(March 5, 4:12 p.m.) DALLAS — Economic indicators point toward booming business in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

More than ever, the metroplex is positioning itself as a business and leisure destination with a new arts district downtown and a new $1 billion Cowboys’ football stadium under construction.

All of that means new hotels and new restaurants, said Lucian LaBarba, president of American FoodService, a division of FreshPoint Inc., Houston.

“It has been a long time since we’ve seen that many cranes on the city skyline,” he said.

LaBarba said Dallas is an attractive city for conventions thanks to its central locations and bustling high-end restaurant trade.

A successful football team also means more cash in the economy, said John Acton, general manager of Coosemans Dallas. The new stadium being built in Irving adjacent to Six Flags Over Texas should also boost the economy.

“The Cowboys’ successful season this year has really helped,” Acton said. “That stadium should create a lot more business because it’s more of an events center.”

The stadium is scheduled to open in 2009. It is the scheduled location for Super Bowl XLV in 2011.

RETAIL CONSOLIDATION

On the retail side of things, Dallas-Fort Worth has experienced the same retail consolidation that many other areas are facing. One of the last sizable independent retailers, Coppell-based Minyard Foods Inc., with its 58 stores in the metroplex, transitioned its buying to Associated Wholesale Grocers in 2007.

The loss of Minyard and other independents was hard for a lot of businesses in Dallas, said Brett Combs, president of Dallas-based Combs Produce Co. Several companies in the produce area south of downtown Dallas have closed in the last year, including Combs’ neighbor, Rogers Produce.

“We’ve taken in employees from all of those places,” he said.

Acton said the local buying scene is not what it used to be five or 10 years ago.

“There’s been a shift to more centralized buying,” he said.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is the market leader with more than 37% market share with 67 Super centers and 21 Neighborhood Markets in the 12-county Dallas-Fort Worth region, according to the Shelby Report.

Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. garners 15% of the market with 80 stores, followed by Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway’s 10% of the market with 61 stores under its Tom Thumb banner. Albertsons also has about 10% of the market with 69 stores.

Most of the major retailers have become more efficient with their buying, too, said Ted Scribner, general manager at Harrington Produce Co.

“People just don’t need that much in shorts anymore,” he said. “You have to change the way you’re doing business.”

FOODSERVICE EXPANSION

Foodservice is one area where suppliers are seeing business increasing, Combs said.

“There are 6 million people in the metroplex,” he said. “That’s a lot of restaurants. Foodservice has saved a lot of people’s business.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Statistical Area had more than 5.2 million people in 2000. It is projected to have more than 6.3 million in 2010 and nearly 10 million in 2030.

The area already is attracting big name chefs, LaBarba said.

“We do as much as we can to promote the Dallas/Fort Worth area,” he said.