January 2023 Newsletter

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

Please pardon the delay in the newsletter, but none of us anticipated how much last week’s ice storm would impact our workflow.

Happy New Year to you and your families. It is an honor and privilege to serve as Chairman of the NLF Board of Directors for 2023.

I pray that your holidays were filled with family, friends, joy, and laughter. We are excited to kick off another year of collaborative leadership and look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working together to positively impact the communities of Northeast Tarrant County. 

2022 was a banner year for NLF and I would like to congratulate and thank my predecessor and friend, Shelby Brun, for his leadership as Chairman. I’d also like to thank Executive Committee members Shannon Watt as Treasurer and RaDonna Hessel as Secretary, as well as Committee Chairs Kathryn Rotter, Craig Hulse, John Fletcher, and Randy Clinton for their leadership. We are grateful to Mary Frazier and the team at HEB Chamber of Commerce for their hard work and dedication to support the NLF mission. Thank you to all leaders of Northeast Tarrant County who make a difference through our Board, membership, sponsorships, and collaboration. 

Looking forward to the coming year, we have an exciting slate of speakers and events planned as well as a number of targeted initiatives to promote and develop collaborative leadership at all levels and across all sectors of Northeast Tarrant County. Please mark your calendars and join us.


Our theme for the year is: Engagement

We want to engage with our membership and community to share vision, gain your ideas, and work together in new and meaningful ways in 2023. 

This is a season of great optimism and opportunity in Tarrant County, and the positive energy is palpable and contagious. Our population is growing rapidly and new leaders are emerging in business, government, education, and non-profits. Newcomers to the region are seeking opportunities to get plugged in. Younger leaders have a desire to get involved and make a difference. Established leaders are working hard to address the needs of our communities as we grow and evolve. This rich and diverse pool of talent and vision is the future of our County.


In order to harness this momentum, the NLF is looking forward to providing avenues for continued dialogue and engagement to build strong relationships among leaders. 

I have appointed three AD HOC Committees to engage our members in 2023 to take stock in our history and explore new ways to grow, engage, and add value.

  • Membership and Engagement: Co-chairs Chelsea Rose and Craig Hulse

  • Digital Footprint and Storytelling: Co-chairs Trasa Coburn and Eli Mercer

  • Financial Sustainability and Growth: Co-chairs Randy McCauley and Shelby Brun


Each of these groups will be reaching out to members and partners in 2023 to gain your insights and ideas on how we can continue to innovate, collaborate, and grow. If you would like to take part in these efforts, please do not hesitate to reach out to me and set a time to share your ideas and explore ways to get involved.

The NLF consists of difference-makers in our community, from local and regional government, business, education, and non-profits. We make a difference in our community by providing a dynamic forum for chambers of commerce, business owners, school superintendents, mayors, economic development directors, and nonprofit directors to build relationships, share ideas, and collaborate.

Through our quarterly breakfast speakers, RaDonna Hessel, our chair-elect, will engage and introduce us to speakers who grow our awareness and impact in areas vital to the success of Northeast Tarrant County and beyond. Our quarterly breakfast theme for the year is Transportation: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. The first speaker for the February 14th NLF breakfast is Rich Andreski, CEO of Trinity Metro.


Please mark your calendar now because we have confirmed renowned entrepreneur, philanthropist, and CEO Aslam Khan (owner of Falcon Holdings in Southlake) to keynote the Annual Award Luncheon on Thursday, March 30th.  


Scholarships and leadership development remain top priorities for NLF in 2023. We look forward to partnering with the Hamm Foundation to celebrate, encourage, and support another group of outstanding graduating seniors in Northeast Tarrant County. We award scholarship to students bound for college as well as technical and trade schools to pursue education and training. We are grateful to Carolyn Sims and the NLF Foundation for the leadership, time, and mentorship their board and volunteers invest in these young leaders through the selection and awards process.


We are committed to working together to serve the communities of Northeast Tarrant County and we are dedicated to being a valuable resource for one another and the community. You can count on me to support anything that grows the impact of NLF and of our members. Please do not hesitate to contact me with ideas or avenues for collaboration at: eli.mercer@eagleventurefoundation.org


With tremendous gratitude,


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

New Officers to Lead into 2023


Following Shelby Bruhn’s successful year that included impressive new membership growth and trade-focused scholarship funding, your NLF board of directors has elected the following officers for 2023:

Dr. Eli Mercer


RaDonna Hessel


Craig Hulse


Randy McCauley


Shelby Bruhn

Past Chair 

Breakfast Meeting Speakers Attract Impressive Crowds


Our membership continues to grow in part because of the quality of programs we have and the enthusiasm of our members. Our commitment for 2023 is to recruit speakers to help us expand our influence by learning more about our community, its resources and how to serve even better.


Chair-Elect RaDonna Hessel has chosen a theme of Planes, Trains, Automobiles for our breakfast meetings this year.


We anticipate that, instead of cameo appearances from any of the movie’s cast members, we will engage with insightful speakers regarding how these modes of transportation play a dynamic role in the fabric of Northeast Tarrant County.


Please join us for a special Valentine’s Day breakfast on Tuesday, February 14, to hear from Rich Andreski, President/CEO of Trinity Metro.

