Industrial Growth Comes Full Circle in Texas-Arkansas Border Region
By Eric Voyles, executive vice president, TexAmericas Center
Years before smartphones and decades before Zoom, community leaders along the Texas-Arkansas border decided to turn a shuttered military property into a regional economic driver.
Now, with the boost of a technological revolution that makes it easier than ever to connect with companies worldwide, that venture is paying major dividends.
Located in the Texarkana MSA, TexAmericas Center (TAC) is an industrial park with a unique twist — it’s run by a special purpose district of the State of Texas. That means it operates like a government, controlling its own zoning and permitting processes, but it also functions like a competitive real estate development company. This combination has been particularly attractive to relocating and expanding businesses over the years and continues to drive growth for the greater Texarkana economy.
Companies considering relocation or expansion at TAC frequently comment on the variety of infrastructure updates made to the industrial park. They are also quick to appreciate an impressive transportation corridor that uses multiple state highways, interstates, air freight and rail lines to disperse from a central U.S. location.
But what new companies don’t always realize just how deep the supply of skilled workers is, and how it draws from a wide range of schools is in the Texarkana area. TexAmericas Center has a 500-mile reach through four states — Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma — of 53.8 million people, which is 10 million more than 500-mile reach of Dallas.
Thanks to solid infrastructure, transportation and a skilled, available workforce, the region offers plenty to incoming businesses — including a very bright future.
Origins of Growth
TexAmericas Center was born out of necessity. Community leaders in Texarkana knew the region needed business growth, and the 12,000-acre site of a closed military compound seemed the perfect place to make it happen.
In 1998, Texas state officials took the innovative step of creating an industrial park with the governing capability to set its own zoning and permitting processes. This initiative freed up development leaders to eliminate much of the red tape that bogs down traditional business growth plans. At the same time, these leaders were granted the flexibility to offer an enticing basket of incentives to help businesses reduce startup and operational costs.
Since then, TexAmericas Center has improved its electrical grid, invested in a 144-strand fiberoptic line and brought in a high-volume natural gas service. The development also features a large fresh water supply, and its officials have worked with local, state and federal governments to improve incentives for relocating or expanding businesses in Texarkana.
While these onsite developments were taking place, the highway systems surrounding Texarkana were also being expanded, presenting additional options for area businesses. The growing transportation corridor included an interstate loop of Interstates 30, 49 and 369 that provided improved access to Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.
Beyond the region, however, that highway system linked Gulf of Mexico ports to markets in the Midwest, Eastern and Western seaboards, as well as north into Canada. Subsequently, the business activity along those interstate corridors saw a swift uptick as both domestic and international business grew.
With those factors in play, TexAmericas Center hit its stride. From 2014 to 2019, the industrial park increased its total leased square footage by 85 percent.
By 2019, TAC had become a destination for growing companies. It added nine new tenants, including two new industries, and made $1.6 million in building improvements during that year alone. Those projects included the industrial park’s second-largest deal ever, a 177,000-square-foot, three-year lease with a one-year option.
The momentum behind Texarkana’s growth is still happening. Several higher education facilities have opened local campuses, spurring the availability of customized training offerings for both existing companies and those looking to relocate.
Texarkana leaders recognize the importance of filling the workforce pipeline, which is often a challenge for industrial users.
Currently, there are about 10,000 students enrolled at the institutions of higher education within a 30-mile radius of the Texarkana area. Overall, there are 32 institutions of higher education within 90 miles of TexAmericas Center.
Additionally, specific programs have been developed and offered in highly sought-after advanced manufacturing skill sets, such as Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machinery, Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), Alternative Energy and Robotics. There are additional degrees available in the region focused on electrical and mechanical engineering.
Business growth has remained strong in Texarkana as companies have enjoyed cooperative efforts between cities on both sides of the state line.
Global manufacturing giant Lockheed Martin recently signed a deal to expand into a 218,000-square-foot building at TexAmericas Center, bringing additional skilled manufacturing jobs to the community. With a connection to Texarkana’s Red River Army Depot, Lockheed Martin intends for its $77 million operation to support the Army’s Multiple Launch Rocket System Fleet Expansion Program.
Soon after, Riverbend Water Resources District announced plans to build a $200 million water treatment plant and additional water infrastructure, giving TAC tenants the ability to expand operations without affecting water needs. Current plans allow the plant to expand in the future to meet long-term growth and serve incoming new businesses.
Today, TAC has 12,000 acres and 3 million square feet of commercial and industrial property. Part of its one-stop-shop appeal is the park’s ability to lease, develop and finish business space. That was a draw for Texarkana-based Rowe Casa Organics, which recently moved into a 4,700-square-foot space designed specifically for its operations.
Even with 2020’s economic uncertainty, companies continue to seek out Texarkana for its low-cost utilities, taxes, overhead and labor. Each of those categories tends to run at least 20 to 30 percent lower in Texarkana than in other major Texas MSAs.
What started as an industrial park with a twist has transformed into a space at the forefront of industrial development. It’s no surprise to those who have watched the region emerge, because Texarkana has reinforced a single resounding theme: This is where companies succeed.
TexAmericas Center is a growing catalyst of economic investment in the Texarkana region, with 12,000 acres and 3 million square feet of space fully entitled, providing potential tenants, including specialized industries, options that would be difficult or cost-prohibitive to secure in other regions. Its location in the Texarkana metropolitan area offers an attractive pipeline of talent and a logistics network to rival many larger — and therefore more expensive — urban hubs. Additionally, TexAmericas Center offers a complement of unique assets like industrial capacity utilities, rail, and fiber, as well as third-party logistics and trans-load services.