AUSTIN, Texas – Thirty-nine business leaders have been tapped to join a special advisory council that will provide advice and counsel on when and how to “open up” Texas following the COVID-19 crisis.

The special advisory council was announced by Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday. Abbott has also launched a task force that will determine how to safely and strategically restart and revitalize all aspects of the Lone Star State, including work, school, entertainment, and culture.

The task force will work under the direction of Gov. Abbott, and the advice of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar.

The chair of the task force is James Huffines, and the chief operating officer is Mike Toomey.

Here is Huffines’ bio:

Former President and Chief Operating Officer of PlainsCapital Corporation, retired Chief Operating Officer of Hilltop Holdings, Inc., former Chairman of The University of Texas System Board of Regents, and current Chair of Southwestern Medical Foundation. Huffines has served three governors of Texas: Governor Greg Abbott, Governor Rick Perry, and Governor Bill Clements. He is a former Chair of the Governor’s University Research Initiative, and a former member of the Dallas Foundation Board of Governors, the Texas State History Museum Foundation Board of Trustees, and the Dallas Citizens Council Board of Directors. Huffines earned a BBA in finance from UT Austin and attended Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University.

Here is Toomey’s bio:

Mike Toomey, the only person in Texas history to serve as Chief of Staff for two Texas governors, Governor Rick Perry and Governor Bill Clements, is a former three-term Texas House member representing House District 135 in Houston, and former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He previously served as Chairman of the Board – West Houston Chamber of Commerce. Toomey earned a BA in philosophy from Baylor University and a Juris Doctor from South Texas College of Law.

Nixon appointed

One of the 39 business leaders on the special advisory council is IBC Bank Chairman and CEO Dennis E. Nixon of Laredo.

Nixon said the goal of the strike force will be to advise Gov. Abbott regarding a phased re-opening of Texas businesses and a strategy to reignite the state economy and facilitate economic recovery.

“I am grateful to Governor Abbott for appointing me to this important effort,” said Nixon. “As a community bank, IBC Bank is committed to creating economic opportunity across Texas. In order to be effective for our customers, we must be engaged in the issues that affect them.”

Nixon pointed out that prior to the pandemic, unemployment rates were at all-time lows and workers were scarce. Now, he said, the private and public sectors must all work together to get Texans back to work.

“Getting the economy moving again will be more like merging onto a busy highway than turning on a light switch,” explained Nixon. “Businesses will need time to open for business and the hiring process is sure to be affected. Because supply chains have been disrupted, processes and procedures have changed, and our daily routines have changed, we need to prepare a plan now to ensure our ramp-up is smooth and successful. I appreciate the governor’s leadership and vision on this issue. He has taken the first major step toward economic recovery with his announcement.”

Internationally, Nixon is recognized for playing an instrumental role in the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the USMCA. He has also helped create and lead advocacy organizations like the Association of South Texas Communities, Texas Border Coalition, Border Trade Alliance and the Alliance for Security and Trade.

Nixon is also co-chair, with his Mexican counterpart Moisés R. Kalach Balas, of the Trade Policy Working group of the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue. The group strengthens economic and commercial ties between the two countries by convening private sector leaders from the United States and Mexico. It also provides joint recommendations for their respective governments on priorities in the bilateral trade and investment relationship.

“The reality is, we have a major task ahead of us. As we ramp back up, our social norms will be different and social distancing will continue for a period of time. Our ability to gather at social and sporting events, galas, graduations and more, which are at the core of our way of life, are not likely to return for a while. That is one of the biggest challenges that we will continue to fight, but we must all work together to get Texans back to work and our economy moving.” Nixon added.

Another border leader on the social advisory council is attorney David Oliveira of Brownsville.

“Today I was formally appointed to a 39 member task force by Governor Abbott to reopen Texas. We have been tasked with devising strategies to reopen the economy in Texas in a safe and prudent manner. I welcome the input from any of my FB friends on innovative ways to do this in a way that does not further endanger the citizens of Texas. Please feel free to message me or email me at [email protected],” Oliveira said, in a message on Facebook.

Another distinguished leader from South Texas on the list is McAllen businessman and philanthropist Alonzo Cantu.

Pen portraits

Here are pen portraits of the 39-member special advisory council:

Arcilia Acosta

President & CEO, CARCON Industries & Construction, a full-services construction firm with offices throughout Texas with an emphasis in transportation and aviation; founder & CEO of Southwestern Testing Laboratories (STL Engineers), a geotechnical engineering and construction materials testing firm.

Paul Andrews, Jr.

