In my March article, I discussed near-term priorities for Nueces County. Nueces County’s long-term priorities should be to increase its tax base by recruiting oil & gas-related industrial plants. Several years ago, the Nueces County tax base was about $25 billion-plus, and the San Patricio County tax base was about $3.5 billion. Since then, San Patricio has added the Cheniere Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plant near Ingleside which, when complete, will cost about $22 billion. The Exxon-Mobil plant near Portland will cost about $10 billion. The Voestalpine iron plant near Ingleside cost about $1.5 billion. The new OxyChem ethylene steam cracker cost about $1.5 billion. San Patricio’s tax base will soon be about $38.5 billion compared to the Nueces tax base still about $25 billion-plus. Investment in new oil and gas plants creates new sustained economic activity which benefits all county residents and businesses. Nueces county cannot afford to continue missing out on that new sustained economic activity.
Nueces County should create a new 2 square mile Industrial Park on State Highway 44 near the existing Lyondell plant. New industrial plants want a buffer zone between the plant and residential and commercial neighbors. Companies like shovel-ready sites they can buy from one owner and start the permitting and construction process quickly. The site does not need infrastructure and utilities already installed. The company will do that. However, the County should have an electric power line, freshwater pipeline, and natural gas pipeline rights-of-way under lease.
It is true San Patricio has green field sites on deepwater ship channels which have been a competitive advantage. New petrochemical plants are now usually built in a modular process. Modules are fabricated in low-wage countries like S. Korea, transported by oceangoing vessels to the plant site and connected onsite. The Voestalpine iron plant had to be on the ship channel because it receives iron ore by ship and ships its product by ship. The Cheniere LNG plant had to be on the ship channel because it ships its product by ship. The Exxon-Mobil plant could have been located at the proposed Nueces County industrial park. The local company, Bay Limited, has a dock and large storage yard on the inner harbor. One of its specialty services is moving oversize and over-weight loads over roads. It could unload and move modules to the proposed industrial park site.
The proposed industrial park must be a multiterm high priority for the County Judge and each Commissioner. When company site selection teams come to the area. The Judge and each Commissioner must personally meet and accompany them on their tour of the area while creating a trust relationship. The team must be confident they can call on the judge and commissioners for help at any time. Competition for plants is fierce. The company will expect tax incentives from local and state governments. The incentives must be competitive or preferably better than those offered by other sites being considered on the shortlist. The judge and commissioners must help with local incentives and use their influence in Austin for state incentives.
After the company chooses a Nueces County site and appoints a local manager, that personal support must continue. Former San Patricio County Judge, Terry Simpson, did a great job recruiting those plants to his county.
Author: Ralph Coker