Showing Energy the Way

The Right (of way) Brothers Ted Valdez and Don Valden find a niche in the Barnett Shale

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The economists and analysts say the Barnett Shale is bringing grat wealth to the area, but for Don Valden and Ted Valdez, it has done more than that: It has brought the two brothers together.

The duo established Texas Right of Way Associates a little over a year ago and quickly found themselves swamped with work from exploration companies and calls from people wanting to get into the right of way business. Filling a niche, the brothers project their 2007 revenues to be around $6 million.

“We’re a full-service right of way acquisision firm”, said Valden, CEO of the firm. “We work with companies that need our services and we have also set up training classes for people that want to get in the business.”

Focus: Oil & Gas “My brother always tried to get me into the righ tof way business, but I didn’t want to travel,” said Valdez, who is president, “Now, I don’t have to.”

Right of way agents help companies acquire land to build infrastructures. In the case of the Barnett Shale, the need for right of way agents has increased expoentially, according to Valdez.

“There are a lot of different types fo right of way agents, so the fact that we specialize in the Barnett Shale, or shale plays, helps a lot because we know what these companies need,” he said.

The company, which has its main office on the city’s north side, also has an office in Palo Pinto County, and recently opened another in Hill County to handle the workload in the western and southern expansions of the Barnett Shale play. They have also just started working in the Fayetteville Shale play in north central Arkansas. According to Valden, theirs is the only Hispanic-owned oil and gas service company currently operating in the Barnett Shale.

Family affair
But the business is more than just the two brothers. Shortly after starting the company, they brought aboard their mother, Peggy Valdez, and father Joe Valdez. Joe Valdez said he enjoys working with his sons.

“I retired from General Motors after 42 years on a Friday, and came here to work on a Monday,” he said. “I haven’t missed a day since.”

Though the two are brothers, Don Valden, 13 years Ted’s senior at age 48, has a slightly different last name that he said reflects an earlier social climate in Texas.

“When I was growing up, having a Latin surname could be a disadvantage in the business world,” he said. “We have an uncle who was in business and he changed his last name to Valden – just a one letter difference – so I took that name.”

The Fort Worth natives attended high school here; Valden at Southwest and Valdez at Arlington Heights. Valden wet to real estate school and expected to buy and sell property, until a family friend suggested he try the right of way business.

“I said, ‘right of what?'” Valden recalled. “Then he explained what it was and how you could basically be independent, travel and that sort of thing.”

Ted Valdez and Don ValdenPipeline SurveyThat worked out fine until he got married and the travel became a burden. At the same time, the energy industry’s boom had gone bust.

But Valden just laughed it off – literally, taking a prtafall into the comedy-club business by opening the Nitwits Club in Arlington. He olso worked as a boxing promoter with Paulie Ayala, and developed a line of drapery products when his wife, Marie, worked as an interior decorator.

“I did a lot of different things, but I always came back to being a right of way agent,” he said.

Valdez, too worked on his share of entrepreneurial ventures. After graduating from Texas Tech, where he played baseball and earned a marketing degree, he climbed aboard the Internet bandwagon. When the electricity industry was deregulated in the state, he and some friends formed a group that helped companies cut deals with electricity providers. That was going well, but when his brother suggested setting up a right of way company, he jumped at the chance.

fw_busness_press_2007b“My brother’s the expert in this business,” said Valdez. “I stay in the background, do some marketing and take care of the books.”

The books keep him plenty busy. The firm is currently working with 50 agents and expects to couble that number by the end of the year. At the same time, the brothers will offer classes for potential right of way agents.

Valden said a typical right of way agent can earn between $150 and $600 a day, depending on the agent’s experience and expertise. The classes reflect everthing Valden has learned in his 26 years in the business, he said.

“Right of way agents are professionals, because they have to be licensed and they have a real estate license, but I always thought we could be more professional and that’s what I teach in the course,” he said. “I jsut think we can do better.”

by Robert Francis
Fort Worth Business Press