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Location Texas: Wide Open For Business

Steve Stackhouse-Kaelble (Jun/Jul 07)
(page 2 of 3)
Growing in Texas
The Texas Enterprise Fund and Emerging Technologies Fund are just a couple examples of the attitude that has lured countless businesses to the Lone Star State. If that's not enough, there are plenty of other reasons. And there are lots of success stories to share:

• The Toyota plant in San Antonio is one of the state's most prized catches of recent years. Lured in early 2003, the plant grew from an $800 million project to a $1.3 billion investment before the first Tundra pickup rolled off the line in November of last year. The Toyota deal is creating some 4,000 jobs, and lots more among the ripples. For example, some two dozen suppliers have followed Toyota to Texas, adding at least $100 million in investments. Toyota is building to an annual plant capacity of up to 200,000 Tundras.

• Maxim Integrated Products will be expanding to a new facility in Irving. The project is expected to generate $200 million in capital investments and create about 1,000 new jobs over the next seven years. Back in 2003, a $1.5 million Texas Enterprise Fund grant helped persuade Maxim to secure a semiconductor facility in San Antonio.

• The economy is hot and getting hotter in Houston. In just the first quarter of 2007, economic impact of development announcements there had hit half of the already impressive total achieved in 2006. The city recorded announcements with an economic impact totaling $1.5 billion in the first quarter of this year, creating about 600 new jobs and retaining 1,200. Last year, development carried a $2.7 billion impact in Houston, led by a 2,000-job expansion by BP and an 1,100-job expansion by Lockheed Martin.

• Wayport, Inc., which designs and integrates applications and software over wired and wireless networks, recently announced the expansion of its corporate presence in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The company's engineering takes place in Austin. "With Dallas being one of the nation's largest cities and travel hubs, it will provide easy access for our customers and investors," says CEO Dave Vucina, "and give us two great Texas facilities to strengthen our position for acquisitions and recruiting."

• IMSafer, a Houston-based startup, has been adding new customers at a rate of about 100 percent a month since its launch last fall. The company's product monitors children's instant messages and MySpace accounts for disturbing or inappropriate conversations.

Business Climate: Hot and Friendly
Texas is known for doing things in a big way, and that goes for matters economic, too. If it were a separate country, its economy would be the world's eighth-largest, and it recently was crowned the nation's top exporting state. Those exports are destined for markets around the world, and a lot of them head south to Latin America - indeed, three-quarters of the nation's trade with Mexico flows through Texas.

The economic base in Texas is large and diverse, including 1.6 million small businesses. According to Demerson, the state welcomes all kinds of new businesses, but six key areas are especially in the crosshairs:

• Advanced technology and manufacturing: "That includes our automotive sector," he says. Needless to say, "we were fortunate to have Toyota move here."

• Energy: "Texas is very well known for energy, and we're probably No. 1 in terms of wind right now," says Demerson.

• Aerospace and defense: "We continue to build on that, with NASA located here and a number of large companies here," he says.

• Biotechnology and life sciences: The state ranks second in biomedical and pharmaceutical startups, and Houston boasts the world's largest medical complex and group of health-related headquarters.

• Information and computer technology: Dell, Texas Instruments, EDS, Samsung.need anyone say more? Still, there are plenty of other players in this field located in Texas, and the state is ready for more.

• Petroleum and chemical products: Texas has always been known as an oil state, and is a key producer of other chemical products.

"We've won several awards for having the best business climate in the nation," says Demerson. "It's a very business-friendly community. You'll find a can-do attitude in the state and in local communities. The state is a willing partner, and the attitude is contagious and catching."

As an example of the business-friendly climate, he cites the tort reform passed in 2003 that has become a model for other states to follow. Reforms include the ability to limit non-economic damages, product-liability protections including a 15-year statute of limitations, reforms in punitive damages and mechanisms to encourage settlements outside the courtroom.

"We want to be sure companies are good corporate citizens," says Demerson. But in Texas, "a CEO knows that the company is not going to be sued out of business."

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