Where There's a Wilks, There's a Way
By MARSHA BROWN
It was an unseasonably chilly day early in May and I was meeting Kyle Wilks and his almost 13-year-old son, Rezner, at The Shops at Willow Park. Together we watched as the latest piece of sculpture was installed on the Hike and Bike trail by a bridge between the retail center and the residential development.
“It’s all coming along,” Wilks said. “We’re adding all the little pieces now. It’s all coming together now.”
This particular “little piece” is a 25-foot stainless-steel sculpture of an alligator gar created by artist Joe Barrington of Red Star Studio. Barrington has become famous and continues to gain momentum. Recently, he was retained to produce a 25-foot, stainless-steel blue crab for the City of Rockport.
“I saw something he did in Frisco,” Wilks said. “Then I saw a piece he did in Albany that I liked and I reached out to him. He was in Alaska working on a project up there and he said he’d call me when he got back.”
One might assume that there’s some symbolic meaning for Wilks behind the giant alligator gar, but he assures me there is not. “No. No symbolism,” Wilks said. “I just liked it. He (Barrington) showed me all this other stuff … some horses … they were all typical developer-type artwork that would have been fine, but I wanted something like no one else has, something that’s not cliché, something that’s totally out of the box. Then he showed me this stainless-steel gar fish.”
Finding the perfect piece of artwork for his mixed-use development is typical of a Kyle Wilks. His attention to detail, the small touches that turn out to sometimes be giant touches, is the quality that sets a Wilks Development, like the one in Willow Park, apart from other mixed-use developments.
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Kyle Wilks is the son of one of the famous “Wilks Brothers,” as in Frac Tech Services, but if you’re guessing that means he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, your guess would be wrong.
The third child in a family of 11 children, Wilks was homeschooled, along with all of his siblings.
“My family moved around a lot,” he said. The family was of modest means.
Still, young Kyle was rarely lonely. He had 10 close friends that moved every time he did.
He began his career path working in his family’s business.
“I started out in my family’s masonry business,” Wilks recalled. “I worked for my dad and my uncle.”
When his uncle and father became immersed in the energy industry, it was young Kyle who took the reins of the family’s masonry business.
Over the course of the next decade, he became the vice president of the company, but eventually switched companies, moving to the family’s other business, the one that served the natural gas industry. Frac Tech Services was based in Aledo. Although Kyle Wilks lived (still does) on the family ranch, he became a regular fixture around Willow Park and Aledo.
“Once the fracking business took off, we all moved over to Frac Tech Services,” Wilks said. “The timing was right.” That was the understatement of the year.
Dan and Ferris Wilks, Kyle’s father and uncle, founded Frac Tech in 2002 just as the shale gas boom was beginning. It was a brilliant idea and the family nurtured it into the largest independent pressure pumping provider in the nation.
“We did Frac Tech for five or six years. The Barnett was booming back then and they were using it to go other places, really starting to figure it out.”
Kyle Wilks became Frac Tech’s Senior Vice President of Transportation. In 2010, he became a director at the Wilks Heritage Group and Wilks Brothers.
Kyle Wilks recalls, “In 2011, we sold Frac Tech to a group out of Singapore.”
The brothers sold 70-percent of the business for $3.5 billion, according to public record.
Kyle began to look for a new career. What he found was an intriguing piece of property, the abandoned Trinity Meadows Racetrack.
“I saw this property … and I walked into Jim Martin’s office,” he said. A gorgeous tract of land, it was listed by Martin Land Company, with Jim Martin as the listing agent. As luck would have it, Martin has also been in land development for decades.
Always willing to mentor talented young people, Martin recognized that Wilks had a natural talent for recognizing desirable features in a tract of land and utilizing it as a building site.
“You will never find a harder working young man than Kyle,” Martin said. “You’ll never find a more loyal young man either.”
Wilks is a young man with a big vision for Parker County. “I believe Parker County is going to be the next Collin County,” Wilks said. “I think that Parker County is experiencing what Collin County went through in the ‘90s.”
Wilks has a vision that reaches far beyond Parker County. “We then opened a property west of Midland/Odessa in Kermit, Texas,” Wilks said. “We’ve built a hotel, a massive RV park and restaurant. We are also building in Frisco about 0.8 miles from the PGA.”
All his properties are stunning, with the typical Wilks touches that set his creations head and shoulders above most other developments.
Suffice it to say that the media doesn’t really know what to make of Kyle Wilks. (He was homeschooled and there’s no diploma from an Ivy League university, no pretentiousness.) They don’t really know what to make of his family either. (It’s a big, close-knit group. They all seem to like each other.) Or his religion. (The family worships together on Saturdays at a small chapel a few miles south of Cisco, and they don’t celebrate Christmas.) And they certainly don’t understand his family’s politics. (They’re conservative, oppose abortions and big government, and they love hard work.)
But, if the media doesn’t understand Wilks, he doesn’t seem to be too worried. Why should he be? His life speaks for itself. At 41, Wilks is a successful real estate developer and owner of a prosperous commercial real estate portfolio that includes The Shops at Willow Park. He’s also a partner in a successful marriage that began when he was just 19; he and his wife Julie recently celebrated their 22nd anniversary.
His relationships tend to last. Since that first day in 2011 when he walked into Martin’s Willow Park office, hardly a week goes by that the two don’t meet for breakfast.
His favorite pastimes are simple ones. He loves to read. “My favorite (secular) book is ‘Big Rich’ by Bryan Burrough,” Wilks said. “I recommend it to everyone.” He also enjoys spending time at home with his family. “I love to play with my kids — my 18-year-old daughter, my 13-year-old son and my 3-year-old daughter and my 6-month-old son. I also like to sit with my wife on the patio of our house just four miles south of Cisco. I also love audio books because I drive so much.”
What would Wilks advise another aspiring developer to do? “Besides go make friends with Jim Martin?” he said. “I’d tell them to do anything you have to and be 100-percent determined to reach your goals and constantly chase what you want.”