By CLINT FOSTER
PALO PINTO – If all goes according to plan, Mineral Wells could soon be the home of Texas Ultra Precision Ammunition’s new ammunition production facility.
County leaders officially approved the necessary resolutions to adopt a tax abatement policy with a unanimous vote in an attempt to help lure the new bullet factory to Fort Wolters Industrial Park during a special meeting of the Palo Pinto County Commissioners Court, Monday morning.
The factory could potentially create hundreds of jobs, bring bushels of money into the city and county and increase Mineral Wells’ profile as a whole.
The proverbial ball is now in TUPA’s court and the citizens and officials of Mineral Wells and Palo Pinto County alike have only to await the upstart company’s decision of a home for the new factory in the coming months.
“We’ve done everything that we can possibly do to entice them to come to Palo Pinto County,” County Judge David Nicklas said. “They are very excited about coming – it seemed to me in a meeting we had with them – because the county and local governments have been really proactive in trying to get them everything they needed to come to the county.”
Mineral Wells City Council already unanimously approved the tax abatement on Nov. 5, which offers TUPA a whopping 75 percent of the company’s valuation for the next 10 years.
The abatement will have to be renewed every two years and is predicated on an agreement that TUPA meet certain requirements, such as reaching specified employment levels.
It’s an offer in the $7.25 million-range that local officials hope will be the large carrot at the end of a pole to make Mineral Wells as attractive a destination for the company as possible.
TUPA’s factory will focus primarily on manufacturing specialized bullets for military and law enforcement use. It’s a unique industry “that could be considered rather hot right now,” according to Steve Butcher of the Area Growth Council.
Butcher was on hand in Palo Pinto County Courthouse for the Commissioners’ decision. He told the Index he has been negotiating with TUPA over the last four months and hopes to hear soon whether they will settle in Mineral Wells or elsewhere.
“I talk to them almost daily,” he said. “They’re working on the project, just nothing goes fast, especially this time of year. I’m hoping that we have a real good idea of what their decision will be in the first quarter, but no later than the second quarter. So, in the next 180 days.”
Even with the generous abatement, the city and county stand to make a great deal of tax money if the $50 million project successfully come to Mineral Wells. The 100-acre property were the facility would be built – at the southwest corner of Ellis White Road and Lee Road in Wolters Industrial Park – currently carries an agg exemption and is only valued at around $8,000. With such a low property value, any improvement, especially one as lucrative as this specialized factory, would provide a significant boost.
Perhaps most important, however, is that Butcher assured Mineral Wells City Council last month that all tax money gained from the new factory would belong exclusively to Palo Pinto County and not have to be shared with neighboring Parker County to the east.
TUPA also plans to convert some of the old barracks previously owned by the Corrections Corporation of America into a veterans training center in connection with he National Guard, complete with housing, medical and training facilities. This center would teach specialized skills like welding, fabricating and machining to better equip residents for the workforce and improve Mineral Wells’ manufacturing base.
This is only the cherry on top of the hundreds of local jobs the factory would stand to create alone.
“The prospect of 200 jobs in three years is really, really exciting,” Nicklas said. “Plus the additional tax base it would generate, even though we’re giving them a fairly large abatement. There will still be more money coming to the county from that property than what is currently being provided.”
Both Nicklas and Butcher said it won’t be safe to celebrate until TUPA officially moves to town.
“When we see them break ground, then we’ll know we were successful,” Butcher said.
Even so, the prospect of a brand new manufacturing facility, hundreds of jobs and all of the additional benefits is hard not to be giddy about. It has not been lost on county and city officials just how monumental TUPA’s factory would be.
“I’m just really excited about it and hope that it comes to fruition,” Nicklas said. “It would be another great feather in the cap for Palo Pinto County.”
In other business, commissioners unanimously approved an inter-local cooperation agreement between Palo Pinto County and Moore County as part of the “Cop Synch” program. Palo Pinto County Chief Deputy Mike Sudderth was in attendance to speak on behalf of the agreement that would help the Sheriff’s office be better connected with their peers to the west.
Commissioners also tabled discussion concerning a county-wide burn ban. There is still no burn ban in effect, but commissioners will revisit the topic, with a decent likelihood of reinstating the burn ban, on Dec. 9, at County Fire Marshal Buddy Harwell’s behest.