Texas producers lead the way

Management and staff optimism resonated in recent visits to Texas precast/prestressed producers, old and new alike. As with many of their neighbors and peer operators, they find much to like about their home turf these days: Business-friendly government, strong investment in public and private transportation infrastructure, plus healthy commercial and residential building levels. 

One of Texas’ newest precast/prestressed operators, Legacy Precast LLC (see “Well Anchored,” pages 36-39), will mark its first year in production next month. Timed with the milestone is a schedule shift from six to seven days/week, and anticipated doubling of the crew of Heritage Precast Erectors, a sister business on track for PCI-Qualified Erector status. 

Legacy Precast has phased production around the parking structure and commercial building market, structural offerings to start, followed by architectural products in 2016. Seasoned across precast/prestressed production, sales and administration, the seven partners behind the business have timed their launch with commercial building volume pacing enviable population growth.

Texas cities and counties dominate U.S. Bureau of Census updates. From July 2011-2012, for example, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston were among the top metropolitan areas with population gains of 100,000-plus. Leading into mid-2013 Census reports, the Texas Capital Region had three of the 10 fastest-growing cities with 50,000-plus population. The state harbors 11 of the 50 fastest-growing counties, while Harris (Houston) and Dallas were among the top five U.S. counties with the highest July 2012–July 2013 numeric population gains.

Trends supporting nonresidential building volume critical to Legacy Precast are reflected in the NAOIP Foundation/McGraw-Hill Construction’s Economic Impacts of Commercial Real Estate, 2014 Edition. The Lone Star State leads the country in Office, Warehouse and Retail work as measured by project hard costs (materials, labor, construction management). In the category most critical to structural and architectural precast, Texas accounts for $2.65 billion, or 13 percent, of the $20.3 billion NAIOP and McGraw-Hill estimate for 2013 Office hard cost expenditures nationwide.

In Legacy Precast’s largest market, Houston, commercial building interests are tracking developments along the principal east-west and north-south routes, Interstate 10 and Interstate 45, respectively. Springwood Village is perhaps commanding the most attention for commercial building contractors and suppliers: With a 10-year build out rooted in the largest building master plan in Texas history, the community will support ExxonMobil’s new world headquarters.

The energy giant factors into a second plant featured month. In a follow up to a September 2012 report on the Elm Mott satellite plant, toward Dallas, we visit the Victoria headquarters of Texas Concrete Partners LP—our cover feature subject (pages 32-35). The Elm Mott plant confirmed the Texas bridge market’s solid fundamentals. They haven’t changed, but at TCP’s flagship plant, south of San Antonio, girder production has been trumped by demand for a marine construction staple.

ExxonMobil and other petrochemical processing interests are using square prestressed concrete piles by the score, thanks to a historic market development the American Chemistry Council assesses in “Shale Gas, Competitiveness, and New U.S. Chemical Industry Investment—An Analysis of Announced Projects.” The report covers 100 potential U.S. projects through 2020; of their estimated $70 billion total, about $7 billion is tied to building construction, 80 percent along the Gulf Coast. Report authors credit an abundance of low-cost feedstocks, directly attributable to shale gas production, with presenting the U.S. chemical industry its “most significant opportunity in 75 years.”

The effects of that opportunity are gladly felt in the capital commitments and market enthusiasm attending Texas Concrete Partners, Legacy Precast and their peers throughout the Lone Star State.