February 2023 Newsletter

Greetings from your NLF Chair, Dr. Eli D. Mercer

As early signs of spring begin to appear in Northeast Tarrant County, we look forward to engaging our members and partners.

Spring is the season we lift up and celebrate outstanding examples of leadership and community service in Northeast Tarrant County with our annual NLF Distinguished Leadership Awards Luncheon to be held Thursday, March 30, at the Bowden Center in Keller. This year’s luncheon will feature internationally acclaimed entrepreneur and philanthropist, Aslam Khan, CEO of Falcon Holdings, 2017 CEO of the Year by the Fort Worth Business Press, and 2018 Most Admired CEO by the Dallas Business Journal.

I encourage you to sponsor, reserve your tables, and order tickets today to join us for this joyous and momentous occasion. 


Each year, we honor one distinguished leader who has dedicated his or her life to serving others above self. We are blessed to live in a region filled with amazing leaders, seen and unseen, who commit thousands of hours of service to accomplish great things for this community. I would like to take this opportunity to thank members of the 2022 NLF Distinguished Leadership Award - Selection Committee, made up of past award recipients and NLF officers, for their dedication and service. It certainly was no easy task to select from such a competitive field of nine outstanding nominations, including a wide range of leaders and backgrounds. 


Selection criteria include:

  1. This award was created to honor a person who has given many years of leadership and service to the Northeast Tarrant County area.
  2. This may include leadership and service in civic organizations, education, non-profits, chambers of commerce, elected office, or general contributions to the quality of life and well-being of the citizens of Northeast Tarrant County.
  3. Preferably, this person will have had positive involvement in multiple areas of the community with innovative activities and leadership qualities.
  4. The ideal candidate will have held various volunteer responsibilities and longevity in one or more organizations.

However, after careful deliberation, one leader stood out among the candidates and was selected for this year’s recipient. It is my distinct honor and privilege to announce the 2022 NLF Distinguished Leadership Award recipient, treasured friend and admired colleague to many, Howard Shotwell. After years of working with Howard on a range of community service initiatives and witnessing his generosity of time and spirit first hand, I can think of no more deserving candidate. He is an exemplary leader and volunteer in our community. Please join me in congratulating Howard on this accomplishment. 


In addition to the Distinguished Leadership Award, we will be honoring our next generation of leaders at the luncheon by introducing and featuring the stories of some of our past recipients of NLF Scholarships as well as the high school counselors, teachers, and mentors who helped them along the way. These scholarships make a meaningful difference in the lives of students and families. Thank you sponsors, members, and community partners for the support and leadership you provide to make these scholarships possible. 


Please help us to encourage graduating seniors in Northeast Tarrant County high schools to submit scholarship applications for this year, due by the end of the school day on Friday, April 7. All graduating seniors are eligible to apply if they will attend a two-year college, four-year university, or trade school.

I would like to personally thank the Hamm Foundation for providing a special one-time gift of $11,000 for Vocational Scholarships this year, over and above their ongoing contribution of $22,000 for College Scholarships. Thank you to our friends from Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages for donating new Dell Laptop Computers for each recipient again this year to accompany scholarships and set students up for success in school. We are blown away by the generosity of these partners.  


Our theme for the year is: Engagement

We want to engage with you to share vision, gain your ideas, and work together in new and meaningful ways in 2023. We have three new ways to engage and add value: Membership and Engagement, Digital Footprint and Storytelling, and Financial Sustainability and Growth. Each of these groups is interested in your insights and ideas. Please reach out to me with any questions you may have or to get involved. 

The NLF provides a forum for collaboration, dialogue, and engagement to build strong relationships. If you know an outstanding leader that you recommend for membership, click here to download the membership application.

We are committed to working together to build a strong legacy of collaborative leadership in Northeast Tarrant County.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with ideas for collaboration at: eli.mercer@eagleventurefoundation.org.

