When Barry Andrews started Andrews Distributing Co. at the age of 29 in his hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1976, the company had seven employees and operated out of a 12,000-foot warehouse. That first year, the company sold 276,000 cases of beer, with Miller Brewing as its only supplier.

Fast forward through several acquisitions and an expansion of markets, and today the company serves 26 Texas counties with 1,100 employees and is the eighth-largest distributor in the country by volume -- distributing 26 million cases a year -- and the sixth-largest by revenue, says Joe Jernigan, chief financial officer of Andrews Distributing.

“We have great employees, great leadership and Barry is the hardest-working individual I’ve ever met,” says Jernigan. “He’s in the office early, he knows every employee by name and he spends time in the warehouse talking to the drivers, checking on the business. We have been very fortunate over the course of the last 16 years and 15 acquisitions to be able to precipitate a large volume growth – although a lot of it was organic, as well – at the right time and with the right people.

Smart Business spoke with Jernigan and with Andrews Distributing President Mike McGuire about how the business has grown and how its new warehouse in Allen, Texas, has aided that growth.

Why is the North Texas market a good place to do business?

We feel like North Texas, and the Dallas/Fort Worth complex are the best market in the country from a growth standpoint. It is projected that in 10 years, it will overtake Chicago as the third-largest metropolitan market in the country. We are well positioned to take advantage of that growth.

From a demographic perspective, the area is adding 160,000 people per year, or about a million every six years. As one of the top growth areas in the U.S., this is the right perfect place for us to be.

How did you settle on Allen, Texas, as the location for your new warehouse?

Our Allen location is a very robust satellite of our business. Before we opened the Allen location last year, we had nine warehouses in North Texas. The No. 1 thing that opening the Allen facility accomplished was that it drastically simplified our warehouse operations, allowing us to go from nine locations to three. That consolidation was 100 percent driven by the Allen facility and the location made it the perfect opportunity to consolidate a number of our northern, very small warehouses.

We had determined that we needed to be on the Highway 75 corridor. Our territory goes out to the Oklahoma line and 125 miles east of I-75. We started looking at a number of locations that were very interested in having us locate our satellite warehouse there. Then the gentleman assisting us in our land search introduced us to the people at the Allen Economic Development Corporation, as well as the mayor, and we established a great relationship with them.

As a result, we ended up making a deal with them and we couldn’t be happier; everything they’ve committed to they’ve followed through on, and we’ve followed through on everything we committed to. Allen is a great business community, a great community in general, and we couldn’t be more delighted with our decision. And as the population continues to spread further north, this is the perfect location for our warehouse.

The North Texas Counsel of Government has said that the junction of I-75 and I-380, three miles north of us, is going to be the epicenter of North Texas in about 15 years, which continues to validate our reason for being in Allen and which we expect will continue to contribute to our growth.

Today, we have well over 300 employees in Allen and expect to quickly grow that to 500 employees. By next year, half of our North Texas volume will be distributed out of that warehouse.

What is your ongoing relationship with the Allen Economic Development Corporation?

We continue to interact with them on an ongoing basis. Along with the land for the warehouse, we bought three tracts of land that were part of the package that we purchased from the city. People are continuing to make unsolicited offers to us on that land, we are working with the city, the mayor and the AEDC to make sure that when we sell, it is to the type of business that Allen wants as part of the community.

How is your new location working out?

We are really passionate about the company and we love the beer business. We love being a part of the community that we serve. North Texas is the best market for us to be in and when you look at what is going on in Allen, it’s an exciting time to be here.

Joe Jernigan is chief financial officer of Andrews Distributing Inc. and Mike McGuire is its president. Reach them at (214) 525-9400.

For more information about relocating to Allen, Texas, visit the Allen Economic Development Corporation at www.allentx.com or call (972) 727-0250.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by the Allen Economic Development Corporation.

Published in Los Angeles

When Billings Productions was looking for a new home for its dinosaurs, it found the ideal location in Allen, Texas.

