The Texas Triangle Park industrial site had its first groundbreaking Tuesday, as businessmen joined with city and county officials to celebrate a company that's expected to inject millions into the local economy. Gunler Foods Inc., a Mexico-based manufacturer and supplier of oils and paper products, is the first company to break ground in the industrial park off Texas 6 that's expected to stimulate economic development in the region.
The groundbreaking was the realization of a four-year vision by the Research Valley Partnership, a collaboration between Texas A&M, Blinn, Bryan, College Station, Brazos County and local businesspeople to facilitate economic growth in the area.
"Gunler will be the anchor, they're the first one," said Todd McDaniel, president and CEO of the Research Valley Partnership. "Someone asked me not too long ago is Gunler the signature project for Texas Triangle Park. I don't know if we will ever see a 'signature project' in Texas Triangle Park, but what I do know is for Gunler, this is their signature project. They're all in."
Gunler officials project the facility will employ 250 workers, generating a payroll of $6.2 million. The jobs will include low-skilled positions, engineers, quality assurance and management. Construction is scheduled to begin Friday, and recruitment will begin in two weeks. Officials hope to see the facility operational by February.
"These employees will buy houses in our community," McDaniel said. "They'll shop in our restaurants and buy automobiles in the community."
Gunler will build two plants totaling more than 110,000 square feet on 25 acres of the industrial park. One plant will put cooking oils such as corn, canola, vegetable and soybeans into plastic bottles. The other will produce tissues, napkins and paper towels.
The company is a major supplier for Wal-Mart, and many of the products bottled at the Brazos County location will be shipped to markets in Mexico and Central America.
Gunler President Erick Garcia, who originally hails from Mexico City, greeted the crowd of Texas businessmen with a "Howdy."
Garcia said geography was the main draw to the Bryan area. The industrial park is located near the Union Pacific railroad that has direct access to the Port of Houston.
"That rail goes all the way to Mexico," Garcia said. "We can bring the oil from many different parts of the states. It's close to Houston and San Antonio. It's in the heart of Texas."
Garcia said it will be Gunler's first facility in the United States. The company has invested $15 million in the site.
To help attract Gunler, the Bryan City Council and the Brazos County commissioners teamed up to offer an incentives package to the corporation. Gunler paid a below-market price of $33,000 per acre for the 25 acres, a total of $825,000. The industrial park is owned jointly by Bryan and Brazos County.
Additionally, permitting fees totaling approximately $15,000 to $20,000 were waived by both city and county.
The corporation also received tax breaks from the local governments.
The facility will be located in Bryan's extraterritorial jurisdiction, but as part of the deal Gunler struck with the city, Bryan will not annex the lands for 10 years. Instead, Gunler will pay Bryan 30 percent of the ad valorem tax rate for five years and 60 percent for five years after that. Gunler will receive a five-year tax abatement from Brazos County that starts at 100 percent and declines to 50 percent. Gunler will be required to maintain a $15 million taxable property value from 36 months after the facility opens until the tax incentives expire. McDaniel said he projects the local economy will produce two to three jobs for every job Gunler brings to the area.
To kick off the groundbreaking, McDaniel said, he brought in a clergyman to respect the Hispanic culture and bless the site. Monsignor John McCaffrey of Bryan held a prayer before the ceremonial groundbreaking.
"In you nothing is impossible," McCaffrey said. "Everything is possible. You have given us this special privilege and you have granted us this special land to build the Gunler corporation."
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