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Oil and gas company moving to Stockyards has big plans for historic Armour building

An oil and gas company relocating its headquarters to the historic Armour & Co. meatpacking plant intends to create 20 six-figure jobs and lease out the remaining office space once renovations are complete.

An an interview with the Star-Telegram, U.S. Energy Development Corporation CEO Jordan Jayson shared his vision for growth in Fort Worth and what led him to relocate his family’s 43-year-old business to the historic Stockyards district.

U.S. Energy acquired the 51,000-square-foot building at 601 E. Exchange Ave. in August 2022. The company plans to move its headquarters from Arlington in the third quarter of 2024.

U.S. Energy is an exploration and production firm that manages assets and has invested in or operated about 4,000 wells in 13 states and Canada. Its operations headquarters in Arlington is in the eight-story Skymark Tower on Cooper Street next to Interstate 35. U.S. Energy also has an office in Buffalo, New York.

U.S. Energy intends to bring 50 to 60 employees from its office, where U.S. Energy operated for nearly a decade. The company will retaining its New York office with 17 people, and anticipates increasing the Fort Worth team with an additional 20 positions over the next several years.

Jayson declined to share exact salaries for future jobs, but said the average salary of existing jobs has been about $100,000. He declined to share the company’s annual revenue.

About 40% of the building will be available for rent, Jayson said.

“The office space that we’re looking to create within those walls is something that pays tribute to the Stockyards,” Jayson said. “We’re looking to contribute to that in a manner that is hopefully something that Fort Worth and our Stockyards neighbors will be proud of and we’ll be complementary of.”

Jayson expects the unique Armour building office space will help his company retain talent, attract future employees and spur business growth. Jayson was first attracted to Fort Worth because of the city’s entrepreneurial spirit and a feeling of being at home. No economic incentives were associated with the company’s move to Fort Worth.

The CEO also said Fort Worth can look forward to seeing the historic property decked out in Christmas lights around the holidays.

“It’s going to be traditional, but we intend to have something that hopefully people will walk a little bit further and poke their head around and take a look at what we’re going to do on the facade of the building from a Christmas lights standpoint,” Jayson said.

Jayson’s parents started the business in the 1980s in Buffalo. Jayson worked on Wall Street for more than a decade until 2009 when global markets were struggling, and his parents asked him to consider entering the family business.

“I worked with my parents for over five years, and it was the best five years from a professional standpoint that I’ve ever had,” he said. “I was being coached by two entrepreneurs that had run their own businesses for decades and embraced me, coached me, pushed me and helped mentor me.”

Jayson’s parents died in 2014, a few months apart.

“They both passed away when they were 75, and they both worked until their last days with us,” Jayson said. “They truly led by example and were very empathetic leaders. They were very entrepreneurial, even at those ages and continued to push us to get better on a daily basis, which is what we ask of our team right now.”

Jayson said the firm’s competitive nature will help the business grow creatively and thoughtfully in Fort Worth.

“We’re proud as a firm and a family to be part of Fort Worth and have a growing presence here,” Jayson said. “It’s been an absolute honor and pleasure to have selected Fort Worth as our headquarters, and we’re looking forward to hopefully another good 40 years.

The estimated $8 million renovation project is a collaboration between architects at Bennett Partners, construction firm Whiting Turner and KRS Realty Advisors. Kerby Smith, founder and principal of KRS Realty Advisors, said the more than 70-year-old building has significant history and is in relatively good shape for its years.

“This is a really unique opportunity to save a historic building as a part of the story of the Stockyards and to breathe new life into it,” Smith said. “And also to welcome to the Stockyards a great company in U.S. Energy and become their headquarters for the foreseeable future.”

While the Fort Worth Stockyards may best be known for its daily cattle drive, Western apparel stores and live country music, the district is also no stranger to office space.

Technology company Simpli.fi relocated its headquarters to the Stockyards in 2020. The company has more than 300 employees and occupies about 70,000 square feet in the renovated Mule Barns along Mule Alley, Smith said.

Adjacent to the Armour building, a San Antonio-based multifamily developer Kairoi Residential, has started construction on hundreds of new apartments that will sit on the eastern edge of Exchange Avenue.

The Armour complex opened with eight buildings in 1903 alongside the Swift & Co. plant. More buildings were added throughout the 1950s, including the 601 E. Exchange Ave. property.

After the Armour plant closed in 1962, Bunge Edible Oil refined soybean and corn oil there for more than 30 years. In 2012, all of the buildings were demolished, except 601 E. Exchange Ave.

This is not the first time developers have looked at transforming the historic Armour property. In 2017, the Fort Worth City Council approved $1 million in incentives to turn the former plant into a $21 million, four-star Armour Hotel with 120 rooms.

That project never came to fruition, but in 2021 the Hotel Drover opened along the redeveloped Mule Alley with new shops and restaurants off Exchange Avenue.