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Step Into Liquefied

     Greater Houston ranks as the nation's third most popular headquarters environment, with 20 Fortune 500 firms based there. Only New York City and Chicago claim more. Houston's list includes Continental Airlines and Sysco Corporation, the commercial food distributor. There is also a host of energy related corporations -- names like ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil and Halliburton. In April 2004, the city learned it would be home to yet another: CITGO.
      The company, currently based in Tulsa, will bring 700 jobs to Houston. But it also plans to spend $828 million over the coming decade on environmental upgrades to its refinery in Corpus Christi, adding 120 jobs pursuant to those efforts.
      Supporting CITGO's plans will be a $5-million grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund and $30 million in low-interest loans the two cities have secured through the Texas Economic Development Bank. Even more recently, ATOFINA Petrochemicals indicated its interest in moving its corporate offices to Houston's central business district, where local real estate professionals believe it will occupy 250,000 sq. ft. (23,225 sq. m.) of Class A space.
      Keith M. Meyer, president of Cheniere LNG, a unit of Houston-based Cheniere Energy, agrees there is real value for firms like his to locate amid Houston's energy cluster. "We're very satisfied with Houston for our headquarters," says Meyer. "It's the center of the energy industry." Being in such close proximity to customers keeps business costs down, he adds, and Houston's
The first supplier to follow Toyota into Texas, Tasus Corp. broke ground in spring 2004 on a $13.3-million plant in Georgetown, north of Austin.
reasonably priced commercial and residential real estate is another plus. "This is a very competitive location," he says.
      Cheniere LNG is now engaged in the development of three Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals along the Texas Gulf Coast. The company will invest a total of $1.2 billion in facilities in Corpus Christi and Brownsville, and it has a 30-percent stake in a third terminal being built in Freeport. Deepwater ports and large amounts of available acreage make the communities strong candidates for LNG terminals, Meyer explains. And the Texas Gulf Coast's proximity to the bulk of the nation's natural gas pipelines and industrial users makes it an ideal geographic and economic fit. But local and state support for the terminals figured strongly into the company's expansion plans in southeast Texas.
      "Communities along the Gulf Coast are familiar with the energy industry and receptive to our presence," says Meyer. Even more important is the fact that the absence of environmental opposition (and from those concerned the facilities will become a terrorist target) helps ease the cumbersome process of securing federal permits for such facilities. "We've enjoyed exemplary support from local governments and at the state level," Meyer says.
      Along with Cheniere, Occidental Energy and ExxonMobil are developing LNG terminals in Texas. Gov. Perry welcomes the chance to promote the state's key role in the nation's natural gas industry. "We see natural gas as an important and environmentally sound job generator," he says. State and federal resources are being allocated to secure the state's energy production and transmission infrastructure from attack, he says. "With or without those LNG terminals, the Texas coast would still be a target."

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