It is all happening on a 250-acre site just east of Gregory.
As was first reported nearly two years ago, the Chinese government will be using a new state of the art steel mill to expand one of that country's largest pipe-making operations for the oil and gas industry.
Well now, those grand plans are taking shape.
From the start, the Chinese called it "Project G," and it did not stand for Gregory. "G" means "great!"
In an October 2010 visit to Tianjin, China, Chinese executives with that nation's largest pipe making company, TPCO, were clearly excited about the project near Gregory, a $1.1 billion enterprise that would become China's single biggest construction investment in the United States.
After a high-profile groundbreaking in August of 2011, you will find a 185,000 square foot shell representing only about one-sixth of what will eventually be built there. We're talking more than 2000 construction jobs, and at least 800 permanent jobs.
"We work with the local construction team very well," said Renzhao Bai, TPCO America's chief director on the site. He said the emphasis will be on hiring local workers and on making sure all environmental rules there are met or exceeded, something that frankly doesn't always happen in China.
"I have strong confidence that we can complete this project very well, and we hope to establish good relations with the local people," Bai said.
"Where you see the black wall, that's actually the top of the furnace foundation," said Mike Montoya, site manager for Jacobs Engineering, an industrial contractor with ongoing projects around the world. Montoya said he has never built something quite as large.
"I've worked on one other project, in the $600,000 range, but nothing quite this big," Montoya said. This project will cost around a billion dollars.
Ultimately, the plant will be able to take in scrap metal from a variety of sources, everything from old cars to barbecue pits, melt them down in a state of the art furnace, and then,turn out high-quality seamless pipe, the kind that is in high demand now in the domestic oil and gas industry.
It figures into a plan to make the U.S. energy independent. Right now, we often have to import this kind of pipe.
J.J. Johnston was in on the earliest discussions with the Chinese while representing the Corpus Christi Economic Development Corporation. After a brief stint at a similar job in San Antonio, he has now been hired as Project G's administrative director.
"This is a very complex project, and there were 83 different regions competing for it," Johnston said. "And now it's really happening. I'm so excited to be here today."
While he is not naive to the differences and disagreements our government currently has with China, Johnston said the project could indeed help pave the way for better relations.
"We really need each other, the U.S. and China. We need to trade more aggressively. We need to help each other where we can. We understand there are true concerns over issues on both sides. We need to concentrate on the big prize," Johnston said. "Better job opportunities for our residents. And the Chinese relationships in this region are very, very strong, and will continue to get stronger as a result of this project."
So the construction work continues with a completion date projected at sometime in 2014. In the meantime, there is a demand right now for construction personnel.
In fact, next Friday, Nov. 9, TPCO America will be taking job applications for a variety of positions. This will be at the Portland Community Center from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Workforce Solutions of the Coastal Bend is coordinating the event.
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