Texas Business Report: Tornado Property Damage Claims Relatively Low
Dallas insurers say claims are lower than expected, the home construction slump adversely affects the ice-production industry, and other business news.
The Texas economy is one of the most robust in the world. Wildly profitable companies and ingenious entrepreneurs call this state home, and what happens here influences businesses around the nation. Here’s a slice of the profits, losses, big deals, and backroom decisions happening across Texas this week.
Picking Up the Pieces
North Texas businesses are still tallying the total cost of the damage from the series of tornados that ripped through the area earlier this week. Local insurers told the Dallas Business Journal that the number of property damage claims thus far—959 homeowner claims and 3,473 auto claims as of Wednesday morning—has been lower than initially expected. “We really dodged a bullet, considering the storms,” one insurance executive told the newspaper.
The Bottom Line: One company still evaluating the extent of the damage is Schneider National, which owns the trucks that were swept up by a tornado near the corner of I-20 and I-35 East, a moment captured in some of the most memorable images from the storm. About one hundred trucks and trailers were damaged of the 450 that were on site at the time, according to the DBJ.
Healthcare Employment Takes a HIT
A report from Texas State University-San Marcos finds that the state is experiencing a major shortfall in the number of health information technology workers needed to provide sufficient patient care. The San Antonio Business Journal reported this week that “Texas will need an additional 10,000 HIT workers by 2013 to support the state’s $103.6 billion health care industry.” Previous estimates had projected a shortfall of just 3,500 HIT workers by next year.
Health information technology employees manage data and communications in the healthcare industry, from electronic patient records to administrative systems.
The Bottom Line: With the updated projection so much higher, industry experts worry that “the gap is too large to be met by current supply levels” and “the quality of care for Texas citizens will suffer” if the issue is not addressed immediately, the SABJ reports. Texas State’s analysis recommends that employers, universities and the state government work together to encourage more Texans to enter the field.
Chevron Phillips Chemical Company plans to begin construction this summer on a new Baytown plant that will be the largest of its kind in the world. The Houston Chronicle reported the plant will produce 1-hexene, which “is used to manufacture polyethylene, which in turn is commonly converted into film, pipe, detergent bottles, and food and beverage containers.”
The Bottom Line: The Woodlands-based corporation plans to finish construction on the plant by early 2014.
On Thin Ice
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Dallas-based Reddy Ice Holdings Inc. is considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Despite the company’s position as the top U.S. ice producer by revenue, sales have taken a hit because stores are freezing their own ice on-site. Also, according to the WSJ, “a bigger challenge appears to be the recession-induced factors such as the drop-off in home building and construction, which means fewer coolers to ice during hot work days.”
The Bottom Line: Reddy Ice has reported losses in four of its last five quarters, but the industry may not be left out in the cold just yet. Analysts say that many grocery and convenience stores are no longer making their own ice because rising labor costs make it “easier for them to outsource that back to a Reddy Ice or some other company for delivery.”
Winner of the Week: AirTran
According to a recent evaluation of the top 15 U.S. carriers, AirTran Airways (which is owned by Southwest Airlines) is the least likely to lose passengers’ luggage. Last year AirTrain lost just 1.63 bags per 1,000 passengers, compared to the industry average of 3.35 bags.
Not all Texas airlines fared as well in the rankings, according to the Dallas Business Journal: the report identifies Fort Worth-based American Eagle as the most likely to lose luggage. Southwest and American Airlines were at the middle of the pack, ranking sixth and seventh respectively.
Loser of the Week: The RoomStore
Furniture retailer the RoomStore announced this week that it will close all ten of its remaining Texas stores, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Virginia-based chain filed for bankruptcy in December and plans to consolidate its business on the East Coast, where it has 28 remaining locations. The RoomStore had planned to auction off its remaining inventory and equipment next week, but it is reportedly considering an offer from its competitor Rooms To Go to purchase all ten stores and their contents.