Rather than taking a break for vacation, Mike Fox told Hale County commissioners Monday that local economic development efforts are as busy as ever.
“I didn’t realize just how much we had going on until I started putting together this report,” Fox said. “We’ve been extremely busy during the past three months.”
As executive director of the Plainview/Hale County Economic Development Corporation, Fox on Monday presented his quarterly report to commissioners. He started by noting that local economic indicators remain strong.
“The unemployment rate is at 5.3 percent while sales tax revenues are up 0.19 percent over May 2015,” Fox report. “The jobless rate has been trending downward over the past three years after peaking at about 16 percent shortly after Cargill closed. That really is an impressive swing.”
He also noted that while sales tax numbers are up slightly from the year before, “we’re coming off a really great year in 2015 when we saw double-digit gains. Showing continued increases in sales tax revenue over a long period of time is truly encouraging, and I can confidently report that there are no red flags.”
Fox currently has eight strong industrial prospects in the local economic development pipeline which are looking to expand or relocate. “They are either looking at local existing commercial buildings, or sites for new construction,” he said. “These companies range from food processing and manufacturing to warehousing and distribution. The estimated number of full-time employees range from 20 to 2,000.”
Some of those prospects include:
–A food processor needing an existing 30,000 to 40,000 square-foot building. The company would employ 50 and invest $22 million in capital. This lead came from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
–A medical facility prospect needing an existing 7,000 square-foot building or suitable location for new construction.
–Another food processor, although they provided no detailed information on jobs or capital.
–A dairy prospect, which was a lead generated by the High Ground of Texas from the 2016 World Ag Expo.
–A logistics consulting company which is looking at logistical opportunities along the Ports to Plains corridor.
A total of 106 leads came out of four trade shows during April and May, including the MODEX 2016 in Atlanta (supply chain solutions), MRO 2016 in Dallas (maintenance, repair and overhaul), AWEA 2016 in New Orleans (American Wind Energy Association) and AUVSI-Xpotential 2016 Expo in New Orleans (robotics/drone technology).
Fox also has been keeping in contact with Plainview’s existing industry. He reported to commissioners that:
–Wal-Mart Distribution Center has almost 850 associates in addition to 200-250 in its trucking division. In recent months, the DC has significantly reduced employee turnover while experiencing a substantial improvement in the quality of its workforce. In an effort to improve employee retention, the company is starting an intern program to “grow their own.” To mark Wal-Mart Distribution Center’s 30th anniversary in Plainview, the company will host a community celebration Sept. 10 at the Ollie Liner Center.
–Azteca Milling has about 240 employees. The local facility is experiencing very little employee turnover. It is now evaluating results of a test well that has been drilled into the Dockum (Santa Rosa) Aquifer as a potential future water source.
–White Energy has approximately 50 employees. The ethanol plant is expanding from its current capacity of 110 million gallons per year to 130 million gallons, and is building additional storage tanks as well as water treatment facilities to reduce water needs through recycling.
–The BNSF Logistics/Transportation Logistics wind energy distribution center is now up to 95 acres with the company seeking additional land for expansion.
–MRE Capital LLC awaits word on its application for tax credit financing through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for a $7.7 million restoration project to transform the Plainview Hilton Hotel into the 27-unit Conrad Lofts. The Kansas City-based development company should learn if they were awarded the funds in late July.
While Fox admits that he can’t announce any new industry for Plainview at this time, “things are in place, and may soon create a domino effort. Once we land our first prospect, it very well could set things moving in sort of a snowball effect. That’s what we’re anticipating.”