Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

Brighter future predicted for Texas oil patch in 2017

The Dallas Federal Reserve’s energy survey paints a brighter picture for the oil and gas industry in the Southwest.
The Dallas Federal Reserve’s energy survey paints a brighter picture for the oil and gas industry in the Southwest. Approach Resources

The Dallas Federal Reserve is ringing in the New Year with some good news about the Texas oil patch.

The Dallas Fed’s energy survey said activity leaped in the fourth quarter to 40.1 from 27.7 on the business activity index, which is the broadest measure of conditions facing energy firms in the 11th District the agency covers.

Positive survey readings indicate expansion, while negative generally show contraction.

Several other indicators also expanded for the first time in 2016, including employment and production, with a brighter outlook expressed, despite skepticism about OPEC’s recent agreement to cut production by 1.8 million barrels a day for six months. Fifty-eight percent of the oil and gas executives surveyed said they don’t expect it to be enforced.

“The oil and gas sector is entering 2017 on a positive note, as activity continued growing in the fourth quarter and outlooks improved significantly,” Michael D. Plante, a senior economist at the Dallas Fed, said in a prepared statement.

The Dallas Fed’s district includes Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Louisiana, and the survey includes oil and gas companies with national and global operations.

Labor market indexes turned positive for the first time all year, despite the fact that most of the companies continued to report unchanged headcounts. The employment index was 3.4, with 18 percent reporting net hiring while 15 percent indicated there were layoffs.

The oil production index surged nearly 20 points to 9.0 and natural gas production was at 3.1, up from a negative 20.6 in the third quarter, the survey reported. And in the important category of capital spending in the coming year, the index trended upward by 38 points to 57.1, the survey indicated.

“We are hearing about increased levels of activity in all of our shale operations in Texas, even the Barnett, which is gas-driven, all coming our way in 2017,” said one executive’s anonymous comment from an oil and gas service firm.

It comes as no surprise that some of the executives responding to the survey were enthused about President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, given that he’s expressed a drill, baby, drill attitude.

“I am excited about the new president and his pro-business attitude. We may finally have a domestic energy policy,” an exploration firm executive said. Another leader in the service sector added that talk “about lowering the federal tax rate are encouraging and will dip more for our business than anything else.”

But it all wasn’t roses when it came to Trump, with this realistic note.

“I expect the new administration to be great for business, but I have no idea what it will do for the price of oil,” said a manager from a service firm. Another one offered this little bon mot: “If we can’t make it with the new administration, we are not going to make it.”

Chamber award finalists picked

A dozen Fort Worth companies have been selected as finalists for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Small Business of the Year Award, to be awarded in February.

The chamber said a record 147 companies were nominated and another 39 sent in applications. The 186 companies were culled to the finalists by the Chamber’s Small Business Council committee. The annual award salutes exemplary best practices.

“Small businesses may not make big headlines, but they are the foundation of a thriving economy,” said Sherry Green, chairman of the Chamber’s Small Business Council committee and president of Technology Team, a previous award winner.

“These passionate and determined business owners reflect the pioneering spirit of our city and the diversity of Fort Worth’s business base.”

The finalists are:

In the emerging business category, or those less than three years old: Alchemy Pops, which makes handcrafted gourmet frozen pops from farm-fresh and local ingredients; Alpha Industries, a fabrication, industrial construction, global logistics firm; and Skin Deep Laser MD, a medical aesthetic center using advanced lasers.

In the category of one to 10 employees: Cornerstone Projects Group, a turnkey land, site and building company; M-Pak Inc., an industrial packaging and tactical clothing/uniform supplier; and Z’s Cafe, a family restaurant and catering services with a nonprofit partnership.

In the 11 to 50 employee category: Arlington Heights Animal Hospital, a full-service veterinary hospital with boarding/grooming/daycare services; Sutton Frost Cary LLP, a full-service public accounting firm with locations in Arlington and Fort Worth; and the Fulcrum Group Inc., an information technology services firm providing outsourcing to small and midsize businesses.

And in the 51 to 150 employee category: Documation of North Texas, an independent dealer of document technology with nine Texas locations; Sellmark Corp., which makes outdoor lifestyle products for more than 50 countries; and Southwest Office Systems Inc., a minority-owned independent dealer of document technology.

The winners will be announced during a reception prior to Mayor Betsy Price’s Annual State of the City address Feb. 2 at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Sandra Baker

Sabre names new Travel Network president

Southlake-based travel technology company Sabre named Wade Jones as its new interim president to lead its global distribution business.

Jones is replacing Sean Menke, who was promoted to chief executive of Sabre earlier this month. Jones has been with Sabre since 2015, leading the marketing and strategy divisions for its GDS business that distributes airline tickets for sale to travel agents.

“Since he joined Sabre in January 2015, he has demonstrated a proven track record for evolving the Travel Network marketing and strategy area and leveraged his experience in meeting customer business needs through innovative product development,” Menke said of Jones.

Sabre plans to launch a new platform for travel agents to use next year that will allow agents to sell customers ancillary products offered by airlines such as extra legroom seats or group 1 boarding.

Former American CEO to join Hawaiian Airlines board

The islands are calling former American Airlines CEO Don Carty.

Hawaiian Airlines announced this week that Carty has rejoined the board of the Honolulu-based carrier. Carty had previously been on Hawaiian’s board from 2004 to 2007 and again from 2008 to 2011.

“Don Carty possesses deep experience with and understanding of both the airline industry and publicly traded companies, and we are delighted to welcome him back to the boardroom,” said Lawrence Hershfield, chairman of the board of Hawaiian Holdings Inc.

Carty was chairman of Virgin America’s board until earlier this month when the San Francisco-based airline closed its merger with Alaska Airlines. He served as CEO of American Airlines from 1998 to 2003.