Waco Tribune: Bellmead gets $1.9 million grant for road repairs
By MIKE COPELAND
The city of Bellmead will receive a $1.9 million federal grant to improve Tirey Road, which has become a vital thoroughfare as traffic grows near Texas State Technical College, the Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant and L-3 Communications, an aircraft modification plant and the largest industrial employer in Greater Waco.
Bellmead will use this money from the Economic Development Administration for a $2.8 million project that will include widening Tirey Road between U.S. Highway 84 and Williams Drive from 20 to 40 feet, making drainage and safety improvements and strengthening the roadway to accommodate commercial transportation.
The project likely will begin in fall or winter this year, with crews completing it in nine to 12 months, officials said.
Tirey Road runs along the western border of the Waco International Aviation Park, which is so named because local industry recruiters and the Waco Industrial Foundation originally thought it would make an attractive site for aviation-related industry because of its proximity to the long runways at TSTC Waco Airport.
L-3 already operates out of a sprawling complex at the TSTC airport, where it modifies military and commercial aircraft and employs nearly 2,000 people.
Meanwhile, the aviation park serves as home to Dr Pepper Snapple Group distribution center and a Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant and hatchery.
Sherwin Williams has outgrown its leased facility in an industrial park across town and is building a $39 million distribution center on Concord Road, adjacent to Tirey Road.
For keeping its expansion local, Sherwin Williams will receive $4 million in incentives and $1.78 million in tax breaks over 10 years.
All these factors came into play as the cities of Bellmead and Waco; McLennan County; the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce; the Heart of Texas Council of Governments; and TSTC joined forces to pursue a grant from the Economic Development Administration, which is an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“Congratulations to the city of Bellmead for securing a significant EDA grant,” U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, said during a ceremony this week. “Our congressional team was pleased to play a role in helping to secure this grant, which will enable additional growth and create opportunity for this great Central Texas community.”
The project will expand economic opportunity in the area, EDA regional director Jorge Ayala said.
“This investment is a direct reflection of the impressive local leadership that assembled the needed collaboration and cooperation of a wide range of entities to make this happen,” Ayala said. “The community is to be commended for its commitment to making Bellmead a great place to live and do business.”
Everett “Bo” Thomas, Bellmead city manager, said the city in 2014 made a commitment to upgrading three roadways — Tirey Road, Williams Road and Concord Road — that had become critically important to moving traffic in and around Bellmead, especially traffic bound for TSTC, Sanderson Farms and the industrial district.
“We knew at the time we didn’t really have enough money for the asphalt and drainage improvements to address the situation, but we began to have some preliminary engineering work done to see what it would take to handle greater traffic,” Thomas said. “Those roadways are heavily traveled by people going to and from work, and there are some heavy trucks associated with the operation of Sanderson Farms. With the relocation of Sherwin Williams, we knew there would be more.”
It will cost about $2.8 million to improve Tirey Road and another $6 million to upgrade the entire length of Williams Road.
“Concord Road will be the most expensive of the three,” Thomas said. Securing another grant is not guaranteed, “but we can certainly try,” he said.
“This grant is an outstanding example of relationship building and group collaboration,” Thomas said in a prepared statement.
The work on Tirey Road will create more than 250 jobs and help retain more than 3,400 jobs, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said.
“The Obama administration is committed to ensuring our nation’s infrastructure is able to support business growth and creation,” Pritzker said. “The EDA investment announced today will allow for critical roadway infrastructure improvements needed to attract new businesses and facilitate the expansion plans of established businesses.”
Upgrading Tirey Road gives local industry recruiters another tool in their pursuit of prospects, “who typically consider strong transportation networks when choosing sites,” said Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.
About 300 acres remain available for development in the Waco International Aviation Park, which the Waco Industrial Foundation is marketing, Collins said.