Study shows increased industry investment in county

Published 3:41 pm Saturday, May 30, 2015

Industries continue to expand and invest money into their operations in Dallas County.

According to the 2014 New and Expanding Industry Announcements Report, Dallas County ranked 13th out of 67 counties in capital investment and 27th out of 67 in new jobs growth.

“The last three years we have been in the top 50 percent in the state in either capital investment or new jobs growth, so it is not a shock to me,” said Wayne Vardaman, executive director of the Selma and Dallas County Economic Development Authority. “It is certainly something we’re proud of, and I certainly think our people in the community need to know that the community is doing well.”

Thirteen companies invested a total of $76,310,197 in their Dallas County facilities and were responsible for adding 225 new jobs to the workforce. Ten of those jobs came from new companies, but 215 came from already existing industries.

“If you look at economic development, 80 percent of your jobs in the community come from existing industries,” Vardaman said.

Companies that added the most jobs are Zilkha Biomass Energy, International Paper, Honda Lock and Eovations LLC. Zilkha, which produces black wood pellets, added the most jobs with 55.

The biggest capital investments were made by Zilkha with $40 million and International Paper with $28 million.

While Dallas County may not be ranked at the top, the numbers give the EDA an idea of how they are doing compared to other counties.

“It is a reference point of how well you are doing versus other areas in the state,” Vardaman said.

“What it says is that we’re competitive and we get our share of the projects. We have to claw and scratch a little harder than other areas, but I think the biggest thing [these numbers] say, to me, is our existing industry made up the bulk of this.”

Vardaman said the EDA is always working to bring new industries to the area, but it says something good about Dallas County that the companies that are already here are continuing to invest.

“I think when our existing industry is expanding they are saying they like it here because they could go somewhere else and expand,” Vardaman said.

Vardaman said the numbers reflect continuous growth, and he expects them to continue the trend in the years to come.

“I think [Selma and Dallas County] will continue to grow like it is doing now,” Vardaman said. “We’ve got to continue to focus on workforce development and education, and that is going to be the key and the catalyst to making this engine run. We can get jobs in here. We’ve just got to make sure we’ve got people to make them work.”

Vardaman said the EDA will continue to work with the city and county to bring in industries that will be great for the area.

“It takes an entire community to grow, and when we work together, together we grow,” Vardaman said. “That is our mantra so to speak, and I just think everybody is working together good.”