Big Business: Corporations build headquarters in Katy
18 Sep 2018
By: Lindsay Peyton - Houston Chronicle
Big business is making it big in Katy.
There are now more than 200 major corporate headquarters in the greater Katy area, including Academy Sports and Outdoors, Shell Exploration and Production, WoodGroup Subsidies, BP North America, Igloo, ConocoPhillips, Expro Americas, Schlumberger, Gulf Island Fabrication, Aecom, Salata and DNV-GL.
Lance LaCour, president and CEO of the Katy Area Economic Development Council, said there are a number of reasons why the area has become a prime location for businesses to set up shop.
Companies come to Katy for the school districts, the accessibility to Houston and the quality of life for employees, LaCour explained.
He moved to the area 13 years ago.
“When I came out here, Katy was a bedroom community,” he said. “Now, Katy is more of a business center.”
In fact, the local economy accounts for more than $21 billion in sales and includes about 11,000 companies within a 30-minute drive time radius from Interstate 10 and Mason Road, according to Katy EDC figures.
“That number keeps growing all the time,” LaCour said.
The Katy Area Economic Development Council has worked to promote business growth since it was created in 2003.
The nonprofit is charged with recruiting, retaining and expanding companies and jobs in the area - and through that effort, improving the quality of life for residents.
LaCour said Katy is usually recognized for its proximity to the Energy Corridor.
“Energy is our largest and healthiest sector,” he said. “And most people know us for that. Energy is big business in Katy and the world.”
More than 55,000 people are employed in the sector in Katy, which, according to the economic development council, is more than double that of other competing Houston suburbs.
Katy has become a location of choice though for a variety of sectors, LaCour said.
For example, HighRadius, a growing software company, moved its operations to Katy in the spring.
Chief financial officer Johnny Vincent explained that heading further west made it possible to acquire much needed space.
“We found a great spot with room to grow,” he said. “We’re doubling every year in our employee size. We needed a facility with the capacity to accommodate that.”
Vincent said the park-like setting of the building, complete with gym, made it an appealing option for the company’s 150 employees.
“We hire a lot of folks who are fresh out of school, and you can find affordable housing here,” he added. “The west side of town shows wells for employees, and we bring a large employee base to the area. It’s a great location to attract the people we need.”
For employees who opt to live closer to downtown, Vincent said, going against traffic leads to quicker commutes.
Even residents from The Woodlands and other developments on Houston’s north side are able to use the Grand Parkway to travel directly to work, he added.
“It suits us well,” Vincent said. “I can see this as a growing thing, with more companies out in the area. It’s an attractive spot.”
LaCour said that science and technology sectors will account for the creation of 3,300 additional jobs in Katy in the next year
Industries that call Katy home range from agriculture and forestry to finance and transportation. There are about 221 firms and 1,655 employees in agriculture, forestry and fishing, while 634 companies and 6,263 employees are dedicated to construction industries.
Finance, insurance and real estate businesses account for 1,102 establishments in Katy and 5,109 employees.
GEICO’S Houston Claims Center is also located in the city and employs 800, with plans to add 1,500 positions in upcoming years. FedEx Ground recently completed an 800,000 sq. ft. distribution facility, employing 800 individuals.
LaCour explained that the Katy Independent School District is not only a one of the largest draws to the area, but also a major employer, with 9,185 individuals working there.
“It’s been rated the top district in the Houston area,” LaCour said. “We ask people what’s the best thing about Katy and they say, ‘Katy ISD.’ That helps us when companies consider moving out here. They want to be near the best schools.”
Similarly, businesses move to Katy for proximity to healthcare options, LaCour said. The medical and social services sector has already created about 5,600 area jobs this year.
Katy’s proximity to major roadways is also a draw for businesses, LaCour said. The city is 20 miles west of Houston on Interstate 10.
Companies and residents are able to access the amenities and resources of the city, and the highway provides easy access, LaCour added.
“The Grand Parkway has been a game-changer,” he said. “Moving forward, there’s a lot of development in that direction.”
For instance, Saudi Basic Industries Corp. is currently scoping a 74-acre site near the roadway. LaCour explained that the company is the largest petrochemicals producer in the Middle East and the site in Katy will become its headquarters in the Western Hemisphere, a project that would bring the company’s employment from 400 to 1,000.
LaCour said that 130,000 square feet of spec building space is available in the Mason Creek Office Center II.
In addition, Transwestern is currently building a 239,000 square foot industrial building, and Oakmont recently finished a 675,000 square foot industrial spec space, mainly for distribution, in Katy.
Several buildings, both spec and build-to-suit, are in the works in the Grand Parkway Industrial Park, as well as a mixed-use property at Katy Fort Bend Rd.
LaCour added that Elyson Business District is currently moving dirt and building infrastructure for their new 150-acre business park near FM 529 and Grand Parkway.
He explained that the Katy Area Economic Development Council is continuing to move forward on its 2021 strategic plan.
“As part of this, we are speaking with current and prospective Katy area businesses to gauge what we can do to make the Katy area an even more attractive place to not only do businesses, but live as well,” he said. “Our four target industries are energy, research and development, headquarters and data centers.”
The organization is also focused on mitigating flooding post Harvey.
“Moving forward, it is a must that we continue to advocate for infrastructure improvements and flood control measures in not only our area, but the entire Houston region,” he said. “We were thrilled to see the Harris County flood control bond pass but there is certainly still much work to do.”
LaCour expects Katy to continue on its current trajectory.
“We continue to establish ourselves as a location where big business can flourish,” he said. “Our pro-business environment and access to a highly talented and diverse workforce makes the Katy area an ideal place for businesses to grow.”
For more information on the Katy Area Economic Development Council, visit http://katyedc.org.