your new gig as head of the Amarillo EDC.

Here is my particular hope: Turn the AEDC loose to pursue job growth and to lure businesses using a tiny portion of tax revenue generated by the purchase of goods and services within the city.

Albrecht seems like a top-drawer kind of guy with plenty of economic development experience in his background.

City Hall, though, did something this past spring that created a bit of concern. It essentially demoted AEDC, rolling many of its economic development functions into existing City Hall departments. Buzz David retired as president/CEO and the city took a good bit of time looking for a suitable replacement.

AEDC has been an important part of the city’s economic growth since its inception in 1989, when voters approved a measure that sets aside a half-cent of sales tax revenue for the purpose of luring business and industry to Amarillo.

AEDC has scored some monumental successes over the years using this strategy. I will cite two of them:

* Bell Helicopter’s massive aircraft assembly operation next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. The AEDC, as I recall, pledged tax incentives and actual cash amounting to around $45 million to lure Bell back to Amarillo in 1999 to assemble the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. Yes, it’s a lot of money. It has paid off rather handsomely.

* The Hilmar Cheese Plant in Dallam County. This project drew some criticism from those who wondered out loud why AEDC was granting money to a company to build an operation way up yonder in Dalhart. Buzz David was adamant that the investment would bode well for the entire region — including Amarillo. He was right.

Have there been hiccups along the way? Sure. But the AEDC has proved its mettle as an economic development inducement tool for Amarillo.


The city would do quite well to spring AEDC loose on its quest to use the resources it banks every year from sales tax revenue to expand existing business and to attract future business to the city — and, yes, the region.

Stay the course with AEDC


Buzz David’s tenure as head of Amarillo’s leading economic development arm is about to end.

I read the newspaper account of his supposed “retirement” twice this afternoon and I’m left with a nagging takeaway: There seems to be more than meets the eye in his announced departure from the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation.

I don’t know the particulars. AEDC called his announcement a “retirement,” while David insists he’s going to stay in the economic development game after his tenure at AEDC ends late this month.

Whatever the case turns out to be, I want to declare that AEDC has succeeded so far in fulfilling its mission to bring jobs to Amarillo and the Panhandle and that David has been a major factor in that success.

The city should seek to find a suitable replacement, someone with the kind of economic development chops that David exhibited during his decade-plus as president and CEO of AEDC.

As for AEDC itself, my unsolicited advice to the Amarillo City Council is clear cut and unequivocal: Don’t mess with it.

I say this because of some careless talk around the city immediately after this past year’s municipal election that the AEDC board should resign en masse. That talk subsided immediately, for which I am grateful.

I had the chance to watch David up close for many years while I was working as editorial page editor of the Amarillo newspaper. I’ve had many discussions with him during that time and since my departure from the paper more than three years ago.

I consider David to be an impressive individual with loads of business savvy. If you ask him about criticism of certain projects AEDC brought to Amarillo, he’s straightforward and direct in answering them.

I once inquired about the Hilmar Cheese plant that AEDC awarded several million dollars to build in Dalhart. David’s response? The money was well-spent, given that the economic impact of that operation ripples far beyond Dallam and Hartley counties.

The Bell aircraft assembly operation came into being before David arrived at AEDC. It, too, has produced huge economic impact for the region. On David’s watch at AEDC, the operation has continued to expand.

AEDC’s strategy is to use the money it accrues from the half-cent municipal sales tax it collects and then doles it out to businesses interested in locating in Amarillo.

That strategy drew considerable scorn from the Dallas-Fort Worth media after Amarillo managed to lure the Bell aircraft operation from Tarrant County to its current location next door to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

It worked! Period.

Yes, there have been some hiccups along the way. Businesses that set up shop here after receiving AEDC assistance have failed.

The bottom line, though, looks good.

I wish Buzz David well as he moves on to his next station in life.

Moreover, my hope is that the city doesn’t mess with the successes built by its economic development corporation.


AEDC turns 25

The year 1989 proved to be a time of tumult and triumph for Amarillo.

Voters rebelled against the City Commission (as it was called then) and tossed most of its members out. Times were tough then. The economy was in the tank, the city was fighting with prominent businessman Boone Pickens, who had gotten angry at the local newspaper over its coverage of certain issues.

City voters, though, did have the good sense to approve the formation of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, a body tasked with spending a portion of sales tax revenue on job-creation projects for the city and the surrounding region.

Voters said “yes” to AEDC and it came into being.

It’s been collecting a half-cent of sales tax every year since, building a handsome investment fund for the past quarter century.

It has had some notable successes and some stinging defeats over the years.

The big daddy of the successes, of course, was the return of Bell Helicopter to Amarillo. Bell/Textron set up huge aircraft assembly operation next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport after AEDC dangled about #45 million in inducements to the company to relocate its assembly operations from Fort Worth to Amarillo. Suffice to say the good folks of Cowtown were none too pleased with what they thought amounted to corporate bribery of a company using public money.

Bell came here, began assembling the V-22 Osprey for the Marine Corps. The site has grown in the years since then, adding hundreds of jobs.

AEDC also lured Hilmar Cheese to Dalhart, another venture that drew criticism from local folks who couldn’t grasp why AEDC was spending sales tax money on something built way up yonder in Dallam County. Well, that project has been a boon to the region as well.

Not all the projects have panned out. But all in all, the AEDC has provided an innovative inducement to companies looking to expand their payrolls or to relocate from other locations to the High Plains of Texas.

Billboards are cropping up around town saluting AEDC. TV spots are airing that do the same.

All in all, the AEDC has helped the city stay afloat while other communities have struggled during tough times.

That’s reason enough to offer a good word.

Osprey takes off with new assignment

That big aircraft assembly plant next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport has a new gig.

The MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft being assembled out there is now being assigned to carry key White House personnel as part of the Marine Corps presidential security detail.


Maybe one day, the cutting-edge birds will be hauling the president himself (or herself) to and from the White House.

The Osprey has come a long way from its formative years when Bell Helicopter returned to Amarillo in 1999 thanks to a grant awarded by the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation. The plane, which lifts off like a helicopter and then flies like a conventional fixed-wing aircraft, has had its fits and starts — and its share of tragedy. It has crashed with Marines aboard, killing 19 of them once on a training mission in Arizona. The Marine Corps and Bell engineers fixed what was wrong with the bird and put it back into the air.

Mechanical difficulties have grounded the Osprey on other occasions. The Pentagon stayed with it, lobbying Congress to keep funding the program.

It’s been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where it has ferried troops and supplies to and from the battlefield.

Now, according to Politico, the Osprey has been used to fly White House support staff and equipment to Martha’s Vineyard, where President Obama has been vacationing with his family.

Any kind of state-of-the-art aircraft is going to have trouble. That’s been the history of U.S. aviation. The Osprey in that context is no different from other aircraft.

The bird that’s being built in Amarillo is earning its wings with an important new mission.

Well done, Bell.