AllianceTexas at 35: How a Pioneering Vision Led to a $120 Billion Game Changer

When Ross Perot Jr. and Mike Berry were in their mid-20s, they set out to defy skeptics and fast-track a first-of-its-kind industrial airport in North Fort Worth. Today, AllianceTexas stands as a 27,000-acre global nexus fueled by that same trailblazing spirit—and public-private collaboration on a grand scale.

35 years ago, AllianceTexas was born out of what Ross Perot Jr. has called a “very simple vision.” Others would call it ambitious or even audacious. But either way, today that vision is a $120 billion economic engine for Dallas-Fort Worth and the state of Texas. And since 1989, its cumulative impact has reshaped our regional landscape.

At nearly twice the size of Manhattan, AllianceTexas is home to 574 companies that have generated more than 66,000 direct jobs and around 58 million square feet of developed space. The development powered nearly $10 billion in impact last year alone, per Insight Research Corporation.

“It’s one of the great development regions in the nation,” Perot said at the Venture Dallas conference in 2022. The investor, real estate visionary, and founder of Dallas real estate development giant Hillwood continues to look at what’s next. “We want to be in front of ideas that no one’s even heard of today,” he added.

An aerial view of part of the AllianceTexas development, including Perot Field Fort Worth Alliance Airport at upper right. [Photo: Hillwood]

AllianceTexas has evolved into a global nexus, with its Mobility Innovation Zone—known as The MIZ—focused on advancing transportation technologies, alongside anchor Perot Field Fort Worth Alliance Airport, corporate headquarters, and residential communities.

The story behind how it all came to be is a testament to what happens when forward-looking vision and pioneering ideas meet North Texas dealmaking—and a huge swath of undeveloped land. “We all worked together to build the last big piece in North Texas,” Perot said in 2022. Timing and being aggressive didn’t hurt, he pointed out.

A “classic Dallas play”

The 27,000-acre master-planned development, named AllianceTexas as a nod to its roots as a true public-private partnership, got its start as a “classic Dallas play,” Perot recalled.

When land costs in North Dallas soared in the 1980s, Perot and his team invested in North Fort Worth. But it was the founding of the Fort Worth Alliance Airport—the country’s first industrial airport in the late 1980s and the development’s anchor—that represented AllianceTexas’ inception. “We got it done,” Perot said at the same event. “And then we started working on deals.”

In 1986, propelled by the FAA’s proposal to build a new airport in North Texas, Perot and long-time colleague Mike Berry—both then in their mid 20s—set out with youthful energy to build the second of four planned airports that were part of the DFW 2000 Master Plan. Berry would go on to become president of Hillwood.

“We were young,” Perot said last fall. “Mike Berry and I were 26 or 27 years old at the time. What’s great about being young is that you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Established developers said it would “take decades to build an airport”—and that it couldn’t be done with the magnitude and timeline Perot and Berry had in mind. But the duo could see the future and the long-term impacts their project could realize. Perot described their mindset at the time as, “We’ve got to hurry, we’ve got a lot to do.” Undeterred, the pair forged ahead, spurred by belief in their pioneering vision.

The duo aimed to fast-track the project by “doing everything at one time,” including working with strategic partners and using private money to get things done.

Perot Field Fort Worth Alliance Airport now bears the name of the man who believed in its ultimate promise, H. Ross Perot Sr.  “My dad wholeheartedly believed Fort Worth Alliance Airport would be the centerpiece of an unprecedented jobs corridor in Texas,” said Ross Perot Jr. [Photo: Hillwood]

“We literally formed a partnership with the FAA” Perot recounted in 2022. “That’s how we fast-forwarded the whole system.” They met with the FAA “every Friday” to show their progress and obtain approvals for what was a brand new category for the FAA—their industrial airport was the “next generation” of airports.

“That’s how it got done,” he added. “We broke ground in the summer of 1988, and we were open by the fall of 1989.”

