Orange County attracting more interest

Published 12:00 pm Monday, May 6, 2019

Dawn Burleigh, Editor

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


One year ago, Orange County Economic Development (EDC) Director Jessica Hill spoke on $20 billion projects in the pipeline for Orange County.

This year, there are currently 20-plus projects in the pipeline, exceeding last year.

“There are more in the pipeline this year,” Hill said. “We are on the cusp of exciting events here in Orange County.”

In the last year, Orange County had $255 million in investments between Jefferson Energies Company at $150 million, DOW at $100 million and Market Basket at $5 million.

“Those three had abatements,” Hill said. “Remember there were more businesses without abatements such as two new banks were built, Texas State Bank, and First Financial Bank, two new Burger Kings – one in Pinehurst and one in Orange, Baskin Robbins and Dunkin Donuts in Vidor.”

Not all aspects of a project can be abated, according to Hill.

“Many of the projects are not abated,” Hill said. “Rolling stock, inventory and personal assets cannot be abated.”

She added the announcement concerning Chick-fil-A was also made during the last year and the Olson Engineering Project was announced.

Olson Engineering is building a larger facility across the street from Bridge City Elementary School.

“Olson Engineering outgrew its facilities,” Hill said. “That project is a $4 million professional services, engineering project, investing in the county.”

In 2017, the leading industries in Orange County were education, retail, manufacturing and accommodation, and food services. The total number of businesses was 2,606.

In early March, Hill was in Woodland teaching a class at Lone Star College.

“I was asked by Community Development Institute which runs out of Lone Star College,” Hill said. “It was my fifth year to teach ‘Economic Development Alliances and Networks’.”

The Orange County Economic Development Corporation Board hired Hill.

The board consists of two members of Commissioners Court, traditionally the county judge and one commissioner, and a total of nine per capita members, and six advisory members as well as nine associate members.

There are two types of abatements on the county level, Chapter 381 and Chapter 312. For a city, there is Chapter 380.

But abatements are not the only type of incentive the county can offer, there are also tax rebates.

For example, Commissioners Court and Orange County EDC approved a Chapter 381 abatement agreement, in February 2018, with Jefferson Gulf Coast Energy Partners, LLC to invest $150,000,000 in the expansion of its trans-load facility in Orange County.

The parties have agreed to 10-year, 100-percent property tax abatement on the improvement value on the investment, along with a payment in lieu of taxes to Orange County.

Jefferson Energy and affiliates have invested over $350 million dollars in the facility since 2012.

Earlier this year, Jefferson Energy Companies presented a check to the court and said it would not have been possible without the abatements.

Tax Rebates are not considered abatements.

“With a rebate, they still pay their taxes by the deadline,” Hill explained. “We evaluate on job creation and capital investment. If they meet the parameters of the agreement, then the payment is rebated back to them.”

All of which are used as incentives to bring more business to the area.

The Orange County Economic Development Corporation was formed in 2003 to better serve the economic development needs of Orange County. The County of Orange, the Orange County Port and Navigation District and the Cities of Bridge City, Orange, Pinehurst, Vidor, and West Orange realized the strengths gained by pooling resources to attract quality jobs and investments to Orange County. The Corporation is staffed by a full-time economic development professional and provides services to assist new and existing businesses to expand or relocate to Orange County, according to the OC EDC website.