Exxon Mobil's move a boost to The Woodlands
For the past several months, an informal group of elected officials calling themselves the "ExxMo Committee" met to share updates and make plans for the Exxon Mobil Corp.'s expected move to a new mega-campus in northern Harris County, just south of The Woodlands.
Realtors were already fielding relocation calls from places like Fairfax County, Va., where Exxon Mobil has other major facilities.
Developers of the planned 1,800-acre Springwoods Village residential project near I-45 and the Hardy Toll Road have talked with restaurants and retailers interested in locating next door to what many assumed would be the oil giant's new home.
The widespread expectations about Exxon Mobil didn't make the formal announcement earlier this month any less sweet, however.
"We could not be more excited and more thrilled that Exxon Mobil has officially announced its campus south of The Woodlands," said Bruce Tough, chairman of The Woodlands Township board of directors. "That is going to be a tremendous economic boom for the area…I say it's a perfect fit."
And it isn't just the elected officials who are celebrating.
Mike Karlins, a named partner in The Woodlands accounting firm Karlins & Ramey, feels pretty good about the company's decision to expand into new, larger condominium offices off Technology Forest next year.
Eventually, about 8,000 employees will relocate to the new facility, which will be built on a 385-acre site west of Interstate 45 and the Hardy Toll Road.
"I guarantee there will be many, many other businesses providing goods and services to Exxon Mobil that will be opening offices here," said Karlins, who has lived in The Woodlands for about three decades.
"A lot of the executives are going to need tax returns prepared for them. Some of the smaller companies — we'd love to assist them on the corporate side of the world."
The company's new space is about 25 percent larger, and just in time, said Karlins. "When we have more room next year, we'll be able to bring in more folks as well. I think it's just going to explode up here."
Gil Staley, CEO of South Montgomery County Economic Development Partnership, agreed that Exxon Mobil will have a "huge impact."
"Just the dynamics of 8,000 people being in close proximity to South Montgomery County will bring interest, not only to home sales, but just in retail alone," Staley said. "Even if they just report here to work, they are still going to use this area to shop and dine."
Staley said he expects more announcements like that of Houston-based Newfield Exploration, which recently leased 91,456 square feet in 4 Waterway Square. The company, which also will maintain its current offices in Greenspoint, said it will move 150 employees to The Woodlands later this summer.
"It's just reinforcing that this is a very important sector for us," Staley said.
Local officials said they have been waiting for the Exxon Mobil announcement for well over a year. Tough said the "ExxMo Committee" included elected, economic development and other community leaders from South Montgomery County and North Harris County.
"We would meet as anyone would hear any news," said Tough. "The committee was looking at everything - facilitating and assisting in any areas we had control over... It was providing info and communicating that to individuals of influence so that information would be passed on to Exxon."
Tough said the formal announcement will have implications for school districts and housing. It will create opportunities for secondary businesses - doctors, accountants, retailers - as well as subcontractors participating in the actual Exxon Mobil construction process.
Katherine J Clark, director of communications for Conroe Independent School District, said the district has been hearing talk of Exxon Mobil's plans from employees and parents who already live in the district.
Enrollment growth generated by the project "is not going to catch us by surprise," she said. "We're not talking about them coming all at once; it's going to be gradual over time. This is the very thing we're accustomed to deal with because we are a fast-growth district."
Conroe adds about 1,200 new students each year, Clark said.
"We live in a very attractive area. We've had growth for many years, and it doesn't look like it's going to stop."
In the meantime, the district looks forward to expanding its volunteer partnerships with Exxon Mobil employees, which Clark said are already "absolutely fabulous."
According to an Exxon Mobil email sent to employees: "Moves to the campus will be carried out in phases as the campus is constructed, beginning early 2014, with full occupancy by 2015. Houston-based employees working in Upstream, Chemicals and various staff support functions will move to the campus in that timeframe.
"The company is continuing to study whether any other U.S. office locations will ultimately be located in the complex."
Keith Simon, senior vice president and director of development for Coventry Development Corp., said his company expects to begin construction this August on about $70 million in internal roads, drainage and a water plant for its new mixed-use Springwoods Village project.
The $10 billion development just south of the Exxon Mobil tract plans 5,000 housing units, with residential occupancy by late 2013 or early 2014, Simon said.
The landowner of the heavily wooded Springwoods Village tract has owned most of it for about 50 years. Since announcing development late last year, Coventry has been fielding calls from residential and commercial land buyers, Simon said.
"We've seen a lot of interest in Springwoods Village and we think there will be even more, post-announcement," Simon said, referring to Exxon Mobil.
Simon said some trees have been cleared for internal roads in Springwoods Village, but developers are sticking with plans for a 50- to 70-foot tree preserve along major thoroughfares.
The company's stated vision for the project is a "mixed-use community designed to integrate mass-transit, a wide variety of homes, and a mix of retail uses, offices, schools, parks and recreation - all within close proximity."
"We've been real careful in the tree clearing to only clear to the edge of the roadway," Simon said. "I think the net effect is that (future residents) will be able to experience the forest that has been restricted for so long."
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