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‘Smart’ building tech startup in Fort Worth plans to add dozens of jobs paying $100K

April 26,2023

See full Fort Worth Star-Telegram article by Jenny Rudolph here.

The Fort Worth City Council approved an economic development agreement Tuesday with Sinclair Digital, the smart buildings technology startup behind downtown’s Sinclair Hotel.

Sinclair Digital was born after hotel developer Aslam began to explore sustainable options for hotel lighting. The luxury downtown hotel uses low-voltage, direct-current power commonly used in cars, appliances and electronics.

Under the agreement, Sinclair Digital will develop a new corporate research and development and technology center in downtown Fort Worth. Sinclair Digital CEO Farukh Aslam told the Star-Telegram his team’s office at 515 Houston St. will expand to a larger space on the eighth floor.

The startup outsources a portion of its software development, but the tax incentives will allow for 30 to 40 new employees in the next few months, including programmers, Aslam said. Within five years, the company expects to hire a total of 63 people earning $100,000 on average.

Aslam said he thinks the new economic development agreement could help jump start growth in Fort Worth’s technology industry, attract other companies and create more high-paying jobs downtown.

“It becomes a snowball effect when the word gets out,” Aslam said. “Companies are expanding in Fort Worth and able to find young talent.”

Robert Sturns, director of economic development for the city, praised Sinclair Digital’s innovation.

“Sinclair Digital is truly pioneering the future of smart building technology and sustainable energy, right here in Fort Worth,” Sturns said. “From a target industry standpoint, we’re looking at the full spectrum of the energy industry – from generation, to distribution, to storage, to applications – and Sinclair Digital has the potential to make a massive impact in several of these areas. They’re doing some incredible, innovative things.”

This is now the city’s third research and development credit project through the economic development department. Linear Labs and GKN Aerospace received tax credits for a portion of their R&D costs within Fort Worth.

Aslam said he also discussed the possibility of bringing Sinclair Digital’s sustainability focused technology to the future Texas A&M-Fort Worth campus. The technology could help the campus reduce its carbon footprint by 30%, similar to the Sinclair Hotel.

Aslam hopes it will introduce Texas A&M students to the technology.

“Hopefully, more and more engineers will be interested in pursuing this after their program, and we will have more talent available to bring on into our company,” Aslam said.

The local tax incentives for Sinclair Digital come amid national incentives from 30% to 70% for larger implementation of the same direct-current microgrids the technology company uses, Aslam said.

In the same way tax credits jump-started sales of electric vehicles and contributed to Tesla’s success, Sinclair Digital could see greater demand for its technology across all types of buildings, Aslam said.

“Any location with plenty of rooftop space or plenty of land would be an ideal location to build DC microgrids,” Aslam said.

Aslam’s original project, the Sinclair Hotel, received tax incentives for the project in 2019. The city realized the hotel’s technology was attracting tech executives to Fort Worth and became more curious, Aslam said.

The new deal involves city grants of up to 35% of the company’s annual research and development costs, maxed out at $10 million. For Sinclair Digital to receive the full $10 million, it must create about $121 million in new property value.

Sinclair Digital will spend about $87 million over 10 years to establish an R&D lab, technology demonstration room, product mock-up room and project demonstration site. R&D costs are a minimum of $4 million per year. Sinclair Digital will spend about $850,000 on facilities improvements and $20 million on equipment installations.

City Council member Michael Crain expressed support Tuesday during a work session.

“I’ve seen what Farukh has done with this technology, and I think it’s a great thing that we can support in a lot of different ways,” Crain said. The city’s approval of the agreement comes as experts in the Fort Worth entrepreneurship community call for local government attention on Fort Worth’s technology and innovation pipeline. In comparison to other cities across the country, Fort Worth lacks behind in early-stage startup funding.

Despite being the 13th largest city in the U.S., Fort Worth ranks 40th nationwide in early-stage funding raised, according to data from UNT HSC’s innovation ecosystem dashboard Sparkyard.

Location Mentioned: The Sinclair, Autograph Collection Hotel