Rich is a 23-year veteran of the travel industry with ten years of executive leadership, which includes Bureau Chief for Public transportation for the Connecticut Department of Transportation. He oversaw 22 transit providers that serve 80 million riders annually.

We thank the City of Grapevine for being our breakfast sponsor.


The Changing Face of Travel

in Tarrant County


Please remember to RSVP and bring guests to hear this insightful message.

Nominations Due for NLF Distinguished Leadership Award


Please devote some time to think about nominating the most deserving recipient for the NLF Distinguished Leadership Award, our highest honor. The award recognizes that person who has given many years of service to the Northeast Tarrant County area.


The selection criteria are as follows:

  • Service in civic or educational roles, non-profit organizations, chambers of commerce, elected office or other areas that allowed the individual to make general contributions to the quality of life and well-being of the residents of the Northeast Tarrant County area
  • Preferably, positive involvement in multiple areas of our community with innovative activities and leadership qualities
  • Various volunteer responsibilities and longevity in one or more organizations


We require two nominators for each candidate. Each nomination may also include up to three letters of support. For a list of previous honorees, as well as the nomination information and formplease click here.

The due date for your nominations is

Wednesday, February 15, at 5:00 p.m. 


Please return completed form by:

Emailing to Mary Frazior at maryfrazior@heb.org


Mailing to: HEB Chamber of Commerce

P.O. Drawer 969

Bedford, TX 76095

*Postmark by 3/15/23


Droppng off at the HEB Chamber office:

2109 Martin Dr., Bedford, TX 76021

We were pleased to recognize

Tito Rodriguez

City Councilman of the City of North Richland Hills

with the 2021 Distinguished Leadership Award.

World Renowned Entrepreneur Aslam Khan – “Southlake’s Slumdog Millionaire” – to Keynote Annual Award Luncheon

Aslam Khan, the celebrated entrepreneur that the Dallas Business Journal called the "Most Admired CEO of 2018" and Dallas CEO Magazine called “Southlake’s Slumdog Millionaire,” will keynote.

The NLF Annual Award Banquet on Thursday, March 30, at the Bowden Center in Keller.


The Fort Worth Business Press also honored Aslam as its CEO of the Year in 2017. His story includes being born into poverty in a small Pakistani village, becoming the first member of his family to receive any kind of education, and starting in the United States washing dishes and cutting chicken at Church’s Chicken, where he became the system’s largest franchisee with over 300 location.

Today, Aslam’s company, Falcon Holdings, owns the entire Piccadilly Cafeteria chain, operating in Louisiana, and he has plans to bring locations back to Texas. He also owns quick service restaurants under the brands of Church’s Chicken, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, A&W, and full-service restaurant chain Fatz on the East Coast.

Aslam’s goal has always been to grow to $1 billion in annual revenue. In 2018, Sentinel Capital Partners reached out to Aslam and persuaded him to serve one year as CEO of TGI Friday’s - a $3 billion enterprise - , which he turned from losing money to a $70 million sustainable profit in just one year.

With his “People First” attitude, he has rewarded his top-performing managers each year by giving them 25 to 49% ownership of their restaurants, making them millionaires overnight.

His accolades have included receiving:

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

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

  • Most Admired CEO of 2018: Dallas Business Journal

  • 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 Linebarger Law Firm & Texas Health HEB, and Barksdale-Fletcher Public Relations have already jumped the gun and ordered the first tables for the event. 


Make plans now to attend and confirm your table reservations!

Grow Your INFLUENCE: Keep NLF Dynamic and Growing


As you interact with business and community leaders who impress you, please invite them to our next membership breakfast meeting on Valentine’s Day. We all love how these influencers are making a difference in our area, so let's invite them to participate in NLF. Membership is the lifeblood of our organization.


For outstanding leaders you know and would like to get involved, click here to download the membership application. We want both established and emerging leaders to join our organization and work together to lead the dynamic growth of Northeast Tarrant County. We look forward to welcoming visitors and new members to the quarterly breakfast meetings to build strong relationships and engage the NLF network of leaders in the region. 


Please reach out to Craig Hulse, our membership chairman, if you have a prospect or would like to submit an application: chulse@nrhtx.com.

Tarrant Transportation Summit on Friday, February 17


Tarrant County Precinct 3 Commissioner Gary Fickes will host his 13th Annual Tarrant Transportation Summit on Friday, February 17, at the Hurst Conference Center.


This event attracts over 600 leaders in the transportation industry as well as community and business leaders who want to learn the latest information about transportation and related issues. Sessions will include:

  • Automation within the U.S. Supply Chain

  • Accelerating Mobility Projects Throughout Tarrant County

  • Elevating Expectations: Airport Expansion and the Future of Flight

  • Driving Texas’ Economic Development Through Multimodal Transportation Planning

  • The Economic Impact of Managed Lanes


The luncheon keynote speaker will be Robert Pool, Director of Transportation Policy and Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow from Reason Foundation in Plantation, Florida – one of America’s pre-eminent thought leaders on mobility.


Register here or call Commissioner Fickes’ office to buy tables at 817-248-6295.

Texas Travel Industry Recovery Grant Program Announces Final Grant Cycle in $180 Million ARPA Funds


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 Texas 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!