When a potential $6 billion Chevron-Phillips Chemical ethylene plant made headlines in Orange County in January 2019, everyone agreed it was a big deal.
This one-time investment, it has been noted by someone in the know, would be equal to the rest of the values of the county’s industrial facilities all combined.
Over the next three years, Orange County’s list of “possible” investments tripled in value to $16.5 billion, with between 25,000 and 30,000 construction jobs and about 1,000 permanent jobs.
Talk about your economic development.
“We’re running out of real estate,” said Jessica Hill, director of the Orange County Economic Development Corporation.
“If whatever happens happens, we will turn people away.”
The latest addition to the slate of planned projects was unveiled last week at the Vidor School Board meeting, a $30 million solar farm located at the intersection of Interstate 10 and FM 1135.
This list of projects includes two already underway, a $40 million expansion at Optimus Steel and the new $50 million Gisela Houseman Medical Campus.
Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is advancing the $2.4 billion Orange County Coastal Storm Protection System, a 26-mile line of levees and levees slated for completion in 2028.
Entergy is awaiting Public Utilities Commission approval to build a $1.8 million combined natural gas and hydrogen power plant, which is expected to be online by 2026.
Orange County last week approved a reinvestment area for an 1,800-acre site on the east bank of the Neches River, where Enterprise Products is considering two investments that would total $6.2 billion.
Already, the Orangefield School District has agreed to a “limited appraised value” Chapter 313 agreement with Enterprise to encourage the company to locate on the property within OSD’s borders.
One of Enterprise’s proposed projects is an ethylene plant which is described almost identically to the ethylene plant proposed by CP Chem, until each includes an ethane cracker capable of producing 2,000 kilotonnes of ethylene per year.
Ethylene is used in all kinds of plastic products.
Of course, neither CP Chem nor Enterprise have gone beyond the “possible” stage.
CP Chem signed a Chapter 313 agreement with the West Orange-Cove School District in 2019 and followed by winning a 10-year 100% county tax abatement.
The Woodlands-based oil and gas giant has been busy at its 1,700-acre site wedged between Chemical Row on FM 1006 and the county airport on Highway 87.
He has already spent about $1 billion cleaning up the property and building drainage ditches, retention ponds, pipelines and electrification which he calls a “land improvement project”.
But CP Chem said through a spokesperson late last week that there had been “no change” in the status of the project.
The latest update – more than a year old – said the final investment decision (FID) from CP Chem and its partner on the project, Qatar Petroleum, was pending as they monitored developments. ‘Mondial economy.
Steve Wardle, Executive Director of CP Chem, said in April 2021: “The land we have acquired continues to be the preferred site if we go ahead with this project.
“Right now we are removing some of the trees. If and when we get to FID, we don’t have to do much before we start construction.”
Before deciding to move forward with its project, Enterprise Products would have to seek an Orange County tax abatement as well as the halving of its estimated $1 billion school tax due to the District of Orangefield. over the next 25 years.
Vidor Superintendent Dr. Jay Killgo explained that under Texas Tax Code Chapter 313, which is being eliminated this year, the state would continue to pay his district a fixed amount per student in attendance based on district tax receipts – but would not recoup full value for Core Solar’s alternative energy plant in Orange County.
The Austin-based company would, through 313, make payments to Vidor ISD’s interest and sinking funds, allowing the district to repay bond debt.
“It will allow us to take some of the burden off homeowners and pay off bond debt sooner,” Killgo said.
Of the seven projects mentioned above, three will be aided by Chapter 313 agreements, two by county reductions. The Entergy power plant is privately funded and the construction of the coastal protection system is government funded.
The City of Orange EDC spent approximately $1.5 million on Eagle Point Parkway, the access road to Houseman Medical Center.
Olson Engineering’s $4 million expansion in Bridge City and M&D Hardware in Mauriceville are other projects supported by county cuts.
Chick fil-A, Starbucks, Red’s Plaza, Golden Chick, and the Spanky parking lot expansion are all 16th Street projects made possible by the City of Orange EDC.
Other recent or ongoing Orange EDC projects include Water Tree Orange, Real Southern Cooking, Orange Stationer, Team Elevate Office Project, Orange City Donut, Columbanus Motor Sports, Triangle Rescue Training, Free State Cellars Winery and Childs Ace Hardware.
The city’s EDC has three projects in the addition of Cove, Bayou Metals, Tarver Performance Marine and Piney Woods Sanitation.
Three housing additions aided by EDC funds from the city will add 473 single-family homes to the area – Little Cypress Grove Residential (190 homes), The Reserve at Mallard Lakes (242) and Cypresswood Village Phase 2 (41).
“There’s a lot of work going on, a lot of interest in Orange County,” said OCEDC’s Hill. “We try to accommodate any prospects interested in investing money in our county.”