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Drawing Caterpillar to Victoria

By ALLISON MILES
Aug. 17, 2010 at 3:17 a.m.


Did you know?Infrastructure on the Lone Tree Business Center was completed in 2004.

Since then, about 60 large companies have considered calling Victoria home, said Dale Fowler, president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp.

Of those, between 13 and 15 made their way to Victoria to visit the land and community.

A Caterpillar manufacturing plant is in Victoria's future, and it took persistence and teamwork to make it happen.

Victoria Economic Development Corp. representatives updated a packed house at Tuesday's Victoria Partnership meeting on what it took to bring the company to town.

Technically, the deal got its start about 10 years ago, when plans began to develop a business park, said Dale Fowler, president of the VEDC. Such companies often look for sites that already boast infrastructure to develop campus-like working environments.

The VEDC and Caterpillar first came together in 2008, when the CB Richard Ellis real estate firm notified them of a new project. That fell through around November 2008, but not before the company had visited Victoria, said Adrian Cannady, the VEDC's vice president of marketing.

By the summer of 2009, CB Richard Ellis called again, he said, with another project. Although the firm didn't initially divulge the company's name, it called the project "a big one," Cannady said.

The VEDC sent out a packet about Victoria and the business park and work continued on for the project now dubbed with the code name "Project A+."

Caterpillar representatives visited town six to eight times that the development corporation knew of, Fowler said, and other times undercover, to get a feel for the community.

That included anonymous visits with city leaders and tours of various facilities.

Victoria College President Tom Butler, for instance, gave three separate tours to the group, only knowing them by their first names, Fowler said. They didn't provide last names, business cards or any company information, in order to protect anonymity.

"With a project of this magnitude, when it gets out what they're doing and where they're going, it affects a lot of things," Fowler said. "From stock prices to ongoing deals and other things."

Judy Clegg, with Clegg Services, met with the group and said they were interested in issues such as the local school system, highway infrastructure and the workforce.

As the project continued, it grew from the initial 40 to 80 acres the company originally thought it would need to eventually enveloping the entire business park, Cannady said.

Incentives played a role, Fowler said, explaining tax abatements are "a must" in such deals and that other things, such as $2 million allocated for infrastructure costs and a proposed $80 million tax cap also joined the mix.

It all came together in the end and, while Fowler said it was a lot of work, he said it's worth it.

"We're a good community," he said. "We have some nice attributes. We just have to stay in the game."

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