The company got its start nearly a decade ago after Larry and Sandra Billings met in Jakarta, Indonesia, got married, and went to work at Dino-MAE, a company that built dinosaurs. When that company closed, Larry thought he could build more realistic dinosaurs and the couple decided to start their own animated dinosaur company.

In 2003, their first year in business, they built 60 animatronic dinosaurs. Larry passed away in 2007 after the company had started turning a profit, but the company continued to thrive under the leadership of Sandra and their son, Trey. Billings Productions is North America’s leading provider of life-size animatronic dinosaurs and is the only U.S. company that specializes in creating creatures that can withstand the outdoor elements.

Each dinosaur has an electronic brain to produce sound and create realistic movements via a pneumatic system. And its 200 robotic dinosaurs, which include more than 50 species, are in great demand in zoos, amusement parks and museums not only across the country but around the world, says Tim Brightman, director of business development at Billings Productions.

“We currently have shows going on in England, France and Spain, and next year we’ll have shows in New Zealand and Australia,” says Brightman.

Smart Business spoke with Brightman about the world of dinosaurs and why Allen will be the home of Billings Productions for years to come.

How does the business operate?

We lease out animatronic dinosaurs, mostly to zoos, but also to venues such as amusement parks and museums, for temporary exhibits that Larry Billings referred to as ‘edutainment.’ The goal is to encourage discovery and create an awareness of prehistoric life by making learning fun and entertaining. Every boy I’ve ever known, including myself, from about the age of four thinks that dinosaurs are the coolest thing in the world. It’s something you never get over, and Larry felt that way, as well.

We currently have 10 shows out and have more going out in the next few months. Our biggest dinosaur is the T-Rex, which is 45 feel long and 25 feet high. However, that collapses down so that several dinosaurs can fit in the trailers for transportation.

Exhibits generally go out for two to three months at a time. It is a fun and growing business. However, the industry is becoming more competitive and we have to keep moving forward with new ideas.

What precipitated the move to Allen?

When the business first started, it was operating in what was essentially a 20,000-square-foot old aluminum airplane hangar in Texas. We had just outgrown it. We had too many dinosaurs and too many projects we are building to remain in that space. When dinosaurs were coming back, the building was completely full and we needed more room.

Billings Productions has gone from a mom-and-pop business that was run in an ad hoc manner to being a real business. We are getting the business organized and structured, and as we continue to grow, we needed more space.

We scouted all over the place to find a location that was suitable and that had enough space, and we found what we were looking for in Allen. We looked at other locations, including a small town in Texas where fossils had been found, which seemed like a natural fit. But we were very concerned that if we moved 100 miles away, we would lose our core personnel, and we found everything that we needed in Allen. That allowed us to keep our talent and cost effectively locate in a bigger, nicer building. The new space is state of the art and doubles the amount of space we have, giving us more room to store our dinosaurs.

We moved in this spring, and so far, it’s been great. We’re still moving in, but as far as the facility goes, we’ve shipped out a couple of shows since moving there, and it’s so much easier. We have a good loading dock and other things that we didn’t have before, things that make it a whole lot easier to do business. Going forward, as we settle in to our new location, we’re looking into expanding our product lines, and eventually, we are going to set up tours so that people can come through and see how the dinosaurs are built.

In addition, the Allen Economic Development Corporation has made us feel very welcome and wanted. We’re starting to work with them on where the company is going over the next five years and some expansion plans. We plan to be in Allen for the long term and we’re excited about how that relationship will develop over time. Everyone has been amazingly helpful and generous with their time and support, and we really look forward to being here for a long time.

Tim Brightman is director of business development at Billings Productions. Reach him at timbrightman@billingsproductions.com. Reach the Allen Economic Development Corporation at (972) 727-0250 or www.allentx.com.

Published in Los Angeles

When the developers of Watters Creek at Montgomery Farm were looking for a location for their unique, resort-style, mixed-use development, they had a number of options.

Plans for the 52-acre project included a large creekside village green, interactive public art, a variety of retail options, restaurants with al fresco dining and views of the water, and office space and residential lofts, says Cornell Holmes, senior general manager of Watters Creek.

