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Texas Business Report: West Foot Forward

The city of West filed a lawsuit against the fertilizer plant that exploded there in April, Neiman Marcus plans to go public, Rick Santorum’s Christian movie career, and more.

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AP Photo | Benjamin Prengler

 

West Foot Forward
The City of West has filed a negligence lawsuit against the owner and the supplier of the fertilizer plant that exploded there in April, the Dallas Morning News reports. The suit accuses Adair Grain Inc. and CF Industries of improperly storing and failing to thoroughly inspect the ammonium nitrate that ignited and caused the blast, which killed 15 people and resulted in about $100 million in damage to nearby buildings.

The city says the supplier, CF Industries, did not provide plant officials with required safety paperwork when it delivered large fertilizer shipments in the months before the accident, according to the Morning News. The lawsuit also alleges the shipments did not “include an additive that would have prevented the ammonium nitrate from exploding.”

The Bottom Line: The city is on the hook for about $17 million of the property damage, and it will cost even more to repair or rebuild school buildings and at least 150 homes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied the town’s request for disaster relief money earlier this month.

Neiman on a Mission
Neiman Marcus Inc. filed for an initial public offering on Monday as its owners, the private equity firms TPG Capital and Warburg Pincus LLC, look to scale back their investment. But the Dallas Business Journal reports the IPO filing “doesn’t mean that the Dallas-based luxury retailer is destined to go public,” as the company could still opt to pursue a private sale instead.

One analyst told the DBJ he suspects the IPO “is solely an exit strategy” for the firms, which “may just be testing the water” while preparing to unload their shares in the company. The group paid $5.1 billion to acquire Neiman Marcus in 2005 and hopes to sell it for at least $8 billion, if it takes that route, according to Businessweek.

The Bottom Line: While Neiman Marcus’ sales have yet to fully recover to their pre-2008 level, they have been steadily improving in recent months. The company drew $4.5 billion in revenue for the year that ended this April, a 6.5 percent increase over the year before, according to the DBJ.

Hooray for Holywood
Rick Santorum is getting into the movie business. The former U.S. senator and GOP presidential candidate announced this week that he has been named CEO of EchoLight Studios, a Christian film production company based in Dallas.

Santorum says he will do his part to make Dallas into “the Hollywood of the faith-and-family movie market,” Businessweek reports. (The real Hollywood, he said in a press release this week, “has had a lock on influencing the youth of this country with a flawed message that goes against our values.”)

The Bottom Line: EchoLight’s first theatrical release, a western called “The Redemption of Henry Myers,” is due out in September. A second film starring Patrick Warburton and Lauren Holly is currently in post-production and will arrive in theaters sometime next year. The company also has distribution agreements with the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival and the cinematic arts program at Liberty University.

Winners of the Week: Texas Veterans
A $1.5 million grant from the Texas Workforce Commission will bring six more colleges into a program that helps returning veterans transition back into the civilian workplace. Since it launched in 2011, the College Credit for Heroes project has supported special certification degrees in fields such as IT, computer science, manufacturing, and energy technology, KUT News reports. There are now 10 institutions involved in the program, including community colleges in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Denison, and other areas.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded a $750,000 grant to help Texas veterans find jobs through the State of Texas Soldier Employment Initiative, which is also backed by the TWC. The unemployment rate for vets between ages 25 and 34 is 12 percent, and almost 30 percent for those under age 24, according to KUT.

Losers of the Week: Southwest Airlines Passengers
A computer glitch kept 250 Southwest Airlines flights on the ground for hours last Friday night, with delays continuing through the weekend as the Dallas-based carrier made adjustments to get its schedule back on track. Forty-three flights at airports throughout the U.S. were canceled on Friday and another 14 were cut on Saturday, the Associated Press reports.

But the AP points out that Southwest’s system failure was a small one compared to the error that prompted the cancelation of 970 American Airlines flights in April and two glitches in United’s network that delayed more than 500 flights apiece last year.

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