By Michael Sudhalter
Mike Holland, president of Marek Brothers System Inc., said the ExxonMobil project has had a huge impact on the Oak Forest-based company.
“It was the largest single project we’ve ever done in the company,” Holland said. “It filled a void. It’s a very complex project with super high standards.”
Without going into numbers specifically, Holland said Marek committed a “significant amount of resources” on the project.
“The project itself has had a significant impact not only on commercial construction, but the local economy,” Holland said.
Marek is one of 10 construction-related companies in the Heights, Oak Forest, Garden Oaks and North Houston areas that worked on the ExxonMobil project.
Gilbane Building Company and Harvey Builders formed a joint venture, Gilbane-Harvey, for the project. The Associated General Contractors of America (Houston chapter), based in the Timbergrove/Lazybrook area, provided The Leader with a list of more than 100 sub-contractors on the project.
Ten of those 100-plus sub-contractors are based in The Leader area – AECO Interiors, Baker Concrete, Berger Iron Works, Door Pro, First Electric Co., LS Decker, Marek Brothers, Milam Co., R&M Service and Ryder Insulation.
There are subcontractors from as far away as Canada, Massachusetts and Utah, and they’re all providing jobs, many of them to workers who live in The Leader area.
The good news for future workers in the ExxonMobil campus area is coming in the form of an educational program.
The new $13 million Houston Community College, at I-45 and W. Little York, is scheduled to open in January 2016, and it will include a construction trades lab, among other things.
The price of cement has increased in recent years, but Bob Bacon, CFO of TAS Commercial Concrete, said the rise in concrete, and other construction-related costs, is due the increase in costs of labor and fuel, rather than an individual construction project such as Exxon.
According to Exxon Mobil spokesperson David Eglinton, there are as many as 5,000 workers at one time on the project, which began in 2011. That doesn’t include construction workers who are building the homes and retail projects nearby the new campus.
Eglinton said an independent economic impact study of the project showed there will be about 44,000 permanent jobs at the campus during the course of ongoing operations.
The ExxonMobil campus will have an impact on developments in The Leader area, including the I-45/Shepherd and Little York interchanges, 18 miles to the south.
One large derelict building has already been demolished near the road work. The former Landmark Chevrolet property on the I-45 frontage road, near Shepherd, is still standing and abandoned. It’s just waiting for development.
Houston Community College is building a new $13 million campus at I-45 and W. Little York, which is set to open in 2016. It will take the place of Trader’s Fair, which hasn’t been functional in several years.
Carol Kleiber, president of Super Neighborhood 45 in that area, said the improved infrastructure should help commercial development in the surrounding area.
“Perhaps it will attract some grocery stores into the area,” Kleiber said. “As things go forward, we may get a grocery store.”
With the new Exxon campus, however, traffic may increase along N. Shepherd.
“If it is more, it’ll be handled better with the increased infrastructure,” Kleiber said.
Houston Tomorrow president David Crossley said the ExxonMobil campus will have an impact in the Greater Houston area, but noted that it’s not on Houston Tomorrow’s list of Top 25 job centers – areas with the most jobs. Number #1 is downtown Houston with 100,000, Crossley said.
Dr. Bill Gilmer, director of the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston, said the new campus could affect the areas north of the ExxonMobil campus than the Inner Loop area, which he said “has its own set of clients.”
“People are developing a lot of lots and houses (north of the ExxonMobil campus),” Gilmer said. “It’s an easier commute, and land is much cheaper.”
Gilmer, however, said a lot of the living patterns are based on an individual’s life cycle – they may live closer to the city when they’re fresh out of college but relocate to the suburbs to start a family.
“The suburbs has its own demographic and place in the life cycle,” Gilmer said.