Ultimately, they found that Allen, Texas, offered everything that they needed to succeed.

Smart Business spoke with Holmes about the reasons for choosing Allen and the role the Allen Economic Development Corporation has played in its success.

What played into your decision to locate Watters Creek in Allen, Texas, over other available locations?

As a developer of regional malls, outdoor retail and mixed-use properties, we were conducting a nationwide search for development opportunities. At the time, we used a software program that identified pockets of areas of qualifying population density, growth trends and demographics.

After that, population pockets were further qualified by distance to existing higher-end retail centers. As a company based in Fort Worth, Texas, we were pleasantly surprised when Allen, Texas, ranked in the top five of our nationwide search. Additionally, award-winning Montgomery Farm was being developed and land within a half mile of Central Expressway frontage was available.

What role did the Allen Economic Development Corporation play in your decision to locate in Allen?

Initially, we were attracted to Allen for the fundamentals: strong job growth, an educated work force, household income levels and an outstanding location with available land. Next, the stakeholders committed to creating a truly unique environment and due diligence was conducted based upon plans of creating a LEED certified, vertically integrated urban village with ample open space and top retailers.

At that point, things became challenging. We had already decided that we loved Allen before we knew much about the Allen Economic Development Corporation. But when the due diligence process started to get rough, the AEDC really stepped up and made this opportunity go much more smoothly for us. The AEDC bridged the gap and played a monumental role in making Watters Creek at Montgomery Farm a reality.

How has your relationship with Allen Economic evolved and been maintained?

As a developer/landlord in multiple markets, we appreciate the economic or business Development teams in all the cities in which we have projects. A good ED/BD team helps get the initial project done, assists with attracting quality tenants and helps drive up occupancy. Many cities have good economic development teams. However, Allen has a great economic development team.

The AEDC continues to connect with the existing business community in Allen and they have a real pulse on everything that is happening in the business community. They continually reach out and share ideas. They also provide introductions between existing area businesses and are committed to maintaining a happy and productive work force in Allen.

And of course, they promote our businesses. The Allen Economic Development team is like an extension to our own team and it is incredible to have access to such talent and support.

How has the location impacted your success?

The old cliché is that the three most important things in real estate are location, location and location, and Watters Creek at Montgomery Farm nailed all three. Besides being in a city that is strategically located just 10 minutes north of Dallas, the location along Central Expressway is approaching the 200,000 cars per day mark.

Second, the location is surrounded by growing daytime employment centers. Just across the street is Allen Central Park, a 38-acre site which, when complete, will be a million-square-foot, master-planned office development. Directly across the interstate are more than 500,000 of existing square feet of office, with plans for further development.

Third, the location is part of the Montgomery Farm development, an interconnected master plan on one of the most beautiful landscapes in North Texas. Montgomery Farm is a model for the environmentally conscious community and connects prairie, forest, upscale residential (high, medium and low density), retail and office within 500 acres.

What advice would you give to other business owners considering moving their companies to Allen?

I would advise other business owners not only to meet with the Allen Economic Development Corporation but to take a look at the total package that Allen has to offer as a place to work, live, and play.

  • Ranked among the Top 10 Safest Cities in the country.
  • Ranked among Forbes Top 20 Best Places to Move.
  • Allen Independent School District is lauded as one on the best in the nation, with 10 campuses rated as exemplary and seven earning a recognized rating under the accountability standards set by the Texas Education Agency.
  • The city council, mayor and city manager, and every department from planning to parks to police to fire exhibits the same level of commitment that the AEDC exhibits in partnering with the business community. It is like having additional members of your team without the additional payroll.

And when you’re not working, there is also plenty to do and places to play, including 700 acres of parks, 40 miles of hiking and nature trails, five recreation complexes, a skate park, Hydrous Water Park and top dining and shopping.

To anyone looking to relocate a business, I would recommend contacting the AEDC to see what Allen, Texas, has to offer.