With tremendous gratitude,


-Dr. Eli D. Mercer, Chairman of the Board of NLF

Trinity Metro CEO Rich Andreski Gives Insights on Local Mobility


We were honored to host new Trinity Metro President/CEO Rich Andreski for our quarterly breakfast on Valentine’s Day morning at the Hurst Conference Center, as he shared “The Changing Face of Travel in Tarrant County.”


Rich said that the most important aspect of Trinity Metro is how its network of buses and light rail form a $250 million enterprise that is in its infancy.

We don’t have a legacy system that we have to adapt. We’re fortunate that we are starting now, with a clean sheet. Between four and six million new residents will move to DFW within the next 20 years and we need to be prepared for them.


He emphasized that Trinity Metro kept services running during our most recent winter freeze event that closed the streets. TEXRail ran uninterrupted throughout that time, carrying 15,000 riders.


His solution: Create well-thought-out transportation options because transit is an essential ingredient in a dynamic, thriving community in a multi-modal transportation system. He addressed how we need to layer mass transit to clusters of destinations and attractions throughout Tarrant County and connect them even beyond.


Rich’s immediate priority is to develop and implement a new value proposition over the next two years because tourism is essential to Tarrant County. Presently, the vast majority of visitors rent a car or take a rideshare such as Uber. Rich and his team need to anticipate and prepare for the future.


Among his impressive insights:

  • Trinity Metro is a $250 billion enterprise

  • Transit comes into play when attracting talent and world-class corporations

  • Tourism brings 9.4 million tourists to Tarrant County

  • Most visitors stay in downtown Fort Worth

  • Young people are seeking out communities with transit options

  • Trinity Metro is extending TEXRail two miles to reach the Medical District and connect its 41,000 employees – The engineering will take place this year, with the final design by mid-2024, and trains will be operating in 2025

  • The focus is on conserving more of their time by making transit easier from the downtown hotels

  • TEXRail carried 61,000 riders this past December, representing a staggering 61% increase over December 2021

  • The bus system is the workhorse of Trinity Metro


In closing, Rich added that one notable strength of the Tarrant County area is our ability to find answers and make collective decisions that can benefit the entire community.

We thank the City of Grapevine for sponsoring the February 14 breakfast.

Howard Shotwell to Receive 2022 Distinguished Leadership Award


We are honored to announce that Howard Shotwell was chosen by the NLF selection committee to receive this year's Distinguished Leadership Award – the highest honor that our organization presents.

Howard’s distinguished career consists of managing concession operations at 27 airports throughout the United States, including DFW International Airport, for Marriott and Host corporations.

He and his wife Sandy moved to Hurst in 1980 and fell in love with the city. Most recently, Howard has been known for chairing NLF during the Covid-19 year of 2021, and for creating and helping fund the Vocational Education Scholarship Program during that year. He personally contributed to, and completed raising over $12,500, dedicated solely to students pursuing a vocational skill education.

Howard worked with fellow NLF member Conrad Heede and the Tarrant County College Foundation to match the scholarship amounts and double the impact for all NLF Foundation vocational scholarship recipients who attended any TCC campus.

Additional highlights of Howard’s service to the Northeast Tarrant County community:

  • Chaired the Northeast Tarrant Chamber of Commerce and served six years on the Board

  • City of Hurst Parks and Recreation Committee: Five years

  • City of Hurst Planning and Zoning Commission: Twelve years

  • Hurst Citizens Fire Academy Alumni Association: Chaired for five years

  • Hurst Firefighters Annual Steak Dinner: Chaired for nine years

  • Birdville Education Foundation Board: Six years

  • HEB Chamber of Commerce Board: Six years including three years chairing the Business Advocacy Committee

  • Save Our Seniors (formerly Mid-Cities Care Corps): Started an advisory board and helped implement a very successful new fundraising program

  • Raised $25,000 for Hurst Fire Department - Kids Fire Trailer to teach fire safety

  • Led and helped fund campaign to pass the City of Hurst Criminal Justice Center

  • In a competitive race for Hurst City Council, he took the most hotly-contested race while recruiting two candidates to run for less-contested races – they won, and he lost

  • He has since recruited another candidate for City Council who won his race

  • NLF Foundation scholarship review committee

Please join us as we honor Howard Shotwell for his outstanding service to Northeast Leadership Forum and also to so many organizations in Northeast Tarrant County.

