Massive pipe plant to boost Chinese FDI in Texas

Updated: 2016-05-09 06:00

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York(China Daily USA)

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Massive pipe plant to boost Chinese FDI in Texas

Here is the $1.3 billion plant that Tianjin Pipe Corporation (TPCO ) is building near Corpus Christi, Texas. It is expected to employ 600 and is scheduled to open by the end of this year.Provided to China Daily

By the end of this year, a $1.3 billion plant near Corpus Christi, Texas, that will make seamless pipe for the energy industry — the largest single Chinese investment in a US manufacturing facility — is expected to start production. Area economic development officials hope the facility will bring in additional Chinese and foreign investment to the area.

TPCO America, a subsidiary of Tianjin Pipe Corporation, is building the plant. It is expected to create 600 jobs and generate $2 .7 billion in economic activity for the area in a decade. Ground breaking for the facility, which is located in the town of Gregory outside of Corpus Christi, occurred in 2011.

"We've got FDI (foreign direct investment) coming to the US with this project," noted John LaRue, executive director of the Port of Corpus Christi Authority. "Everyone should be happy with the signal that this sends."

"We have talked with officials from other Chinese companies and the Tianjin Economic Development Authority and have had several trade missions to China," said Tommy Kurtz, vice-president business and strategic development for the Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation. "We have also attracted investments from Austria, Italy and Mexico."

Corpus Christi is a city of 305,000 on a bay near the Gulf of Mexico in southern Texas. That turned out to be one of the advantages that helped Corpus Christi secure the TPCO project.

"They wanted to be near deep water with a port," said LaRue. "They also wanted an open site and to have a plentiful supply of natural gas, which we have."

The plant is expected to supply pipe for the massive Eagle Ford Shale formation in south Texas, which energy observers think may contain as much as 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 3 billion barrels of oil. It will take scrap steel and metal and turn it into 500,000 metric tons of seamless pipe each year.

Despite the downturn in energy prices in the last two years, Kurtz said TPCO hasn't delayed or canceled the project. "They built this with a long-term perspective," he said. "One or two years of changes in prices weren't going to alter this view."

When the project was unveiled five years ago, the labor market in the area was different from now. Kurtz said there was concern at the beginning about an adequate supply of workers. Training programs were set up at the nearby Del Mar Community College and the Craft Training Center for the Coastal Bend. "With the downturn in energy prices we now have more workers available," Kurtz said.

LaRue said TPCO also hopes to use the plant to help break into the Central and South America markets.

paulwelitzkin@chinadailyusa.com

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