Much Needed Boost for Local Economy

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – After months of negotiations involving the City of Grapeland and the Grapeland Economic Development Corporation (GEDC), it was announced on Thursday, Aug. 10, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange would be locating a facility in the Queen City of the Sand Flats.

“Darling Ingredients, Inc. (NYSE: DAR), a global developer and producer of sustainable natural ingredients from edible and inedible bio-nutrients, is excited to announce its plan to open a poultry conversion facility in Grapeland, Texas,” according to Melissa Gaither, Vice President of Investor Relations and Global Communications for Darling.

“The facility will be built in support of a regional poultry processing operation currently under development and the finished products produced will include natural fats and proteins for sale into the production of pet food and renewable fuel,” Gaither stated.

Bill McMurtry – the Vice President of Environmental Affairs, North America – indicated the facility will be located east of Grapeland along FM 227. He explained the corporation had reached an agreement with two landowners “… to purchase two tracts of land that marry up to roughly 225 acres.”

“The plant will basically sit right in the middle of those two tracts. It will be back from the road so it won’t be easily seen from the roadway,” McMurtry said during a phone interview on Thursday, Aug. 10. “Our plan is to leave all the existing trees, especially the older ones, so you will hardly see any changes from the roadway.”

“We expect the facility to be operational by sometime in January of 2019,” Gaither – also present during the interview – added. “The technology used will be state-of-the-art in terms of the process and process controls and will meet or exceed all federal, state and local requirements.”

Gaither reported Darling Ingredients had been working with Grapeland Mayor Balis Dailey, the GEDC, Houston County and other community leaders in Grapeland to develop this opportunity since June of 2016.

During the initial stages of planning, several county and city leaders toured a Darling Ingredients facility similar to the one proposed for Grapeland, McMurtry said.

“We took a pretty large group representing both the county and the city of Grapeland up to a plant that is also brand new and is more or less a mirror image of what the plant will look like and how it operates,” he indicated.

“Only recently did the project become a reality and Darling is excited about becoming an integral part of the community and the positive economic impact this will have on the City of Grapeland,” Gaither said.

McMurtry explained the reason the project was kept quiet was “… because we are a publicly traded company. Until this was announced publicly this morning by our CEO (Randall C. Stuewe) on our earnings call, we couldn’t put information out that might influence a stock purchaser and that’s why everyone was so tight lipped about this.”

In the Aug. 10 earnings call, the CEO stated, “… we have reached an agreement to construct a new state-of-the-art Greenfield rendering plant in central Texas (Grapeland). Construction will begin later this year and we expect to be online in early 2019.”

Gaither added, “It is anticipated the facility will bring 50 plus jobs, added tax revenue, and a new demand for local goods and services.”

After the interview with Gaither and McMurtry concluded, Grapeland Mayor Balis Dailey was contacted about the matter.

“This is going to be a real benefit for the community. The first benefit is we are annexing them into the city which will help increase our tax base. The city will be in control of all the issues regarding permitting – in line with the state – as opposed to being outside the city limits in the county where there are no restrictions,” Dailey said.

The mayor said Darling Ingredients would also be bringing jobs to the area and had indicated the desire to hire from the local workforce whenever possible.

“Darling will only bring in people from the outside if they absolutely have to. Of course, they will need to bring in at least two people to run the plant, but the remaining employees will be hired from the local workforce as long as they have the skills and needed qualifications,” he said.

Materials and supplies would also be purchased locally and Dailey indicated area businesses would be contacted to see if they could have a stock of needed items and if it would be cost effective for the local businesses to have an accessible stock readily available.

“This will bring money to our city, our county, our fire district and our school district. This is a sizable project and when it is up and running, it should bring in at least $700,000 to $800,000 annually to the local economy,” Dailey said.

“When you look at the big picture, there are no negatives. It is all positive,” he said.

Dailey credited GEDC board members C.L. McGill and Brandon Bridges, Councilman Michael Chapman and former Houston County Judge Erin Ford for their assistance in helping to lay the groundwork and in finalizing the project.

According to the company’s website, Darling Ingredients is over 100 years old and has facilities on five of the seven continents.

“Darling Ingredients Inc. provides a global growth platform for the development and production of sustainable natural ingredients from edible and inedible bio-nutrients. Through diverse processing operations spread over five continents, we create a wide range of products and customized specialty solutions for clients and customers in the pharmaceutical, food, pet food, feed, fuel, bio-energy and fertilizer industries. We are proud of our role in the innovative development of biofuels using our rendered fats and recycled cooking oils as feedstock,” the website stated.

The company is headquartered in Irving and “… operates a network of over 200 facilities worldwide, staffed by approximately 10,000 dedicated employees providing services and products to an international market,” according to the website.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.