The I-20 Impact: How one major interstate shapes Kilgore's economy

Jun 27, 2023
Kilgore News Herald

If you live in Kilgore, you may find a huge number of unfamiliar faces flooding the town during the day. That’s because Kilgore’s population almost doubles during the working hours, with a daytime work force using the city’s main interstate, I-20, to travel into town for work.

“I have worked in communities that were just a few miles more off of a major interstate than Kilgore, and it makes a vast difference when it comes to business,” said Lisa Denton, Director of Kilgore Economic Development Corporation.

According to Denton, I-20 is one of the main ways that community member are able to travel in and out of Kilgore, and it also serves as a major recruitment tool for businesses interested in the area.

“When it comes to project development, a lot of businesses top priorities that reliable transportation, and a minimization of product transport time and costs,” Denton said.

She added that the location of the city creates the perfect balance, keeping a small town feel in the area while also promoting a thriving economy through business development.

One such business Denton said that the location of Kilgore played a major part in the recruitment of was Orgill, a company that arrived in 2007 — and has since brought in 400 new jobs to the area. The company sits on a property that is just less than 1 million square feet, and even expanded its operations in Kilgore in 2019.

Denton added that Kilgore’s smaller size, and their ability to cater to major businesses due to its location so close to the interstate, played a major role in initially interesting the company in Kilgore at all.

“The company heads actually said that they prefer the smaller towns, because when you need that assistance, just as job training, recruiting, whatever else, you can usually receive that help immediately,” Denton explained, “It’s a place where you can have the mayor’s cell phone number.”

Bringing in major industry has another benefit too: Those people arriving to work in Kilgore also spend their money at the local businesses in town.

Whether it be for lunch, stopping for gas or hitting up one of the many local retail stores, when more people are coming into the city of Kilgore regularly, more money is spent on businesses owned by locals.

However, I-20 is not just a priority to the City of Kilgore, but also a priority to the State of Texas. The Texas Department of Transportation performed an I-20 corridor study earlier this year, with a wide range of goals set to improve the interstate.

Among others, the study looked to identify any safety issues, congestion and capacity issues, and compatibility with adjacent uses and future growth trends.

Three projects were identified both west and east of Kilgore on I-20, including two major projects to widen the lanes on I-20, and one to offer updated interchange improvement in the area.

“TxDOT is a critical partner for us,” Denton said, “And we are grateful that they recognize the need for the prioritization of I-20 improvements.”

Though community members may find construction issues annoying, the projects will offer the City of Kilgore the ability to utilize the refurbished roads as a recruitment tool for additional economic growth in the future.