Cornell Holmes is senior general manager of Watters Creek. Reach him at (972) 521-5005 or cholmes@trademarkproperty.com. For more information on the Allen Economic Development Corporation, visit www.allentx.com.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by Allen Economic Development Corporation

Published in Los Angeles

When Steve Jones, founder of Homeland HealthCare, was looking for a new home for his rapidly expanding business, he considered many locations around the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

But although other cities made generous offers to attract the business – a national third-party administrator and managing general agency that specializes in servicing a variety of health and wellness products -- it was Allen, Texas, that easily won the day, says Jones.

“The Allen Economic Development Corporation was very aggressive,” says Jones. “In 2009, we were still at our previous location but we were growing so quickly, we needed a new space. Our previous city wanted us to stay at that location, and two others offered us incentives to move to their cities, but Allen beat them all. They were really aggressive, they offered a lot more, they took the time to come over and meet us and learn about our business, and they were a lot more interested in having us than anyone else.”

Smart Business spoke with Jones about his decision to move his company to Allen and why the city is such a great location for doing business.

What played into your decision to move Homeland HealthCare to a new location?

Although the company was founded in 1997, it wasn’t until 2001 that we started offering discount vision, dental, prescription and medical benefits through employer groups. Then people started asking for more. We had never done major medical, nor did we want to get into it, but we came across a fixed indemnity product that was gaining a lot of acceptance in the marketplace, especially for those who didn’t have major medical available from their employer.

That precipitated our growth until, by 2009, we had a combined 14,000 square feet and 57 employees. As we continued to grow, it was time to find a new location to accommodate that growth.

How did you settle on Allen as the new location for your business?

Once we had outgrown our space, we had a tenant representative go out into the marketplace and give us some options. There was a lot of space and a lot of empty buildings available to us at that time. We looked at locations in several cities but found a really great location in the Watter’s Creek Development in Allen. The development is a multiuse real estate plan that has apartments, retail, restaurants and offices and that looks like a little town. It’s a really great concept, with lots of cool places to eat and lots of retail complexes.

From an employer standpoint, my employees would have places to eat, they would have places to shop and they would have places to live if they wanted to be in this area. And we have covered parking. You’d never have to leave.

Other spots that we looked at just had a building and it was the same dollars for this as compared to buildings on the Dallas Tollway, where there’s no place to eat, no place to shop, there’s nothing. And there was no covered parking. You would walk outside and get into your steaming hot car. It would have been horrible.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to make. As an employer, I need to look for reasons for people to want to come to work at my business, other than just pay and benefits, and it being a great place to work. Our location gives us an advantage in attracting the best employees, I believe.

Since we moved here, our growth has been extraordinary. We built 23,000 square feet initially in 2009, and knowing that our growth was off the charts, since then we’ve built out another 7,000 feet, to reach 30,000 square feet. And in three years in this space, the number of employees has increased from 57 to 160.

What advice would you give to other business owners considering moving their companies to Allen?

If you are considering a move, meet with the people at the Allen Economic Development Corporation and give them an opportunity to show you what Allen has to offer. There is a really good work force around here, a very educated, hardworking work force for companies to draw on, housing is very affordable and the schools are excellent.

I would have no reservations about recommending the people at Allen Economic. They are very easy to work with and they are pretty aggressive. They’re very good at communicating with you, getting you involved in the community and, from an incentive standpoint, they beat everyone else when we were looking at a move. And they are very easy to work with.

There’s a lot of competition for business in the Metroplex, and Allen competes very well. It doesn’t have a big name like some of the other cities in the area, but given the opportunity, I think that any company would be very pleased dealing with the people in Allen. I certainly know that we have been.

Steve Jones is founder of Homeland HealthCare. Reach him at (214) 871-2118 or steve.jones@homelandhealthcare.com. Reach the Allen Economic Development Corporation at (972) 727-0250 or www.allentx.com.

Published in Los Angeles

When The MGHerring Group began studying the Dallas/Fort Worth area as a site for a new mixed-use development, it zeroed in on Allen, Texas, an established city with strong demographics, says Matt Gallo, CPA and development manager at the company.

