Caterpillar plant is Victoria's top news story of 2010

Top 10 news of 2010
  • For more INFOWant to learn more about Caterpillar? Visit the company's website at www.cat.com.

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    2. UHV expansion

    The University of Houston-Victoria began the school year with its first ever freshman class of more ...

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  • For more INFOWant to learn more about Caterpillar? Visit the company's website at www.cat.com.

    REST OF THE TOP 10

    2. UHV expansion

    The University of Houston-Victoria began the school year with its first ever freshman class of more than 220 students.

    Shortly before school started, university president Tim Hudson was reassigned as an assistant to the chancellor in Houston. The search continues for his replacement.

    Also, some members of the Crossroad Commission on Education called for the university to realign with another university system that would help the school grow.

    3 Uranium mining

    After four years of wrangling, Uranium Energy Corp. is closer to mining uranium in Goliad County.

    The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality voted in mid-December to approve UEC's Underground Injection Proposal permit application to mine uranium in Goliad County.

    Goliad County opponents plan to appeal.

    4. New schools open in Victoria

    Two new high schools and a new middle school opened in August virtually completing the $159 million building project that also included adding two new elementary schools. The learning center at the former Memorial High School senior campus also opened. The natatorium opened in the late fall. The fine arts center will open in February.

    5 Lacks Furniture closing

    In November, Lacks Furniture, which had been in business for more than 70 years, filed for bankruptcy protection and announced it would close its 35 stores.

    Lack's reported it has between $100,000,001 and $500 million in both estimated assets and debts

    The company attributed the move to lending issues.

    6. Jaynes reassigned

    West High School Drill team instructor DJ Jaynes was reassigned after parents filed grievances against her. She protested the reassignment, but the school board rejected her request to be reinstated.

    She was the center of a hazing investigation and controversial dissolution of a drill team booster club.

    Jaynes was a dance instructor for 34 years.

    She still makes her $57,000 salary as a physical education teacher at Mitchell Guidance Center.

    7. Tandy Brands closes in Yoakum

    In February, Yoakum's Tandy Brands announced it was closing and moving to Arlington. Most of the 203 employees lost their jobs.

    8. Natural gas plant to open in Lavaca County

    Enterprise Products Partners, a Houston natural gas company, decided to build a new processing plant in Lavaca County. The plant, an estimated $300 million investment, is expected to create 14 jobs with a median salary of $75,000 a year. It would also increase local property tax revenue by an estimated $30 million and local sales tax revenue by $1 million. Enterprise also estimates an indirect economic impact of $7 million to $10 million.

    9. Head Start woes

    Advocates for Children and Families, which had operated the Head Start program since 1997, was suspended from operating the program in August. The suspension, the result of a report issued in late May by the Office of the Inspector General, came because of various financial issues.

    Community Development Institute, a national interim management contractor, now runs the Head Start program. All employees, except executive director Joyce Hyak, were offer jobs with CDI.

    Victoria Head Start has more than 600 children enrolled in six counties in the Crossroads.

    10. Republicans sweep most local offices

    Straight-party voting helped the Republicans sweep most local offices in the region, ousting Democrat incumbents in many counties, including Victoria, Lavaca and DeWitt.

Caterpillar's decision to construct a 600,000-square-foot hydraulic excavator plant at the Lone Tree Business Center promises to change the Crossroads for years to come.

The company announced its intent Aug. 12 at a joint meeting between the city council, sales tax board and commissioners court.

Plans for the project, a $120 million to $150 million investment, call for 500 employees and production is slated to begin in mid-2012.

It took time, effort and a veil of confidentiality to lure the company to Victoria, Dale Fowler, president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp., said after the initial announcement. The corporation worked for about nine months, working together and, eventually, Caterpillar decided Victoria was the right fit. Caterpillar broke ground at the facility Sept. 23.

That relationship with Caterpillar didn't end just because the Crossroads bagged the project. Business leaders and elected officials on Dec. 20 ventured to the company's new Seguin plant for a look at how it works.

Mayor Will Armstrong said he was impressed with the lengths the company took to ensure everyone was properly trained for their roles.

Workers wore gloves with barcodes on the back, he explained, and the machines they worked on scanned the gloves. If the worker attempted to work at a machine he wasn't certified on, it shut down.

"It's manufacturing down to a science," Armstrong told the crowd at the Dec. 21 Victoria Partnership meeting.

The next step in the story is selecting a general contractor for the project, Fowler said, adding that the company hopes to begin moving dirt in February.

Fowler said he's proud of the project and looking forward to what the future has to offer. Aside from the initial jobs Caterpillar will bring, there is potential to bring additional manufacturing-type positions to Victoria, he said.

"We haven't had anything of this magnitude in some time," he said, of the project. "This is big."