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Southlake group looks to boost biotech in DFW

Think Dallas-Fort Worth business and what comes to mind? Oil and gas companies like Exxon Mobil, airlines like American and Southwest, entrepreneurs like Ross Perot and Mark Cuban and corporate headquarters including J.C. Penney or AT&T.

Biotech? Not so much.

A new group is hoping to change that perception. BioNorthTX, with an office in Southlake, has been formed to support and promote DFW’s biotechnology, pharmaceutical and life science companies.

There’s more here than you might think. While North Texas doesn’t compare to the San Francisco Bay Area in northern California or Boston as a biotech hub, it has a growing base of life science companies and operations including Alcon Labs in Fort Worth (the region’s biggest pharma company); Greatbatch, a medical device manufacturer based in Frisco; and ZS Pharma, a drugmaker launched out of the Tech Fort Worth business incubator that went public last year.)

According to a state report last year, Texas has more than 3,600 biotechnology manufacturing and R&D operations. And according to Kay Tieman, co-founder of BioNorthTX, about a third of those are in the DFW region.

“We’re kind of a sleeping giant,” said Tieman, who is life science practice leader at Risk Consulting Partners, a commercial insurance firm.

Tieman, who previously spent time working for the national Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), said North Texas has two strengths necessary for growth in its biotech sector: talent and money. She cited the region’s strong academic institutions led by UT Southwestern in Dallas and the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, and the area’s strong investment community including angel networks and private equity.

One of the group’s top priorities is attracting and retaining biotechnology workers and management. By assembling a roster of companies in the area, the group hopes to foster collaboration and networking, and promote the region in other parts of Texas and other states.

Frank Kent Motor memorabilia to be auctioned

Fort Worth’s Frank Kent Motor Co. will auction off some of its 80-year-old auto history in an online event in August.

The company was founded in 1935 and is still one of the oldest family-owned dealerships in the state. The owners, Will Churchill and Corrie Watson, are great-grandchildren of Frank Kent.

The online auction Aug. 18 will feature more than $1 million worth of historic pieces from the dealership. Rosen Systems is conducting the auction. The auction will include cars, automotive accessories, Frank Kent’s famous firetruck, workbenches and furniture.

Online viewing begins Aug. 8.

The auction comes on the heels of Frank Kent Motor Co. selling its Honda dealership in Fort Worth to Berkshire Hathaway. The company still owns Hyundai and Fisker dealerships, and the largest Cadillac dealership in the Southwest.

Next month, Frank Kent Motor Co. will also move its office operations to 215 S. Main St., which has been renamed the Frank Kent Building. Churchill and Watson bought the property earlier this year and the adjoining building at 219 S. Main St.

The two have been buying several properties on the near south side, including the buildings at 1117 and 1119 W. Magnolia Ave., which will be transformed into two urban lofts. The Kent & Co. Lofts will be 900 square feet each with two bedrooms and one bathroom. They will rent for $2,000 a month beginning in September.

The Lofts are a block from Churchill and Watson’s Kent & Co. Wines, which opened in 2014.

“Magnolia Avenue and the near south side are great areas to live, work and play,” Churchill said in a statement. “We’re proud to be a part of this community and are excited to see its ongoing growth. Kent & Co. Lofts and our new family office are just two of the projects we hope add value to the area.”

Frank Kent Motor Co. will open a special events venue called The Space at 1309 S. Adams St. in mid-October. The Space will serve as a setting for Kent & Co. Wines to host wine education classes and will be available for rent for special events, wedding receptions and private parties for up to 150 people.

Churchill and Watson are also under contract to sell the Frank Kent Cadillac site on Lancaster Avenue to a Dallas-based developer that is planning a $26.6 million, 200-unit apartment project called Cadillac Lofts.

Farmer Brothers to begin construction

California-based coffer maker Farmer Brothers, will start construction in early August on its 500,000-square-foot headquarters, manufacturing and distribution facility in Northlake.

Farmer Brothers CEO Mike Keown will be on hand for the event, which also be the first peek at the facility’s design. The company is building at the corner of East Sam Lee Lane and Ashmore Lane, on the east side of Interstate 35W and north of Texas 114, across from Texas Motor Speedway.

Farmer Brothers is moving from Torrance, Calif., and bringing about 30 executive and management jobs to North Texas. The new headquarters, which will feature a 1,000-square-foot teaching facility, will employ about 300 workers, all local hires. The average annual salary will be $50,000.

In April, Farmer Brothers and the landowners received tax incentives from the Denton County Commissioners Court and the Northlake Town Council. The company will become Northlake’s largest employer. It selected the city after a two-year search.

The groundbreaking is Aug. 11. Stream Realty Partners is the developer of the project, which will be owned by Wells Fargo and leased to Farmer Brothers.

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