Companies Find it Easy to Expand in Heart of Texas
Waco Area Aerospace Sector
Aerospace and aviation companies are growing in the Waco area. Space X is doubling the size of its rocket and spacecraft testing facility in McGregor.
"There's a lot of great local talent we can pull from," Space X spokeswoman Kirstin Grantham.
With business-friendly incentives and an able-and-willing educated workforce, companies are finding plenty of opportunities to grow in the Heart of Texas. Low costs and highly skilled labor have helped a diverse group of industries, from manufacturing plants to aerospace companies, expand their facilities and retain, as well as create, jobs.
Owens-Illinois Inc. recently received a Texas Enterprise Project designation for its Waco facility, making the Fortune 500 glass bottle manufacturer eligible for reimbursement of state sales and use taxes of up to $2,500 per job retained.
"We've been in Waco for a long time, and we're happy to be part of the community," says Beth Peery, spoleswoman. "We opened our facility here in 1944, and we curently employee about 300 people – many from families that have worked for two to three generations at our plant."
Double B Foods of Meridian was honored this year with the Bosque County Employer of Excellence Award by the Heart of Texas Workforce Development Board Inc. for embracing alternative ways to recruit, grow and maintain their workforce.
T Squared, provider of machining services to the aerospace and manufacturing industry, is currently investing $1.6 million to build a second location in Waco, creating 24 jobs.
SpaceX Doubles its Facility
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., more commonly known as SpaceX, signed a lease in March with the city of McGregor to more than double the size of its rocket and spacecraft testing facility, from 256 acres to 631 acres – the equivalent of 500 football fields. Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Hawthorne, Calif., SpaceX manufactures rockets that carry satellites and spacecraft to orbit. At its McGregor facility, the company tests every Merlin engine that powers the company's Falcon 9 rocket and every Draco thruster that controls its Dragon spacecraft before launch.
"We needed to expand because the company itself is expanding – we have over $3 billion in contracts in the coming years from companies who want to launch satellites into orbit," says spokeswoman Kirstin Grantham.
Last June, SpaceX was awarded a $492 million contract from Iridium, maker of satellite phones, to launch its newest constellation – the largest contract ever for satellite launches. The company also became the first commercial firm to successfully return a spacecraft from orbit, and now has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station after the space shuttle program ends later this year.
For its efforts, SpaceX was recently named one of the 50 most innovative companies in the world by MIT's Technology Review.
Grantham says the strong aerospace presence in the region benefits SpaceX.
"There's a lot of great local talent we can pull from," she says. "There are also excellent engineering schools in Texas and a really good technical college, Texas Technical College, where we hire people."
Currently SpaceX employs about 130 people at its McGregor facility, and it expects to double that number in the next several years. Since acquiring the facility from Beale Aerospace in 2003, SpaceX has invested more than $50 million in the community.
L-3 Platform Integration Adds Jobs
L-3 Platform Integration, a unit of New York City-based L-3 Integrated Systems Group, is the most recent owner of a 25-year-old Waco facility that modifies both commercial and military aircraft. Its VIP program upgrades the interiors of large commercial jets for royalty and heads of state. Its most complex project has been the installation of a 20-ton infrared telescope on a 747SP aircraft with an 18-foot-high door that opens in flight for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) for NASA and Germany's space agency.
Last year, L-3 added another 100,000 square feet to its Waco facility to total 600,000 square feet of hangar space and 200,000 square feet of warehouse space. Currently employing 2,000 people, the company recently received a performance-based grant from the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corp. for adding jobs to the community.
"Waco offers a very hospitable business environment where the local economic development entities, including the city, county, chamber and council of governments, work very cooperately to not only bring in business, but also to support existing businesses," says Lance Martin, L-3's public relations manager for the Waco facility.
"Their method of doing that is quite responsible," Martin says. "If we don't deliver jobs and real growth, then we don't get the grants."