The world of business is arriving at the doorstep of the Coastal Bend region of Texas. A growing number of manufacturers and energy companies from across the globe have or will soon begin construction on major facilities in the region.
Reasons firms are attracted to the Coastal Bend include its abundant, reliable source of energy, as well as its excellent port, rail and highway connections, coastal climate and business-friendly political environment.
The area has greatly benefited from the nearby Eagle Ford Shale discovery, an enormous drilling area for oil and gas that stretches some 400 miles through South and Central Texas. With a major deepwater port, Corpus Christi is a natural location for oil and liquefied natural gas shipments.
"The economy of the Coastal Bend Region is rocking right now," says Roland Mower, president and chief executive officer of the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation. "We found that when we work together, we can accomplish a lot for the benefit of the entire region."
As oil and gas production continues to rise in the Eagle Ford Shale, the area is well-positioned to tap into the boom.
"One of the major benefits of this region is that we are prepared to handle this expansion," says John LaRue, executive director of Port Corpus Christi.
The best illustration of this is the port, which is the fifth largest in the U.S. in terms of total tonnage handled. Port Corpus Christi is home to 45-foot deep ship channel, which will eventually be extended to 52 feet to handle even larger vessels. Three Class I railroads and a direct interstate connection also enhance the region's infrastructure.
"The region also has excellent educational institutions gearing up to assist new and expanding businesses with their workforce education requirements," LaRue says.
Foreign Direct Investments Near Corpus Christi
Tianjin Pipe Co., of China, which is constructing a $1 billion steel pipe mill in Gregory, is gearing up for its first phase of production in the next few months. By 2015, the 1.6-million-square-foot plant will produce more than 500,000 metric tons of seamless steel pipe annually for use as casing by the oil and gas industry.
The plant, which is expected to employ more than 800 workers, represents the largest single Chinese investment in the United States.
"The support we continue to receive from the Coastal Bend region has been incredible, and we have been greatly impressed with the collaboration in the community," says J.J. Johnston, director of administration for TPCO America, which will operate the plant.
The firm is developing a partnership with Del Mar Community College to assist in training workers employed at the plant.
Austria's largest steelmaker, voestalpine AG, is also planning to construct a $700 million iron ore processing facility as part of Port Corpus Christi's LaQuinta Trade Gateway project.
The company viewed 17 other sites in eight countries before deciding on the location. Operations are scheduled to begin at the plant in 2016, and voestalpine expects to produce two million metric tons of iron ore per year.
"We are looking forward to bring sustainable jobs to the region," says Mattias Pastl, director of Global Location Research for voestalpine.
More than 150 workers are expected to be employed at the plant.
"The company's goal is to build one of the most modern and environmentally-friendly plant of its kind anywhere," says Pastl, who adds that his company is getting inquiries from other European firms wanting to know more about the Coastal Bend region.
Coastal Bend's Energy, Logistics Draws Manufacturers
Another foreign firm, M&G Group of Italy, is planning to build a $1 billion plastics plant complex on the north side of the Corpus Christi ship channel. The company will build two plants on the site, producing PET, plastic pellets used to make bottles and food packaging.
M&G estimates that 250 permanent jobs will be created as well as 700 indirect jobs. The port's strategic location and proximity to six nearby refineries that make chemicals used as feedstock in resin manufacturing drew the company to the Coastal Bend site.
Trafigura AG, a global oil, metals and mineral company based in Switzerland, recently completed a terminal along the inner harbor of the Corpus Christi ship channel to export crude oil to other Gulf coast markets. It is also constructing a pipeline to the site.
All of these recent announcements are proof of the region's concerted effort to diversify the Coastal Bend economy, Mower says. More manufacturing, medical and professional firms have also been locating in the region, he added, along with increased retail.