Today, AllianceTexas serves as a major cargo hub for Amazon and FedEx. And as the only non-passenger airport in the top 20 cargo airports in the U.S. by volume, it moves about 2.5 billion pounds of freight every year.

The airport served as a kickstart for Perot and Berry’s mega mixed-use development, and the project is often noted as one of the country’s most successful public-private partnership endeavors. 

Ross Perot Jr. (center) at the 2022 Venture Dallas conference.

A “transformative philosophy”

Mike Berry, president of Hillwood

In a news release marking the master-planned development’s anniversary, Hillwood president Berry says AllianceTexas is “anchored by the collaborative partnership between public and private sectors,” adding that “we’re just as forward-thinking today as when we created AllianceTexas 35 years ago.”

Indeed, the scale of coordination and negotiation required to realize AllianceTexas was monumental. Covering such a vast area across multiple jurisdictions—nine municipalities, five independent school districts, and two counties, for those who are counting—the development represents a feat of strategic dealmaking.

Integrating the interests of a wide array of public stakeholders was a test of collaborative processes. According to Hillwood, that’s led to more than $3.8 billion in property taxes distributed to various cities, counties, and school districts since 1990. In 2023 alone, it accounts for a contribution of some $344.6 million in property taxes.

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker [Courtesy]

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker says Hillwood’s impact at AllianceTexas and numerous urban developments throughout the region “have been immeasurable in their impact on North Texas’ continued leadership and success.”

AllianceTexas “remains a constant powerhouse,” the mayor added in a statement, “and sets the standard in our region and nationally for providing companies with innovative resources and opportunities for growth while also creating an environment that offers an array of outstanding housing options and lifestyle amenities.”

From FedEx to Meta, ‘Riding every generation of technology’

Berry said AllianceTexas “continues to be a sustainable economic engine” for the Lone Star State. The development creates “thousands of jobs” and is a corporate base for many of the world’s most iconic brands, he says, ticking off Amazon, FedEx, BNSF Railway, Meta, Charles Schwab, Fidelity Investments, Deloitte, and UPS as a few among “dozens of others.”

At Venture Dallas, Perot said AllianceTexas aimed for a new level of development right from the start. Back in the ’80s, he said, “No one heard of us. No one heard of Facebook. All these great clients we have today no one ever heard of.”

They did the work, Perot said. And they donated the land to get things started. But, he added, “we said we wanted to control the deals.”

One relatively early deal was the $2 billion data center for Facebook. Perot says AlllianceTexas has been able to “ride every generation of technology.”

Both Berry and Perot refer to Alliance as an incubator. “You’ve got every kind of real estate use for a client who wants to propagate technology,” Perot said. But beyond technology, Hillwood and AllianceTexas keep a welcoming spirit: “You can move into this market and the governor is excited, the mayors are excited, and the county commissioners are excited. They all want to help; they want to help you build your business.”

That’s something folks here might take for granted, he says. But if you’re not from here, that welcoming attitude can be eye-opening—and transformational.

Causing buzz with a focus on mobility and logistics tech

The Manna Aero drone making deliveries in Pecan Square, a Hillwood Community in Northlake, Texas. [Photo: Manna Drone Delivery]

Integrating cutting-edge logistics tech into the supply chain at AllianceTexas and convening leaders in logistics innovation in its Mobility Innovation Zone is a key focus for Hillwood. Gatik, a leader in autonomous middle-mile delivery, continues to use The MIZ to further commercialize its self-driving truck technology. More recently, Manna, Europe’s top delivery company, announced the launch of its last-mile delivery services in the U.S. at Alliance.

Henry Ross Perot III, vice president of Hillwood and son of Ross Perot Jr., has been instrumental in overseeing industrial and warehousing interests within AllianceTexas. Better known as “Hill,” Perot sees logistics tech as a key sector where North Texas excels.

