New London refinery - the jobs
The call came in the fall of 2011.
The town of New London would be getting a new business.
A big new business.
The pump jacks creak as they remove black gold from the old East Texas oil field near New London.
To be brutally honest, there isn’t much to New London as you drive in.
It is dominated by a monument to the terrible explosion in 1937, when natural gas that had seeped into the school ignited killing almost 300 children and teachers.
That tragedy led to new safety standards for the use of natural gas, and the town rebuilt.
But when the oil boom ended, the town dwindled.
If you were uncharitable, you could call it a wide spot in the road.
Ironically, at one time, the West Rusk School District was one of the richest in the state. But since the oil boom ended, they have fallen on hard times.
but soon, what comes out of the ground here, will be refined, right over there.
The old Gregg County refinery, built in 1935, has been closed for some time.
Well now, it will be dismantled, upgraded, and rebuilt in a 160 acre site just a mile and a quarter from New London.
The project will cost nearly $200-million. To find the lender, you have to go to Lufkin and the Angelina & Neches River Authority.
Why the River Authority?
“The river authority’s role is to spur economic development wherever appropriate,” said Kelley Holcomb of the Authority.
And there are special bonds for industries hurt by Hurricane Ike.
“The Gregg County refinery issue is being issued as a tax-free bond issue under the Hurricane Ike bond program,” he told us.
The benefit to the town is obvious.
Mayor Dale McNeel sees a 10% increase in jobs for the town of 900. “Somewhere between 89-90 permanent jobs. Of course there will be a couple of hundred couple of year jobs moving it, getting it in place, getting it cranked up.”
The 10-year estimated monetary value to the town is $8-billion.
And the West Rusk School District will be the big winner.
So, New London prepares for a new future, fueled by the latest boom in oil and gas.
It’s a town full of survivors, and their patience is about to be rewarded.
The refinery should take about two years to build.
In New London, the relief they’re feeling is almost palpable.