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Economic Development meeting focuses on Eagle Ford Shale prosperity

By ALLISON MILES
May 30, 2013 at 12:30 a.m.


Other economic development

Oil and gas weren't the only topics up for discussion Thursday at the Victoria Economic Development Corp.'s semiannual membership meeting. Ken Garner Jr., with Ken Garner Manufacturing Co., also discussed plans for the upcoming Victoria plant.

The up-and-coming plant, a supporting business for Caterpillar, will likely break ground around October at Lone Tree Business Park No. 2, Garner said. Plans call for operations to begin during 2014's fourth quarter.

The company manufactures filled counterweights, which are essentially large steel cans filled with heavy concrete, he said.

Garner said the initial investment will total about $10 million but said it was difficult to pinpoint an employee count. Employee numbers depend on industry demand, he explained.

"All I can tell you is that the plant is being built, so when it's meeting its optimum capacity, we would have roughly 100 employees," he said. "That's not obviously what we're going to have right away. That's the potential at that plant's capacity."

He said the company looks forward to its presence in Victoria.

"This is going to be great for our company," he said, "and we hope we're a good citizen for your community."

2012 was a big year in the Eagle Ford Shale region.

Drilling projects supported 116,000 full-time jobs, one industry pro said. The work had a $62 billion impact and brought more than $1 billion to regional hospitals, schools and emergency services.

And it isn't over yet.

Omar Garcia, president and CEO of the South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable, spoke Thursday at the Victoria Economic Development Corp.'s semiannual membership meeting. There, he discussed economic prosperity in the Eagle Ford Shale region.

The economic roundtable is a trade association focused on connecting the industry with its various stakeholders and providing educational resources.

No one knows exactly how long the drilling will last, Garcia said, but some operators have land leases set up to drill for the next 25 years. That doesn't account for shale plays above and below Eagle Ford, he said, or new technology that might extend drilling further.

"Just like anything, a global market crash (or) things in Asia will certainly affect this," he said. "But God willing, this will last a long, long time."

Statistics show that, 10 years from now, the play will still mean $89.5 billion in economic output for the region, nearly 128,000 full-time jobs and $6.5 billion paid in workers' salaries and benefits, he said.

When it comes to opportunities related to the play, Garcia emphasized one key point.

"Housing, housing, housing is such a big deal," he said.

Big-time developers are looking at communities such as Cuero, Kenedy and Poteet, he said, but are reluctant to commit because of quality of life issues. People want to be able to visit theaters, gyms and a variety of restaurants, he said, something many small towns can't offer.

While developers might otherwise build 300- or 400-home subdivisions, he said many instead opt for 10 to 20 homes. As soon as they break ground, those homes are either sold or rented.

"Housing is a big issue because most people either want to live in Corpus Christi, San Antonio or Laredo," he said. "Victoria is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this boom."

Victoria native Imelda Salas, who attended the presentation Thursday, said she was proud to hear about the upcoming growth. Victoria has changed a lot since when she was a child, she said, and the changes brought on by drilling are exciting.

"This is a great opportunity for Victoria," said Salas, assistant general manager at Homewood Suites. "I think it's great."

Business consultant Bret Baldwin also attended, noting he enjoys staying informed about what's happening in the Crossroads. Like Salas, he said the future looks bright.

"I look forward to the prosperity," he said.

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