Founder & CEO, TTI Inc., leading authorized, specialty distributor of interconnect, passive, and electromechanical (IP&E) components, and the distributor of choice for industrial and consumer electronics manufacturers worldwide; over 100 locations in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Mark Bivins

Rancher, partner in Corsino Cattle Company; board member of Harrington Fellows Program at the University of Texas; former Commissioner of Texas Parks and Wildlife, and Vice Chairman of TP&W Foundation; past chairman of U.T. McDonald Observatory Board of Visitors.

Kathy Britton

CEO and Owner, Perry Homes, a Texas homebuilder for over 50 years committed to providing exceptional quality, value, and customer service; created Perry Homes Foundation to support local charities; named one of Houston’s 50 Women of Influence.

Brad Brookshire

Chairman & CEO, Brookshire Grocery Co., family-owned grocery business in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas; operates more than 180 stores under Brookshire’s, Super 1 Foods, FRESH by Brookshire’s, and Spring Market banners; named among Forbes Best-in-State employers in Texas.

J. Bruce Bugg, Jr.

Chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission; Chairman, President & CEO of Southwest Bancshares, Inc.; previously Chairman and President of the Texas Economic Development Corporation, and senior advisor to Governor Rick Perry.

Alonzo Cantu

President & CEO of Cantu Construction; serves on University of Houston System Board of Regents; Chairman of the Board, Lone Star National Bank; member, Board of Managers and chairs Finance and Management Committees at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health System; majority owner of Vipers Basketball, LLC, and Lone Star FC, LLC.

Bobby Cox

Owner and operator of Bobby Cox Companies, Inc., including Rosas Café & Tortilla Factory, Taco Villa, and Texas Burger; an entrepreneur and independent businessman with investments in real estate, an advertising agency, an aircraft company, cattle ranching, and quarter horses.

Adriana Cruz

Executive Director, Economic Development & Tourism Division, Office of the Governor; previously President of the Greater San Marcos Partnership, and Vice President of Global Corporate Recruitment for the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Michael Dell

Chairman & CEO of Dell Technologies; an innovator and technology leader providing the essential infrastructure for organizations to build their digital future, transform IT, and protect their most important information. In 1999, he and his wife established the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to accelerate opportunity for children growing up in urban poverty. Michael is active with the World Economic Forum, the International Business Council, and is a member of the Technology CEO Council and the Business Roundtable.

Scott Dueser

Chairman, President & CEO, First Financial Bank; rising from management trainee in 1976; on boards of Texas Tech Alumni Association, American Bankers Association Foundation, and Texas Tech University Free Market Institute; Chairman of United Way of Abilene Foundation board.

Don Evans

Chairman of the President George W. Bush Foundation, Chairman of Permian Strategic Partnership, and 34th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce; previously served as Chairman of Energy Future Holdings and Chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents.

Tilman Fertitta

Chairman & CEO and sole owner of Landry’s, Inc, the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casinos, the NBA Houston Rockets; and New York Times best-selling author. Recognized as a world leader in the dining, hospitality, entertainment, gaming industries with 600 restaurants, hotels, amusement parks, and aquariums worldwide. Also serves as Chairman of the Board – University of Houston Board of Regents, and Houston Police Foundation.

Richard Fisher

Senior Advisor, Barclays, and Former President & CEO of Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; previously Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Vice-chair of Kissinger McLarty Associates, Managing Partner of Fisher Capital Management, Senior Manager of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., and served as Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury under President Carter.

Rick Francis

Chairman of the Board of WestStar Bank Holding Company, Inc., and Chairman & CEO of WestStar Bank; former Chairman Texas Tech University System Board of Regents.

Printice Gary

Founding Partner/Principal & CEO, Carleton Companies, the leading minority-owned general contractor and developer of market-rate and affordable housing across the state of Texas. Mr. Gary is a seasoned investment professional with over 40 years combined career experience in real estate finance, construction, homebuilding, mortgage banking, and investment banking.

Brad Heffington

Owner of Heffington Farms, Inc. and Triple T Irrigation, Inc., agriculture production and irrigation companies specializing in producing Texas cotton; serves as Vice President of High Plains Underground Water Conservation District; past President of Plains Cotton Growers, Inc.

Jeffery D. Hildebrand

Executive Chairman and Founder of Hilcorp Energy Company; serves on boards of Central Houston, Inc., Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Cesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, and Houston Police Foundation. Chairman of The University of Texas Investment Management Company, and recently appointed to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

Nancy Kinder

President & CEO, Kinder Foundation, which focuses on transformational gifts for education, urban green space, and quality of life. The Foundation has been a leading participant in the creation of Discovery Green, Buffalo Bayou Park, and Bayou Greenways 2020. Kinder is integrally involved with the evolution of Memorial Park; President of the Advisory Board of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research; and an active participant on the board of the Greater Houston Partnership.

