Massive executive training center set to open in Westlake

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by CASEY NORTON

WFAA

Posted on July 5, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 5 at 11:14 PM

WESTLAKE — The biggest private development in North Texas is just months away from opening its doors.

Deloitte University is a training base, conference center and world-class hotel — all in one.

The project promises to put the town of Westlake on the map for international business.

Deloitte University stretches one-third of a mile, covering more than 750,000 square feet.

Westlake beat out cities across the country competing for the campus.

"Largely due to the central location, the climate and all the amenities that D-FW offers," said Blaine Nelson, a managing partner for Deloitte, the the world's biggest firm for accounting, and professional services.

He was on the team that selected North Texas for the training base for every one of its 45,000 U.S. employees.

A few years ago, Deloitte had to decide the best way to train its employees — mouse clicks or bricks? It chose $300 million in bricks.

"This is an investment... a $300 million investment in our people," Nelson said. "Ultimately, we think that translates into value for our clients."

The University offers a few perks for the employees. Its 800 hotel rooms are small, but comfortable.

There are large lecture halls and smaller team rooms for meetings.

And when the work is done, full-service dining halls and an after-hours social space known as "the barn" beckon students.

When it's complete, there will be open bars and game systems so employees can decompress and interact.

"This facility will allow our people to network to a great degree," Nelson said. "We think that networking will cause greater teamwork, and greater teaming that ultimately brings value to our clients."

The facility also brings value to North Texas.

In addition to the 500 full-time jobs for hotel staff and corporate trainers, Deloitte has already spent $36 million on construction payroll.

"We're at peak; have been for the last couple of months," said Dave Welber of Turner Construction. "Seven-hundred-and-50 workers on site."

Westlake expects the 45,000 annual visitors will spend millions off-campus each year, and those future executives will bring their Texas experience to the rest of the world.

That's why Hillwood Properties sold Deloitte more than 100 acres on its Circle T Ranch.

"By having it here, you'll get exposure to a whole new set of corporate players that we don't see today," said Hillwood Properties spokesman Mike Berry. "And who knows what may come out of that?"

Construction should wrap up in the next couple of months, and the grand entrance will open this fall.

At a time when other companies are downsizing and relocating, Deloitte says its committed to expanding its university, putting down roots, and leaving its mark on North Texas.

E-mail cnorton@wfaa.com

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