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Industry Diversification

There is no question the energy industry played a leading role in making Midland a boomtown, but city leaders and economic development organizations know that to ensure continued growth, diversification is crucial. Building on the strong foundation of the oil and gas fields, Midland leaders are focused on branching out into complementary sectors such as alternative energy, aerospace and aviation, manufacturing, logistics, health care, and education. The city is also committed to revitalizing its city center, repurposing older buildings, green-lighting new hotels and adding mixed-use complexes. Hotel Santa Rita and the Wall Street Lofts, Phase 2, are two of the ongoing projects that promise to breathe new life into downtown and attract more visitors and residents.

Energy

The oil and gas industry has a long and successful history in Midland. Home to 12 of the 17 top-producing oil and gas counties in Texas, the Permian Basin is responsible for 60 percent of Texas crude production,

16 percent of U.S. crude production, and 17 percent of Texas and U.S. gas production. It also has 50 percent of the active rigs in Texas and 25 percent of the active rigs in the nation.

Midland’s prime Texas Plains location is ideal for soaking up sunshine and capturing wind. Its large expanse of available acreage make it a prime spot for both solar and wind power generation. The Permian Basin is the leader in wind and solar energy development in both the state of Texas and the nation. With over 11 electric generation plants and 11 wind power farms and more under development, the region is on track to expand wind power generation. The city contributed startup funds to Texas Tech University to form the National Institute for Renewable Energy (NIRE), an independent public-private collaboration that works to solve key scientific and technology challenges facing the wind power industry. A $7 billion project to connect the wind of West Texas and the Panhandle to big cities where power is consumed has opened up large energy markets that previously relied on nearby power plants.

Aerospace and Aviation

The aerospace and aviation industry is also taking off in a big way. The investment the MDC has made in relocating XCOR and Orbital Outfitters from California to Midland is part of the agency’s ongoing commitment to recruiting more space industry companies to West Texas. A key milestone in that commitment was getting the FAA to designate Midland International Airport as a Space Port, opening the door to hosting suborbital launches. After receiving the Space Port designation, the airport officially changed its name to Midland International Air and Space Port.

XCOR Aerospace was a key partner is obtaining the Space Port license. XCOR’s Commercial Spaceflight Research and Development Center headquarters will be one of the first tenants at the Space Port upon completion of renovations on an existing hangar. The XCOR Lynx is a piloted, two-seat, rocket-powered spacecraft that takes off and lands horizontally, and it will propel passengers to space and back.

“Now that the license has been issued we can get on with the next steps of completing hangar renovations and developing all the procedures we will need to integrate spaceflight into airport operations and airspace,” explained Jeff Greason, XCOR’s chief technology officer.

MDC has invested $11.5 million for XCOR’s relocation to Midland, including $1.5 million for the renovations of the hangar at Midland International Air and Space Port. Plans are for the Lynx to be launched from Midland into suborbital space by 2016.

Orbital Outfitters is moving its corporate headquarters from Hollywood, California to Midland. Founded in 2006 as a producer of spacesuits for the spaceflight industry, the company is building a vacuum testing facility, slated for completion in early 2016. The Midland Altitude Chamber Complex (MACC) will be the world’s most advanced human-rated commercial altitude chamber testing facility capable of testing real flight hardware in a near vacuum. According to Jeff Feige, CEO at Orbital Outfitters, the company is broadening the scope of its services beyond spacesuits. The MACC facility will not only be used for Orbital Outfitters’ own research and testing efforts; it will also be made available to other companies for testing of other components, such as small satellites.

“There are other companies offering similar types of testing, but none of them is able to offer the visibility to observers that the MACC will, and they won’t be able to decompress as rapidly and with as much capability as we’re going to have with this new facility,” explained Feige.

The Orbital Outfitters facility is adjacent to the XCOR Aerospace Research and Development Center at the Midland Air and Space Port. The two firms have worked closely in the past, with Orbital designing a spacesuit for XCOR and constructing a full-scale mockup of XCOR’s Lynx. MDC approved an investment of $7 million on the vacuum testing facility, which the agency will own and Orbital Outfitters will manage and operate. MDC is also covering construction costs for the company’s new headquarters and relocation expenses.

Manufacturing

The energy industry isn’t the only driver of manufacturing in the region. Midland is home to manufacturers specializing in a variety of products and services, such as portable power equipment, plastics, cable, environmentally friendly cleaning products, steel fabrication and even candy.

Susie’s South Forty Confections opened its new factory and store in the heart of Midland’s downtown in 2014. Operating in Midland for over 22 years, the candy business owned by Susie Hitchcock-Hall opened its new 15,000-square-foot location at 401 S. Marienfeld Street. The facility includes a 2,000-square-foot gift shop where visitors can purchase the numerous confections made in the adjacent candy factory. Hitchcock-Hall worked with city officials and the MDC to get the new factory up and running as quickly as possible after the company lost its lease at its previous location.

Logistics

Businesses have a variety of transportation options in Midland, including convenient access to an international airport, rail service and major highways. With a foreign trade zone and service by Union Pacific Railroad, the city has the resources in place to serve warehousing and distribution companies on a worldwide scale. Midland also has access to the La Entrada al Pacifica Trade Corridor and the Ports to Plains corridor, which connects Mexico and Canada.

Thanks to an economic development agreement the MDC brokered with Rolling Frito-Lay Sales, the company constructed a new regional distribution facility on a 5.3- acre site located at the La Entrada Business Park. Rolling Frito-Lay previously operated an older distribution center outside the city limits. Moving the facility closer to the airport and within city limits will make it easier for the firm to store and deliver its products around the Permian Basin and nearby areas.

Health and Education

The health care and education sectors are major employers in the region. Midland Memorial Hospital employs more than 1,600 area residents and has a staff of over 300 active physicians representing dozens of specialties. Midland College is a major contributor to the local economy in terms of size (over 950 employees) and function. The Advanced Technology Center offers courses designed closely to meet the needs of regional industries. Midland Independent School District employs 3,000 and serves 24,000 students on 36 campuses. The University of Texas of the Permian Basin offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees and employs 350. A wide range of research projects attracts millions of dollars in grants for programs in teacher certification, energy innovation and many other disciplines.

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