Tom Luce

Founder & Chairman of Texas 2036; founded and led numerous nonprofits, including Just for the Kids, the National Math and Science Initiative, and the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; career distinguished by appointments to major state and national positions.

Marc McDougal

CEO McDougal Companies; managing realty and construction divisions since their inception; past President of the Lubbock Apartment Association; served on boards of the Texas Apartment Association and West Texas Home Builders Association; Mayor of Lubbock from 2002 – 2006.

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale

Owner, Gallery Furniture; retailing innovator, philanthropist; a tireless powerhouse usually found standing at the front desk of the original store on North Freeway, greeting every customer and overseeing sales activities; life’s motto: “Grateful for everything, Entitled to nothing.”

Drayton McLane

Chairman, McLane Group; Chair, Texas Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors; dynamic business leader, philanthropist, third-generation grocery wholesaler; success based on commitment to quality, customer service, and uncompromising honesty and integrity.

Elaine Mendoza

Founder, President & CEO of Conceptual MindWorks, Inc.

Balous Miller

Owner of Bill Miller BBQ Restaurants

Carla Moran

Ramar Communications based in Lubbock; President-Elect of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum Foundation; founding member of Lubbock Entertainment Performing Arts Association.

Dennis Nixon

CEO & Chairman of International Bank of Commerce. As CEO of IBC Bank since 1975 and as an inductee into the Texas Business Hall of Fame, Nixon is a leading authority on banking, commerce, and trade. As a member of the Texas Business Leadership Council and the U.S./Mexico CEO Dialogue, Nixon played an integral role in the development and passage of the USMCA trade agreement.

David Oliveira

Partner at Roerig, Oliveira & Fisher law firm, where he has practiced for over 30 years; gubernatorial appointee to the Texas Commission on Judicial Selection; member of the University of Texas Chancellor’s Council Executive Committee.

Ross Perot, Jr.

Chairman of The Perot Group, which manages the family interests including real estate, oil and gas, and financial investments; Chairman of Hillwood, a Texas-based, leading global real estate development company he founded in 1988; and a Perot Systems Corporation founder

Kevin D. Roberts, Ph.D.

Executive Director Texas Public Policy Foundation; former college president; founder and headmaster of K-12 school; education policy expert and national leader on pro-growth policies.

Robert B. Rowling

Owner and chairman of TRT Holdings, Inc., investments include Omni Hotels & Resorts and Gold’s Gym, Inc.; serves on board of the Southwestern Medical Foundation; previously served on the national board of Young Life and The University of Texas System Board of Regents.

Kendra Scott

Founder and CEO of Kendra Scott; a talented designer, passionate philanthropist, and driven entrepreneur, Kendra started her company in Austin in 2002, and has grown the company into a national powerhouse with 108 stores nationwide – 21 in Texas alone.

Robert F. Smith

Founder, Chairman & CEO of Vista Equity Partners, Austin-based global investment firm with equity commitments of over $57 billion and a private equity portfolio of more 60 enterprise software, data, and technology companies employing over 70,000 employees worldwide; 2019 inductee into the Texas Business Hall of Fame; named as one of Forbes’ 100 Greatest Living Business Minds; first African-American to sign the Giving Pledge.

Sam L. Susser

Chairman of BancAffiliated, Inc., of Corpus Christi Athletic Club, of UT Development Board, and of the Governor’s University Research Initiative; board member, National Retail Properties; previously grew Susser Holdings Corporation to a $6.7 billion publicly traded Fortune 50

Massey Villarreal

CEO & President of Precision Task Group, Inc., a Hispanic-owned and managed technical systems integration firm providing business solutions to public and private sector firms; named one of the most influential Hispanics in the U.S.; serves on board of the Greater Houston Partnership.

Kirk Watson

Named founding Dean of the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs; State Senator representing Austin, elected President Pro Tempore in 2019; previously Mayor of Austin, and served under Governor Ann Richards.

Marc Watts

President, The Friedkin Group, with business interests including Gulf States Toyota, Inc., a wholesale distributor of Toyota vehicles and products, and various private investments; previously Vice Chairman and Managing Partner-Houston of the law firm of Locke Lord LLP.

Graham Weston

Former Chairman of Rackspace Hosting Inc.; helped found Geekdom and The 80/20 Foundation; passionate about entrepreneurship, specifically how cities can build and maintain fertile environments for young entrepreneurs to learn skills to create next innovation wave.

Sanjiv Yajnik

President of the Financial Services Division at Capital One; Member of the Capital One Executive Committee; Chairman of the Collin County Business Alliance (CCBA); Chairman of the Dallas Symphony Association; Treasurer and Board Member of the National Academy Foundation (NAF); Board Member of CBRE; Previous Chairman of the Texas Economic Development Corporation.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Dennis Nixon, president of IBC Bank.

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