Hill Perot and his team work to “position North Texas to be the mobility innovation zone in the entire world,” he said last fall. The MIZ is a big frontrunner already, he noted. “We’re testing drone delivery, autonomous trucks, drone delivery to people’s front doors.”

The MIZ enables AllianceTexas to remain at the forefront of supply chain innovation and adopt new technologies that enhance logistics efficiency, according to Hillwood.

Those new technologies were front and center at AllianceTexas last October when it hosted the invitation-only UP.Summit. The summit on rethinking the future of transportation brought more than 250 of “the world’s most innovative minds” in the sector to North Texas. It attracted global CEOs, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and VCs looking to get in on the ground floor of the future of mobility.

Ross Perot Jr. and Texas Governor Greg Abbott (right) at UP.Summit 2023 at AllianceTexas. [Photo: Office of the Governor]

‘Smart Port’ planned at AllianceTexas

A recent AllianceTexas presentation features the introduction of a “Smart Port” at AllianceTexas, which could be a major leap forward in supply chain management and logistics. The project, a public-private partnership for supply chain resiliency, could offer benefits from safer, more reliable freight transport to a resilient grid power. The project is slated to feature an integrated intermodal container yard, operating in synergy with the BNSF Railroad, an AV truck port, and more.

Russell Laughlin, EVP of strategic development and innovation at Hillwood, has said the project could be a gamechanger. The Smart Port could feature a 15-mile technologically enhanced corridor designed to optimize the coordination between incoming trucks and trains, thus streamlining the cargo container transfer process.

[Photo: Hillwood]

Other features include an intelligent corridor to divert truck traffic from current highways, potentially alleviating congestion and reducing air emissions by minimizing the idle times of trucks queuing to collect cargo.

The strategic location of AllianceTexas, proximate to the major ports of Houston and California’s Long Beach, positions it ideally to capitalize on the transportation flow for the DFW area, noted Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, in the Fort Worth Business Press last year. 

While the development of the Smart Port could take several years to materialize, Laughlin emphasized its potential to revolutionize the region’s logistics infrastructure.

“We have the chance to be out front and have the most advanced inland port in the country in the next few years,” Laughlin told the publication.

Live, work, play—and an investment in a ‘full city block’ in downtown Fort Worth

[Photo: Hillwood]

Beyond its industrial, aviation, and office core, AllianceTexas has grown into a comprehensive mixed-use development with an array of retail, restaurants, healthcare, entertainment, and residential neighborhoods integrated together, including major developments like Heritage, Saratoga, Harvest, Chisholm Ridge, Creekwood, Park Glen, and Pecan Square.

At the development’s heart is the 900-acre Alliance Town Center with 30 acres of green space and an anchor health and wellness district. It’s one of just two developments in Texas to receive the LEED Certified Neighborhood Development certification, according to Hillwood.

In a recent move, Hillwood expanded its presence in downtown Fort Worth by acquiring a full city block in the heart of the city. Strategically located at the entrance of the rapidly developing southern downtown corridor, the move marks Hillwood’s first investment in downtown Fort Worth—and reinforces its long-standing commitment to the city, the developer said.

Hillwood calls the location the “front door” of Cowtown’s fast-growing downtown southern corridor, where Texas A&M University is building its Fort Worth campus, anchoring the city’s new downtown innovation district. The property, bordered by 6th and 7th Streets and Calhoun and Jones Streets, is in an area seeing a surge in development and revitalization.

[Image: Hillwood]

Key projects nearby include the Convention Center’s $95 million expansion, the Omni Hotel’s addition of a new 400-room tower and meeting spaces, and the 27-story Deco 969’s luxury apartment tower— the city’s first downtown high-rise multifamily project, slated to be the ninth tallest building in the city.

Steve Aldrich, senior vice president of Hillwood, said the acquisition “puts us in the middle of one of the fastest-growing corridors, not only in downtown Fort Worth but within the entire city.”

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