We ask you to click here to reserve your table.

World Renowned Entrepreneur, Aslam Khan,

to Keynote Award Luncheon

Prepare to be inspired by a literal rags-to-riches story at our NLF Annual Award Banquet on Thursday, March 30, at The Bowden Center in Keller by the 2017 CEO of the Year (Fort Worth Business Press) and the 2018 Most Admired CEO (Dallas Business Journal).


Aslam Khan took the bold step as a child living in a small Pakistani village to be the first member of his family to receive a formal education.


Each day, he traveled through a dense jungle filled with wild animals and came to a river. He removed his clothes, placed them over his head as he crossed that river, then wiped himself dry and put his clothes back on.


At the end of each school day, he repeated the process from the other direction. Now, THAT is an example of commitment that very few people have.


Today, after winning the highest honors in the entire franchise industry that covers 1,400 brands, he frequently speaks to crowds of 5,000 and 10,000 attendees.


You will want to invite your co-workers, friends, and customers to hear his insights on what works in today’s business environment and what does not.


When he spoke last November at the Downtown Fort Worth Rotary Club, the audience interrupted his presentation with applause – THREE TIMES!


Aslam will tell the story of working in a Church’s Chicken as his first American job as he cut chicken and washed dishes.


Proving that America is the land of opportunity, he earned successive promotions and became an assistant manager, a store manager, and a regional manager.


He gained the backing of a lender and bought a cluster of Church’s Chicken locations, and later became the system’s largest franchise owner with over 300 locations.

Aslam became known as a master turnaround artist, and you will be astounded at the principles that have led to his success.


Learn principles that led to him being recruited to turn $3 billion enterprise TGI Friday’s around, and how he was able to lead the organization from losing money, to a $70 million sustainable profit in just one year.


And that river that he crossed all those years as a child? Two years ago, Aslam paid to build a bridge across that river so villagers could travel to the other side in only 45 minutes rather than six hours. He also funded roads joining 12 small villages!

His accolades have included receiving:

  • Entrepreneur of the Year by the Internal Franchise Association – representing over 1,400 franchise brands that include food service, retail, and hospitality

  • 2011 Ronald Harrison Award from the International Franchise Association (the organization’s highest honor)

  • Top CEO of 2017: Fort Worth Business Press

  • Most Admired CEO of 2018: Dallas Business Journal

  • 2017 Top 100 Private Company CEO: Fort Worth Business Press

He has been featured in major publications:

  • D Magazine: Southlake’s Slumdog Millionaire

  • Franchising.com: American Dreamer: Aslam Khan Wants to Reach $1 Billion

  • Nation’s Restaurant News: TGI Friday’s names Aslam Khan CEO

We are honored that EECU Credit Union, Linebarger Law Firm, Texas Health HEB, and Barksdale-Fletcher Public Relations have already ordered the first tables for the event. 


Make plans now to attend and confirm your table reservations!

You will want to buy tables for this event because you will walk out inspired and better informed as a person than when you walked into the room… plus you’ll enjoy a wonderful meal, see many familiar faces, and make new friends!


Take this opportunity to sponsor this event celebrating leadership and community service in the Northeast Tarrant County and join us in honoring our 2022 recipient of the NLF Distinguished Leadership Award – Howard Shotwell of Hurst.


Sponsorship opportunities include:


VIP Tables - $1,500

One table of 10 with premier seating


Reserved tables - $750

One table of eight (8 total guests)


Individual ticket with general seating - $75

2023 NLF Award Sponsorship Opportunities

Thank you to our current sponsors!

