KEDC Recognized for Business Retention and Expansion Project

Jun 29, 2023
Staff Reports

During the Business Retention and Expansion International (BREI) Annual Conference, Kilgore Economic Development Corporation (KEDC) was recognized as the recipient of two prestigious awards:

·         BREI Award of Excellence for an Outstanding Single Community with a Population Under 20,000: The BREI Awards of Excellence are given to economic development organizations, municipalities and/or states or provinces who have demonstrated an outstanding usage of business retention and expansion strategies and tactics for growing and sustaining small businesses.

·         BREI Impact Award: This award is presented annually to one community, regardless of size, that has demonstrated a substantial economic impact with their BRE efforts.

“Business retention is the core of our organization, and the center of what we focus on every day,” said Lisa Denton, Executive Director of KEDC. “It’s especially exciting to be recognized for a project that meant so much for our community. We were able to utilize the property in creative ways while putting the pieces together for the best possible outcome for Kilgore and Skeeter Boats. We appreciate the support received from the KEDC Board of Directors, Kilgore City Council, Gregg County and Kilgore College for making this project a success.”

Both awards recognize KEDC’s efforts to revitalize the former Halliburton facility, 55+ acres and a complex of buildings on FM 349, and return the property to the tax rolls in an impactful way. Through the purchase, holding, and owner-financing of the property, KEDC was able to successfully bring Skeeter Boats’ expansion to Kilgore when two other cities outside of the region were also in contention. The resulting agreement with Skeeter Boats includes nearly $37 million of capital investment and the creation of over 90 jobs in Kilgore.

Halliburton had long been the largest sales and property tax payer in Kilgore, where the local economy ebbed and flowed with the oil and gas industry. Amidst a downturn in oil and gas, Halliburton moved to consolidate their operation, and in turn shuttered the Kilgore facility, leaving a massive gap in tax revenue in their wake.

The loss of Halliburton, and subsequent attempts to utilize the property for roles that were tax-exempt, prompted KEDC to purchase the property. With the Halliburton property (now known as the North Kilgore Industrial Properties) in their portfolio, the KEDC team was able to maintain the complex in a usable state and protect it from becoming blighted.

Skeeter Boats, a neighbor of the former Halliburton site since the 1970s, was the ideal candidate to buy the property. Skeeter’s facility growth in Kilgore had been hampered by the landlocked nature of their location, and this opportunity to more than double their footprint was an effective way to meaningfully put the complex back on the tax rolls. On January 17th, 2023, Skeeter entered into a two-phase agreement with KEDC to purchase the property.

Skeeter had leased nearby facilities to jump-start their expansion while the project was approved through the corporate levels of Yamaha Marine, Skeeter’s parent company.. To induce the expansion, KEDC offered to owner finance the purchase of the property at a low interest rate in an otherwise volatile borrowing landscape, and will also credit previous lease payments and other earned incentives to the principle, easing the financial burden of undertaking such an ambitious expansion in the current economic climate. KEDC also assisted Skeeter with requests for tax abatements from the City of Kilgore, Gregg County, and Kilgore College.

While finalizing the contract with Skeeter, KEDC made the property available to Kilgore’s SWAT team as a training location and corporate citizens used the secure facility as a short-term storage location of equipment and inventory.

Kilgore College has also used the site as a temporary training ground for their CDL program. With Skeeter’s acquisition of the property, KEDC has worked closely with Kilgore College to find a permanent home for the CDL and forklift programs, even providing KEDC-owned property to facilitate the construction of their state-of-the-art Transportation Institute.

As Kilgore continues to diversify its economy beyond the energy sector, the growing pains of shifting into new areas of focus will soon be a distant memory. The toll that Halliburton’s exit from Kilgore had on employment numbers and tax revenue has nearly been accounted for with many high-impact projects that KEDC has brought to the city.

This agreement with Skeeter Boats is another example in a long line of successes that Kilgore Economic Development Corporation has celebrated in the 30+ years since the organization was established. KEDC has earned a reputation as a team that continually punches above its weight, winning projects that bring hundreds of quality jobs and hundreds of millions in capital investment to a small corner of East Texas.

KEDC routinely receives honors from regional, state, national and international organizations, representing the citizens of Kilgore at a global level. KEDC has previously received international honors from BREI in 2009 and 2016.