site in the Lakeview Business Park in Missouri City, south of Houston, is the location of Niagara Bottling LLC's new manufacturing facility, scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2013. When complete, it will encompass more than 356,000 sq. ft. (33,900 sq. m.) of space for water processing, bottle manufacturing, warehousing and distribution. Niagara, based in Ontario, Calif., is a leading producer of private-label bottled water with facilities in eight states.
Fort Bend County and Missouri City competed with sites in Louisiana and elsewhere in the Houston area for the US$60-million plant, says Bob Graf, Missouri City's economic development coordinator, adding that the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council and Greater Houston Partnership played important roles in putting his city on the company's radar. "Niagara was very concerned about where to locate, and 'community fit' was something that was very high on their list, as were start-up and ongoing operations costs," he relates. "From the very beginning, they wanted to make sure that anywhere they went, the city wanted them there and would work to make sure things went smoothly, as would they, because they would now be part of the community."
Graf says his team rallied the community leaders, bringing together the mayor, the city manager, the director of public works, the county commissioner and the representative for the district, among others — anyone who could help make the case that Missouri City was the best location for Niagara's plant. "The company brought eight people to that meeting, which was amazing," he recalls. "They let us know we were first on their list for the community fit criterion, and that went a long way in securing the project." Graf says the city has a great partner in the Fort Bend Water Control District, which was also of high importance to Niagara, whose business is water bottling. "They have the capacity now, and also the capacity to handle Niagara's requirements when they are at full production down the road."
Incentives were important to the company too, says Graf, as was the city's willingness to explore work-force training options, property tax abatement and other state resources. "They might have found more incentives or lower costs somewhere else, but in the long run, they felt very comfortable that Missouri City was going to be able to facilitate getting the plant up and running by March 1st. The original plan was to install two automated bottling lines, but Niagara already plans a third, says Graf, "which adds another $15 million in value. And the initial plan to hire 69 people has now grown to 96 with the third production line. I tried to get them to bump that up to an even 100, but they're sticking with 96 for now, so we will too." Niagara recently completed a similar facility in Mooresville, N.C., and is building another in the Denver, Colo., area. "This company is on the move, which impressed us," says Graf.
"We're a family-owned company," said Brian Hess, executive vice president of operations and legal affairs for Niagara, at the August 8th announcement, "and the values of family and community are very important to us. We conducted comprehensive research before considering a new location, and Missouri City is the kind of place we want to call home."