Pecos County, EDC Continue to Lure Businesses, Grow Local Economy
One year ago, Pecos County Judge Joe Shuster was named County Official of the Year by the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association. Shortly after, state lawmakers honored Shuster with the adoption of House Resolution 1142, echoing the West Texas Association in its description of Shuster as a public servant who has gone “above and beyond in his service to county government.”
The House Resolution goes on to refer to Shuster’s “impressive list of accomplishments” since taking office in 2003 and notes how “Joe Shuster’s dedication and professionalism have greatly benefited the citizens of Pecos County.”
One year later, this list of accomplishments continues to grow.
Economic Development Partnership
When County Progress reached out to the Fort Stockton Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to do a bit of research, it took a bit of waiting to get through to Executive Director Remie Ramos. In fact, when Ramos returned our phone call, he offered a quick apology.
“I was on the phone with our County Judge,” explained Ramos, who joined the EDC in 2017. Conversations with the County Judge are ongoing, as the county and EDC have developed an effective working relationship, Ramos observed.
Building on the foundation laid by the previous EDC director, Ramos has worked in partnership with the Pecos County Commissioners Court to continue to bring in new industries, growing the tax base by over $2.1 billion and securing nearly 20 years of stable PILOT payments for the county in just over four years (see below).
With secured projects still cementing and future projects on the horizon, Pecos County taxpayers are reaping notable benefits from this productive partnership.
County Judge Joe Shuster:
Pecos County’s decision to be involved in forming the Fort Stockton EDC with the city of Fort Stockton started back in the early 1990s and really picked up speed about 2003 and 2004, when the wind turbine farms began.
Ultimately, the EDC worked with and supported ERCOT in developing more electric transmission lines to the DFW Metroplex, Austin, and San Antonio areas. It was about that same time frame that solar farms began developing. Pecos County has continued to grow green energy along with increasing oil and gas production countywide. We are fortunate to have grown the energy, while improving our tax base in Pecos County.
Over the past two years, Pecos County has been fortunate to acquire battery storage units. The latest in this expansion of the county’s tax base has been an influx of new data centers which are supplying good paying jobs with pay around $60,000 per employee. We’ve experienced an influx of additional jobs in the three data centers, now in the construction phase. It has benefited the three school districts in Pecos County, Fort Stockton ISD, Buena Vista ISD, and Iraan/Sheffield ISD. This has been a long process and a joint effort between Pecos County and Fort Stockton. Pecos County is proud of our efforts to diversify the economy throughout the county.
Executive Director Remie A. Ramos, Fort Stockton Economic Development Corporation:
The Fort Stockton EDC, working in close partnership with Judge Joe Shuster and the Commissioners Court, has attracted multiple new industries to Pecos County.
Using 312 agreements, Pecos County started securing projects in 2004, installing some of the earliest wind turbines in Texas. Pecos County currently has multiple wind farms, two of which are listed in the Top 10 largest in the state: Desert Sky Wind Farm (160 megawatts) and Sherbino Wind (300 megawatts). In 2014, Pecos County began to expand renewables with solar farms and now claims five out of the Top 10 largest in Texas: Greasewood (255 megawatts), Taygete II (258 megawatts), Taygete II (250 megawatts), Roserock (212 megawatts), and Buckthorn (202 megawatts).
In 2021, Pecos County attracted three battery storage facilities with a total capacity of over 300 megawatts.
With over 20 renewable energy projects in operation or in construction, Pecos County will produce over 3,500 megawatts of power by Q4 2024. After years of power generation and storage and the ERCOT transmission lines reaching capacity in the area, Pecos County had to switch from focusing on power generation to finding consumers for the power available; then along came the expansion of cryptocurrency mining data centers to Texas.
Using 381 agreements, Pecos County incentivized three crypto-mining data centers that will be operational by the end of 2022 as consumers of our power supply. Lancium LLC will consume 325 megawatts of power, followed by Cormint Data Systems, Inc., consuming 300 megawatts, and Blockstream Services USA Inc., consuming 140 megawatts. Each of these data centers has a unique method of being a “Controllable Load Resource,” meaning they will use power when in abundance but will reduce their load almost immediately when the grid needs power. These three projects will create over 135 new permanent jobs in Pecos County with an average salary of over $60,000 per year.
With the expansion to these new industries, Pecos County has added over 300 permanent jobs that are not subject to the cyclical nature of the oil and gas industry. It also brings employment to over 1,500 people during peak construction.
The taxpayers of Pecos County have already seen many benefits from years of payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOT payments. Generally speaking, the business makes an annual fixed payment to the county at the time that its taxes would be due every year.
The county has used funds to rehabilitate county facilities, add new facilities, and assist with projects in the county without borrowing money or raising property taxes while continuing to operate debt-free. Business owners in Fort Stockton, Iraan, Coyanosa, and Imperial have seen stability in their business as they become less dependent on the oil and gas industry while seeing increases in business during the construction period of these projects.
Looking to the future, Pecos County has several solar projects in the works that will utilize 312 agreements. By securing these projects, Pecos County anticipates a growth in the county tax base of over $800 million and an additional 8-10 permanent jobs in the county. Data centers continue to explore the area. With a couple more centers expressing interest, Pecos County anticipates negotiating 381 agreements to attract an additional $200 million in tax base growth and 60-75 new jobs.
As Pecos County finds the balance between energy producers and energy consumers, more specifically Controllable Load Resource projects, we look forward to continuing to attract new projects in energy generators, power storage, and industrial power consumers.