Fort Worth business No. 2 on Forbes' list of promising private companies

Posted Thursday, Feb. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Think Finance, a Fort Worth-based provider of financial services for what's often called the "underbanked" population, is No. 2 on Forbes magazine's list of the "most promising" private companies.

According to Forbes, Think Finance last year had revenues of $502 million and 446 employees. That's up from revenues of more than $200 million and 300 employees that CEO Ken Rees shared with us in October 2011, when he told us about Presta.com, a new online rent-to-own venture that carries consumer electronics, jewelry and housewares.

The company operates several online consumer loan services, including PayDay One, Plain Green and quid.co.uk, a British online lender. Forbes says Think Finance has raised $60 million in venture capital from Sequoia Capital and others.

It also made American Banker's January list of "nonbanks to watch in 2013," which described Think Finance as "an online business that has been steadily widening the range of installment products it offers to the underserved." Incidentally, some of the other companies on that list included Google, Wal-Mart and PayPal.

Think Finance's offices are in southwest Fort Worth.

Acme reopens plant

In a tangible sign of the housing rebound, Fort Worth-based Acme Brick Co. reopened its plant in Bennett, just west of Weatherford, this week. The facility had been shuttered since 2009.

"Over the course of the past year, we have seen a rebirth of activity here in the Metroplex with construction now totaling 83 million square feet and forecasted to rise by double digits in 2013," said Dennis Knautz, Acme's president and CEO. "Given the recovering construction sector and the strong demand seen at other Acme plants, we believed that it is an absolute necessity to restart operations at this facility in order to have an adequate spring supply of brick for our homebuilder customers."

Acme said it also restarted a third kiln at its Texas Clay plant in Malakoff, near Athens, in December because that of increased demand.

The Bennett plant was built in 1996 on the site of the company's first brick-making facility, which originally made hard-fired bricks in 1891.

Homebuilding peaked in 2006, with area construction activity reaching 182 million square feet of space, Acme said.

"We witnessed demand plummet by nearly 70 percent to a low of only 57 million square feet by the start of 2011," Knautz said. "I believe we can finally say with confidence that our local homebuilding market is back."

The Bennett plant has the capacity to produce 2 million residential bricks a week, or enough brick for 150 average-sized homes, Acme said.

Acme was acquired by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway in 2000.

Hurricane Harbor rides

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Arlington will debut two new slides this summer -- the Typhoon Twister and the Tsunami Surge -- that promise guests "the ultimate plunge."

On Typhoon Twister, guests board slides built for two for a ride down a tunnel into a bowl-shaped slide. After spinning around multiple times in the belly of the slide, riders are thrust through a corkscrew exit into a splash pool, Six Flags said.

Tsunami Surge sends couples twisting and turning down a 68-foot enclosed tunnel, building up enough speed to take on a 40-foot wave slide on the other side. Guests experience zero-gravity as they surge to the top of the slide before gliding down to the landing pool, Six Flags said.

Typhoon Twister and Tsunami Surge are built by Proslide Technology, Inc.

To announce the new rides, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor is hosting a Polar Plunge Wedding on Valentine's Day.

Four couples are taking the ceremonial "plunge" before taking a plunge into the park's wave pool. Two of the couples will get married, and the other two will renew their vows. After the ceremony and polar plunge, a reception, complete with a first dance, cake cutting, and a bouquet and garter toss, will take place.

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor opens on May 11.

TCC building honored

Tarrant County College District's Trinity River East Campus has been deemed one of the best buildings to see in Texas this year by the blog Architizer.com.

The building, built on Trinity River bluff in downtown Fort Worth, was among 13 buildings that significantly changed the Texas landscape in the last few years, the blog said. The list was compiled with the help of the Texas Society of Architects, Architizer.com said.

The TCC campus was designed by Bing Thom Architects with Bennett Benner Petit in Fort Worth.

Other local buildings on the list: the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas, the University of Texas at Dallas campus landscape architecture, City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Cotillion Pavilion and the Richland College Sabine Hall Science Building.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727

sabaker@star-telegram.com

Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552

jfuquay@star-telegram.com

Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718

barry@star-telegram.com

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