With new buildings or expansions in the area from at least six oil and gas drilling support companies, many are looking to the Katy portion of Fort Bend, Harris and Waller counties as the logical extension of Houston’s “Energy Corridor.” City and county officials hope to turn such development into a well-oiled machine as it edges farther into the once wide-open farmland.
The last five years, in particular, have seen significant growth with the opening of facilities by Newpark Drilling Fluids, Weatherford, Hampco Services, Welltec, Schlumberger-subsidiaries Dyna-Drill and Schlumberger High Efficiency, among others.
For The Woodlands-based Newpark Resources, which completed a 106,000-square-foot facility off of Mason Road in June, construction of its new thee-story building was an opportunity to capitalize on the growth of the Katy area, said John Beltz, director of marketing for the company’s Katy operation.
“People want to come here and oil is king,” Beltz said. “We wanted to be a part of that combination in the rapidly growing west.”
The company uses about 37,000 square feet of its facility as lab space, featuring a state-of-the-art down-hole drilling simulator and other tools for fluids analysis.
“We wanted to stay in the Katy area because it seemed like a central place for many of our employees,” Beltz said.
The drilling fluids operations of the company were previously at Houston’s Park Ten business park, just down I-10.
“The other reason is Katy is just exploding with opportunity,” he said. “People are seeing it as one of the best places to live.”
Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack said circumstances for Katy right now make it a natural place for growth like this.
“I-10 and [Hwy.] 99 run right through Katy, there is the Metro Park and Ride service, and Terry Hershey Hike and Bike Park,” he said “These are all things that attract growth.”
Companies considering a move to the area are also eyeing the growing workforce. According to the Katy Economic Development Council, the Katy labor shed—workers employed within a 30-minute drive—tops 1 million people. The EDC expects the labor shed numbers to rise to by about 11 percent in the next five years.
Companies located in the “Energy Corridor” between Barker Cypress Road and Eldridge Parkway, such as BP America, ConocoPhillips, Wood Group-Mustang Engineering, remain among the top 10 employers in the region. Collectively they employ about 16,250 workers in the Greater Houston area.
These corporations also top the list of contributors of tax revenue to Katy ISD, according to budget reports. KISD boundaries extend down I-10 just east of Hwy. 6.
Population in the area also continues to jump. Harris County alone sees more than 10,000 people move in countywide every month, Radack said.
“That’s a lot of people,” he said. “With these numbers and projected growth in the future, people can see this is a huge turnaround in the economy of Harris County. Oil and gas companies, too, can recognize that.”
Low interest rates for homes are also spurring growth.
“Take a look at the interstate and the traffic out there every morning and afternoon,” Radack said. “There are more people, more neighborhoods, more communities growing. It’s really boomtown out here.”
Differences in growth
Fort Bend County Commissioner Andy Meyers said residential growth in the county has taken the place of industrial or commercial development.
“Everything in the Fort Bend-Katy area was built for residential development,” Meyers said. “Developers sold all the available acreage to homebuilders. Without major acreage and a developer who is patient, there is no sizable commercial development.”
By and large, however, growth in the direction of Katy has been a major stimulus for the county, and it is expected to continue, he said.
Waller County, to a far lesser extent than Harris County, is beginning to see a few oil and gas related companies move in like PFP Technologies in 2011 and Weatherford in 2013.
The preliminary effects of such companies are just now being felt. The county’s 2014 budget process identified more than $400,000 of an $846,377 increase in tax revenue came from new businesses. Other types of manufacturing facilities like Goya Foods and Igloo Products are also contributing in a big way, said Waller County Precinct 4 Commissioner Stan Kitzman.
Many of the sites currently under development, however, will not be fully up and running until next year, he said. Officials expect an additional $72 million in assessed valuation increase next year when companies that are building in the area finally go online.
“There have been a few new developments recently, but all of it is moving our way,” Kitzman said. “It’s just a matter of preparing for the growth it will bring.”
Source: Community Impact News