Kilgore Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Jana Russell gave the organization’s midyear report to city council at their June 29 meeting, citing new job and investment agreements as a sign of economic activity returning to, and sometimes exceeding, pre-pandemic levels in the Kilgore area.
“We have, so far this fiscal year, signed two performance agreements,” Russell said.
“We looked at projections in terms of job creation and, starting with that metric, those two agreements represent 23 new jobs and 404 retained jobs, for a total of 427 jobs under contract.”
Russell added two companies have planned millions of dollars’ worth of new investments in the area.
“The other metric we look at is capital expenditures. Those projections from the two companies represent a little more than $13 million in new investment. A little more than $36 million for retained investments for an investment total of a little more than $49 million under contract.”
Russell told council members the report bodes well for the state of the Kilgore business community, especially when viewed in the context of near-total business shutdowns during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout most of 2020.
“The story of this report and of those numbers is, given the kind of year we had last year, what a normal report this is,” she said.
“In fact, if you look at the investment numbers, it’s about twice the amount of most of the past five years at year-end. It exceeds all of those years with the exception of the year that Orgill expanded. If you look at job creation numbers, it is exactly the average for the last five years at year-end. So far, this has been a very normal, typical year, which I find extraordinary.”
Russell also said KEDC has generated leads for new, prospective business agreements in the first half of 2021 at a promising rate.
“The other story for this report is prospect activity. This year, the number of leads that we’ve developed equals last year; however, last year eclipsed the previous year by about 21 percent. So there has been quite a bit of activity, which I also find very hopeful.”
She added returning to in-person meetings would be a boon for KEDC staff after being restricted to virtual meetings during the height of the pandemic.
“The other hopeful aspect of lead generation for us is that the source of most of our actionable leads comes from the internal activities of KEDC,” she said. “Some of the most successful of those activities include face-to-face meetings, which have been limited during the past year. I’m very excited that, in the month of August, our target markets are going to be opening up, so we have some of, not the first recruitment activities of the year, but some of the first in-person, face-to-face recruitment activities, which we have known to be very helpful.”
She added KEDC remains committed to both real and virtual property ownership in the area, noting the virtual building program brought Wagner Tuning to Kilgore in 2019, and said KEDC has plans for the development of land formerly used by Halliburton, which closed its Kilgore operations at the end of April 2020, dealing a huge blow to the local economy.
“In terms of real property ownership, we will also be developing North Kilgore industrial properties and evaluating best uses and that is the property formerly known as the Halliburton yard.”
She also said KEDC staff will be taking a thorough look at their strategic plan, which is scheduled for renewal in 2022.