Editor’s Note: The city of Beaumont, Texas, has long been host to petrochemical companies and its link to ExxonMobil is only strengthening, as the company continues to expand its footprint at its refinery and polyethylene facilities. The Energy Factor spent a week in the city of more than 100,000 people to talk about that relationship and how those investments continue to transform the fabric of the community.
Bobby Patel, a small-business magnate in Beaumont, Texas, can put a specific price tag on his optimism for his hometown.
“I am investing $2.5 million in the next five years,” he said in an interview at his Kampus Korner café on the campus of Lamar University. “Everyone’s investing money.”
Bobby Patel at Kampus Korner café on the campus of Lamar University.
That sense of optimism and entrepreneurship is growing in step with revitalization efforts in this southeast Texas city, where the petrochemical and refining industry continues rolling out billion-dollar expansion projects to facilities that spot the landscape.
ExxonMobil is spending hundreds of millions to upgrade equipment at its refinery that will remove sulfur from the gasoline being produced there. This follows a project completed last December to grow the company’s capacity and flexibility to process light crude oils. Between these two, the company will have created 825 temporary construction jobs. Those expansions and upgrades at the refinery are just one of the projects undertaken by ExxonMobil as part of its Growing the Gulf effort, which is adding $20 billion in planned and proposed investments and up to 45,000 jobs over the next 10 years.
The largest ongoing expansion, however, is at the company’s polyethylene facility, which is predicted to add 1,400 construction jobs through 2019.
Beaumont, Texas, is located about 90 miles east of Houston.
That energy is contagious.
The city is now home to new restaurants and entertainment options. The Edison Plaza, Beaumont’s only class-A office space, is almost completely full and the city is working on zoning that would allow the building of a new hotel by the river, according to Regina Lindsey, president of the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce.
The growth in the food industry alone would make city leaders in other cities hungry.
“Over the last five years, we have seen the restaurant industry completely transformed,” said Kayla Fisher, who, with her chef husband Scott, runs the Green Light Kitchen downtown. “A lot more entrepreneurs are taking more risk and putting themselves out there, and I think our area has been extremely receptive to that.”
But, the area that has seen the most direct benefit from the petrochemical expansion is construction. Chuck Mason, who, along with his family, runs Mason Construction, has seen the company his grand-father started in 1939 grow from six to well over 400 employees, based mostly on servicing ExxonMobil and other refiners.
“Really, anybody in the Golden Triangle who’s in construction, is doing a lot of work in the plants,” said Chuck Mason. “I mean, that’s what we do here.”
During a March interview, the extended Mason family sat around the company’s breakroom to ponder the growth prospects for their city.
“You have opportunity here. You have plenty of available land and nearby rail and water access,” said Le Short, nephew of president Chuck Mason.
As a longtime and devoted champion for his hometown, Chuck Mason knows that the opportunities found in Beaumont today will help lay the foundation for new growth for generations to come.
“The expansion projects give us a potential to take another huge step.”
Above image: Mason Construction (from left to right): Chad Mason, Chuck Mason, Becky Mason, Le Short
The Examiner, Lamar icon Kampus Korner keeps adapting, but doesn’t fix what ain’t broke, February 18, 2016
Bloomberg, U.S. Oil Industry Becomes Refiner to World as Exports Boom, March 6, 2017
Beaumont Enterprise, ExxonMobil announces $450M Beaumont refinery expansion, July 27, 2016