The MGHerring Group has developed more than 30 major shopping centers and malls in the United States and Mexico, totaling more than 24 million square feet of retail space. It developed The Village at Allen, a 181-acre mixed-use development that includes the Allen Event Center and Courtyard by Marriott hotel, and its sister development, The Village at Fairview, a 200-acre mixed-use development across the street.

“We found Allen interesting because it had had access in terms of highways but didn’t have the retail to support its community,” Gallo says. “We looked at it and saw the community was underserved. Its residents had to drive north or south for retail opportunities, but it had the demographics to support a development project. So we scouted out the market, landed on a site and worked toward developing it.”

Smart Business spoke with Gallo about how retail developments have evolved and why Allen was a good choice for its project.

How has development changed in the last decade?


Beginning in the early to mid-2000s, there was a big emphasis on open-air shopping centers. People want to get away from enclosed malls. They like the idea of having convenient easy access and being able to pull straight up in front of a store and park. People also like being outside, and the open-air shopping centers have a town square feel to them. That’s something that’s hard to do in an interior space.

Have you seen an increased interest in mixed-use developments post-recession?


I think there’s a lot more interest in multi-use projects rather than mixed use. I refer to mixed use as stacking uses on top of one another, which can be very complicated, complex, costly and time-consuming. When times were good, everyone was jazzed about, and working on, that concept. We saw a lot of proposals; some worked, but a lot didn’t.

What we’re seeing a lot more of now is multi-use, which includes projects that have a lot of uses cobbled together in one center but not necessarily stacked. There is a benefit of certain uses in proximity to one another. For example, The Village at Allen has combined retail and restaurants with the event center, TopGolf entertainment facility and a hotel. Having all those different components is a powerful draw for both retail and business uses. They’ve been planned to work together, and we’ve worked hard to create a pedestrian-friendly feeling.

How have you worked with the Allen Economic Development Corp.?


The AEDC is one of the best organizations I’ve seen. They have been a great partner for us and are very aggressive about bringing development to the city. They’re a good resource to help get the message out about the strength of the market as well as to help us talk to retailers. They help sell the message, for instance, of why we need another Target store in Allen when there is a store three miles to the south. We couldn’t have been as successful as we were without the creative minds and courageous people at the AEDC.

How have you worked with the city of Allen?


The city staff, city council and really everyone over there really helped us. Today, projects need a partnership with the city. To do projects on the scale of The Village at Allen and The Village at Fairview and to attract the retailers there, we needed the city’s assistance to make it a reality and feasible financially. One thing the city did that was a great success was land Cabela’s. It’s not part of The Village at Allen, but it’s across the street, and to the average person, it looks like it’s part of the village. It’s a great retailer that draws a lot of sales tax dollars for the city, and the city was aggressive in working on the deal. A lot of cities wouldn’t have been that forward-thinking.

Do you have any other projects scheduled in Allen?


We don’t have any new projects planned in Allen, but there is still some developable land in The Village at Allen. There are still a few pad sites and about 18 to 20 acres of land to be developed. We’re not sure about the use yet, but we’ll continue to work on that. For us, it’s important to find the right use that has a long-term benefit.

Why would a business want to locate to Allen?


It’s a pro-growth city and a balanced community. It is a big city with about 85,000 residents, but it is able to function very quickly and get things done. The city is also very open-minded and willing to consider and listen. It doesn’t look at everything as a checklist and say, “This is how we’ve done it before so it needs to be like this.” And because of that, it’s one of the most successful cities in Texas. They’ve done a great job with growth and providing economic development incentives not only for retail but also for office employment growth. It has high standards but is open to development instead of trying to chase it away. And even though many cities suffered through the recession with tax revenue declines, the city of Allen has been experiencing record growth every year.

Matt Gallo is a CPA and development manager at The MGHerring Group. Reach him at (972) 448-0200 or visit www.herringgroup.com. Reach the Allen Economic Development Corporation at (972) 727-0250 or www.allentx.com.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by the Allen Economic Development Corporation, strategically positioned in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area.

Published in Los Angeles