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Fort Bend County, TX Economy Runs on Talent, Innovation

Economy, business-centric mentality and skilled workforce make Fort Bend economy run on high.

By Teree Caruthers on November 29, 2016

Journal Communications Inc.

Fort Bend County's vibrant economy, pro-business environment, highly educated workforce and strong transportation infrastructure have created a desirable destination for business investment within the Houston metro area, the nation's fourth largest.

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Coupled with an inviting quality of life that offers planned communities with waterfront views, historic and revitalized downtowns, open spaces, and a full range of cultural and entertainment amenities, Fort Bend is an inviting as place to live as it is a place to work.

“One of our most competitive advantages is the availability of industrial and commercial sites. Cost of land is less expensive, and development costs are competitive,” says Joe Esch, economic development director for Missouri City, one of Fort Bend County's roster of growing communities. “Another advantage is our infrastructure – from a strong transportation network to access to clean water and sewage services, and because of these amenities, we've seen a number of food and beverage manufacturers locate here.”

The quality of the county's workforce has helped amass an impressive list of investments – for example, Nalco Champion, an Ecolab company, a specialty chemical company providing programs and services for upstream, midstream and downstream oil and gas operations that is recapturing its corporate headquarters in Sugar Land, a move that is bringing in more than $45 million in investments and more than 860 new jobs.

Additionally, over the next 10 years, investments from First Data Corporation’s TeleCheck Services divisional headquarters relocation and the expansion of Applied Optoelectronics, Inc., both located in Sugar Land, are projected to create more than 1,100 new jobs in Fort Bend County.

Entrust Inc., a benefit management and consulting firm, is bringing its corporate headquarters to the Fort Bend County section of Katy. The company, founded in 1975, will move into a 34,000-square-foot, two-story building that will house its benefits management, human resources consulting and administration management services.

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Highly favorable business conditions have helped lure a number of companies. Minute Maid, a Coca-Cola division moved its headquarters to Sugar Land in 2009, while Tramotina, a Brazilian company that manufactures high-end, nonstick cookware, chose to locate its U.S. offices in Sugar Land in 1998, in part because of its “small town” feel.

Esch also points to the recent relocations of Niagara Water, Minute Maid and Ben E. Keith Co., the eighth-largest food service distributor and fourth-largest alcoholic beverage distributor in the country, as examples. Ben E. Keith opened a 475,000-square-foot facility in Missouri City in 2013, bringing more than 300 jobs to the area.

“This is a very supportive community leadership team that is motivated to grow with organically minded businesses,” says Mike Needham, Ben E. Keith general manager. “We were looking for a growing marketplace where people want to move to and be part of the community. It is a family-oriented community, and we are a family-oriented company. As a privately owned organization, we are committed to the established role that the culture of our company and the quality of life within the community that we share is endless.”

The Right Address

Esch says an exceptional quality of life is a major draw for the county.

“A lot of companies that are relocating are looking for a place where their employees can not only work but that also offers a good quality of life,” Esch says. “We have a family-friendly environment with master-planned communities that allow employees to live and work in proximity, so they get a high value for their dollar, and their dollars can go further.”

Availability of parks and recreational activities, as well as major and minor league sports and amateur athletics, adds another layer to quality of life in Fort Bend County. Not only that, Esch says, but families also have access to all the recreational, arts and cultural amenities of Houston “without the traffic.”

A Wealth of Knowledge

Perhaps Fort Bend County's greatest asset is a highly skilled and educated workforce. Fort Bend County Independent School District is the seventh-largest school district in Texas and is nationally recognized by organizations, such as the National Merit Scholars Program, The Washington Post’s Top High Schools and U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools, for its commitment to diversity and academic excellence. The region's proximity to a roster of highly acclaimed colleges and universities, including two campuses of the University of Houston system, two locations of Houston Community College, keep the pipeline of talent flowing to the high-demand health care, energy and information technology industries.

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“Our employees are our greatest assets. We grow through partnering with good people as our business is a 'people person' business that allows us to be the 'tractors and the trailers' in our partnerships with them,” Needham says.

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