Luncheon Sponsor

First Financial Bank

VIP Sponsor 

Barksdale-Fletcher Consulting Public Relations

Great Plains Bank

Hillwood, A Perot Company

Linebarger Attorneys at Law

Republic Services

Texas Health HEB

Reserved Table Sponsor

Birdville ISD

City of Colleyville

City of Euless

City of Hurst

City of North Richland Hills

City of Southlake


Frost Bank

HEB Chamber of Commerce

Larry Anfin

ONCOR Electric Services

Make plans now to attend and confirm your table reservations today by reaching out to John Fletcher at 817-205-2334 or john@thefletch.org.


Growing Membership and Engaging Community Leaders


Membership is the lifeblood of our organization. As you interact with outstanding business and community leaders who impress you, please invite them to our next event – the Annual Award Luncheon on Thursday, March 30, at The Bowden Center in Keller. These influencers are making a difference, so we encourage NLF members to invite them to participate in NLF and work together with us to elevate, empower, and educate the next generation of leaders in our community.


We want both established and emerging leaders to join our organization and work together to lead the dynamic growth of Northeast Tarrant County. For prospective NLF members you recommend, click here to download the membership application.


Contact Craig Hulse, Co-chair of Membership, if you have a prospect or questions regarding membership: chulse@nrhtx.com or 972-849-3858.

NLF Foundation Scholarship Applications Due April 7


Scholarship applications from graduating seniors in Northeast Tarrant County high schools are due by the end of the school day on Friday, April 7th.


Once again this year, the Northeast Leadership Forum Foundation is working in partnership with the Nancy and Alan Hamm Foundation to award scholarships to deserving students from 22 high schools. 


The Hamm Foundation is providing a special one-time fund of $11,000 for Vocational Scholarships this year in addition to their ongoing contribution of $22,000 for college scholarships. We are blown away by their generosity. 


In addition, our friends from Coca-Cola Southwest Beverages are once again donating a new Dell Laptop Computer for each scholarship recipient this year to accompany the scholarships and set them up for success in school.


Who Can Apply? All students are eligible to apply if they will be attending a two-year college, four-year university, or a trade school.


NLF Foundation Board Members and volunteers are in the process of meeting with area superintendents and reaching out to high school counselors to encourage applications from deserving students so that we can award our annual scholarships.


Nominations must be turned in to high school counselors by the end of the school day on Friday, April 7th. We will announce and introduce scholarship recipients in May. Please click below to download the application and apply today!

2023 NLF Scholarship Application

Texas Travel Industry Recovery Grant Program Nears End of

Final Grant Cycle in $180 Million ARPA Funds

Time is running out for Tarrant County businesses related to the travel industry could be eligible for one final round of grant funding that began on February 1. The grants are in amounts up to $20,000.


The Travel Industry Recovery Grant Program (TTIR) was established by Senate Bill 8 and signed into law by the Governor following the 87th Legislature (Third Called Session) to administer $180 million received from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.


Who Can Apply? - Applicants in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries (as determined by eligible NAICS code) who were negatively impacted by COVID-19 are able to apply.


Click here for more information and application or call John Fletcher for details at 817-205-2334.

Mark Your Calendar: 2023 NLF Event Schedule

Featured Events

Annual Award Luncheon

Date: Thursday, March 30, 2023

Time: 11 a.m.

Location: The Bowden Center, Keller

Keynote speaker: Aslam Khan

Renowned Entrepreneur, DBJ “Most Admired CEO of 2018: and Fort Worth Business Press 2017 CEO of the Year"

Heart of North Texas Conference

Date: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Time: 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Location: Hurst Conference Center

Membership Breakfast Meetings

Location: Hurst Conference Center

Networking: 7:15 a.m. • Breakfast Open: 7:30 a.m. • Program Starts: 7:45 a.m.

Tuesday, February 14

Tuesday, May 9

Tuesday, August 8

Tuesday, October 11

NLF 2023 Membership Application
Visit our webpage!