Growth planned for the Port of Victoria
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Robby Burdge watched as a long, gray barge eased its way through the Victoria Barge Canal. The silent vessel gradually slowed to a stop, ready to pick up its next load of oil.
"This is our economy at work," said Burdge, one of the Victoria County Navigation District's five commissioners. "And nobody ever sees that."
Such scenes will soon become more common, as the Port of Victoria prepares for growth.
New businesses are on their way to the port, many relating to the Crossroads' increase in Eagle Ford Shale activity, said Jennifer Stastny, the port's executive director.
Frack sand company Cru Logistics, for instance, recently took up home at the site. Two others, involved in crude oil transfer or frack sand, are in talks with the port.
Stastny said she could not release the companies' names because negotiations are ongoing.
Such growth is good for the entire Crossroads economy, not just the port, she said.
Each oil-and-gas-related company will mean about 30 to 40 new jobs, she said, explaining those people will go on to spend money at retail stores, restaurants and the like.
"We like to think of ourselves as the economic engine of the region," Stastny said. "It really makes an impact."
The port also has two five-acre tracts of land set aside for Caterpillar, if the company decides to use it, said Robert Loeb, chairman of the Port of Victoria. The company will send 6,000 to 10,000 containers to Victoria each year, he explained, and they'll have to make their way to the business park.
" ... We're hoping that lots of them will come over the barge canal, which is both economically and environmentally the friendliest way to get it to Victoria," he said.
Transportation options are vital for larger companies such as Caterpillar, said Dale Fowler, president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp. The most economic option now might not be the most economic option 10 years from now, so they have to be able to make that change when necessary.
"Getting options is one of those ways we differentiate ourselves from competing communities," he said.
John Jones, facility manager for Victoria's Caterpillar site, agreed.
Freight and transportation costs are a significant part of the company's business, he said, and Caterpillar looks at all of its transportation options.
"Barge solutions are definitely a component," he said.
Fordyce, a sand and gravel company that has operated from the port for years, will carry on business as usual, said Matt Champion, who works with the company. That is regardless of the upcoming growth.
"I don't see where it would have any effect on us," he said.
Management at Invista, another company that set up shop at the port years ago, believes the port does a good job at managing its customers' diverse needs, said Amy Hodges, Invista's regional director of public affairs.
"Economic growth at the port is good for the port, its customers, and the Victoria region," she said in an email.