RURAL OPPORTUNITY
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Countryside Projects Help Fill Countrywide Needs

RURAL OPPORTUNITY
Constructed in 1993, the 65-ft. Eiffel Tower replica in Paris, Texas, is approximately one-sixteenth the size of the original in France, but it is, the city reminds visitors, “the Largest Eiffel Tower in the World ... with a red cowboy hat.”
Photo: Getty Images

by Adam Bruns
I

f you took away all the company investment projects in Texas metro areas, you’d still end up with enough projects to propel an economy.

They pop up in places like Kerrville, Marble Falls and Shiner (home of the eponymous bock beer). Towns with names as quick as the time it takes to pass through them — Wink, Alice and Paris — or as long as it takes to cross Texas itself: Nacogdoches, Fredericksburg, Eagle Pass, Mineral Wells.

It can be hard to get out from under the wing of the state’s 25 fast-growing metro areas. But in 2023 alone, 57 projects landed in rural towns located outside of them. Texas micropolitan areas made Site Selection magazine’s Top Micropolitan Areas by collectively welcoming 19 projects in 2023, led by the four projects tallied in Paris, known for having a manufacturing job concentration three times the national average.

Among them is a $30 million, 80-job expansion from Finland-based Huhtamaki in foodservice packaging operations at a site it gained through acquisition in 2011. “Production is expected to start ramping up in Q1 2025,” the company stated, “and will be key to servicing the growth of existing customers and a growing list of up-and-coming customers throughout the Southern and Midwestern states.”

The project came four months after Houston-based Ametsa Packaging chose Paris for its own sweetener and sugar products operation, where it will create 100 jobs over the next few years at a previously idled 350,000-sq.-ft. facility. Company President Carlos de Aldecoa summed up how his company’s staying power meshes with the endurance of a town founded in 1845: “With our business foundation of almost a century, our family is focused on the long term,”he said last spring. “The Paris-Lamar region is a perfect launchpad for the next 100 years.”

Also settling in for the long term in Paris is Ontario, Canada-based metal fabricator Universal Fabricating, which is creating 100 new jobs in Sumner (part of the Paris micropolitan area in Lamar County) at an average wage of $60,000. The project will enable Universal to “more effectively serve the greenhouse, automotive, airport and logistics markets in the United States and Mexico,” said a release.

A $100 million, 200-job expansion by Eaton Corp. in Nacogdoches will allow the doubling of production capacity for in-demand voltage regulators and three-phase transformers nationwide.A $100 million, 200-job expansion by Eaton Corp. in Nacogdoches will allow the doubling of production capacity for in-demand voltage regulators and three-phase transformers nationwide.
Photo courtesy of Eaton

“We are thrilled to be joining the Paris community and to be creating meaningful jobs for the people of Lamar County and surrounding areas,” said Neil Harms, president of Universal, last spring. “We hope that our innovative approach to fabrication will bring skilled trade jobs and build long lasting careers for the people of this great community. We are very grateful for the efforts of the Paris Economic Development Corporation for making this happen. They guided us along every step of the way and went above and beyond to showcase the community’s assets.”

Among the largest small-town projects in Texas in 2023 is a facility serving an urgent national need. Ground was broken in October 2023 by power management company Eaton for a $100 million, 200,000-sq.-ft. expansion of its Nacogdoches manufacturing facility. The project will create 200 new jobs and double production capacity of Eaton voltage regulators and three-phase transformers “to meet surging utility demand for solutions accelerating grid modernization.”

“Utilities across the U.S. are modernizing critical infrastructure to accelerate a smarter grid and clean energy future,” said Guillaume Laur, Eaton senior vice president — Power Delivery and Regulation. “Our solutions are vital to make these projects a reality, and we’re making steady investments to support our utility customers.” Eaton will continue to produce single-phase, pole-mount and pad-mount transformers in Texas to address the acute supply shortage for these products, the company said. 

“We are thrilled to be joining the Paris community and to be creating meaningful jobs for the people of Lamar County and surrounding areas.”
— Neil Harms, President, Universal Fabricating

Another rural project tied to a national infrastructure need is the $73 million, 170-job expansion by Atlanta-based Superior Essex Communications at its communications cable plant in Brownwood, located smack dab in the middle of the rectangle formed by the DFW region, Abilene, San Angelo and Austin, near even smaller towns named Thrifty, Early, Blanket and Bangs.

The company is making the investment to help meet global demand for OSP fiber optic cables, drop fiber and hybrid cables as broadband buildouts continue across the nation. The expansion brings the plant to more than 500,000 sq. ft. of production space.

“The Brownwood plant improvements are not only an investment in our company, but also an investment in U.S. manufacturing and in communities across America,” said Superior Essex Communications President Brad Johnson. “This expansion will create manufacturing jobs right here in America, which will bring more employment opportunities to the Brownwood region and boost production of American-made broadband products. In doing so, we’re demonstrating our commitment to providing ‘Build America, Buy America’ products that help deliver high-speed broadband services to communities across the nation.”

Uvalde-BoardsThanks in large part to generous donations from major employers, a new elementary school is under construction in Uvalde, Texas.
Rendering courtesy of Huckabee Architects and Uvalde CISD

The rural community of Uvalde is welcoming its own company project, a 12-job expansion by Gail and Pat Jackowski at Uvalde Meat Market & Processing, where in addition to domestic farm animal processing wild game harvested by hunters is prepped for consumption. But it’s another project filling an education infrastructure need that is garnering support from companies, organizations and citizens across the region and the country.

In late March 2023 the Uvalde CISD Moving Forward Foundation announced a $1 million gift from John L. Nau III and Silver Eagle Beverages to go directly toward building a new elementary school in the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (Uvalde CISD) following the 2022 shooting tragedy at Robb Elementary School. Construction began on March 4. The Uvalde CISD Moving Forward Foundation was created through gifts from beloved Texas grocery chain H-E-B and the Butt family totaling $10 million. Huckabee Inc. donated its services, becoming a founding partner. Beginning in fall 2022, the Foundation began working with the Uvalde CISD Community Advisory Committee to develop the plans for the new elementary school. Those plans were approved by the Uvalde CISD Board of Trustees in April 2023.

“I am proud to support this effort to build a new school in Uvalde,” said John L. Nau III, chairman and CEO of Silver Eagle Beverages, in March. “As a business member of the Uvalde community, Silver Eagle Beverages is proud to support this important effort that impacts our local employees and their families and the many children and families of Uvalde.” 

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

     





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