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Business GrowthWhen multinational defense company BAE Systems announced last year that it would close its Sealy location, hundreds of area workers were faced with the threat of becoming another unemployment statistic. However, Workforce Solutions, an area career services agency, stepped in and held a job fair specifically for these workers that were facing lay-offs. With so many companies based in, moving to or expanding in the Katy area, BAE workers were not between jobs for long, said Susan Dixon with Workforce Solutions.

"All along the I-10 corridor, businesses are expanding, and they need new people," she said, "They're just growing. Business is doing well in Katy."

The Katy Area Economic Development Council projects Katy's working population to increase from 136,000 to more than 164,000 by 2018. The EDC projects that median household incomes will rise as well, from an average $111,657 to $127,188 by 2018.

While the oil and gas sector is still the industry that employs a large share of Katy's labor market, there are jobs to be had in Katy in a variety of industries. Oil and gas continues to draw residents to Katy. These residents create greater demand for retail, education, health care and entertainment services, which in turn leads to more jobs, said Lance LaCour, CEO of the Katy Area Economic Development Council.

"Jobs in the energy sector and in the Energy Corridor are driving our energetic economic expansion in the Katy area," he said.

Biggest Industries

According to data from the EDC, 18.8 percent of Katy's workforce is employed in education and health care, constituting the largest employment sector in the area. The next largest sector is the professional and scientific sector, which includes oil and gas jobs, at 14.9 percent.

Hotze Health and Wellness Center, a family practice with an emphasis on wellness and preventive care, has been in Katy since 1989. The company employs 100 people — from front office staff to nurses to physicians. The company is seeking wellness coaches, bilingual nurse practitioners or physicians' assistants and bilingual physicians, said Jennifer Johnson, marketing specialist for Hotze Health and Wellness.

"We recruit based upon the organization's needs; therefore, as we grow, we are looking at which A-players will provide value to our current team," she said.

Several Katy hospitals are expanding, while new physician's offices and urgent care centers are being built throughout the area.

"The largest health care companies are in expansion modes as Memorial Hermann is adding over $100 million in capital investment at two sites," LaCour said. "Methodist is expanding as well with a new office building and the repurposing of the Christus Hospital as a long-term acute center."

Memorial Hermann Katy is constructing a new patient tower and expanding many of its departments. The hospital expects to hire 160 new employees by the time its expansion is complete in summer 2015.

"We'll have to increase staff everywhere from housekeeping to nursing staff, IT, all the support services will have to increase," said John Kueven, director of hospital operations for Memorial Hermann Katy.

Oil and gas companies have long been an employment staple in the Katy area, LaCour said.

"Within a 30-minute drive time of Mason Road and I-10, there are approximately 35,000 employed engineering and architectural occupations," he said.

The number of engineering positions in the area will increase when Foster Wheeler completes its expansion. LaCour said the company is seeking an additional 300,000 square feet of office space in the area.

DNV-GL, a Norwegian oil and gas advising company is expanding its Katy office by 47,500 square feet, enough to house 350 additional employees. The main reason for the expansion is the merger between Det Norske Veritas and Germanischer Lloyd, said Kristian Lindo, DNV-GL regional communications manager.

"We are expanding our building here to make room for them so we can work in the same place as one company," he said.

However, the company is also hiring new employees, mostly in mid-and upper-level positions, including engineers, project managers and naval architects, Lindo said.

New Opportunities

New companies that opened shop in Katy in the past year are creating a more diverse set of job opportunities, outside of oil and gas, engineering, education and health care.

GEICO, which opened a claims center at Mason Creek Office Park in 2013, has already hired 450 employees and expects to hit 600 by the end of the year, said GEICO spokeswoman Janine DeSalvo.

So far, the company has hired for entry-level and early career positions, she said. GEICO does not advertise for upper-level positions as its policy is to promote entirely from within.

"While we hire in most at the entry level, we promote from within so there's a lot of upward mobility," DeSalvo said. "It's not uncommon to see people who have been with the company 10, 20, 40 years. Our CEO started out in the mailroom 50 years ago."

Zoombang, a company that manufactures a special polymer that responds well to force for use in sports and military equipment, has relocated to Katy, off FM 1463 and I-10, from Pennsylvania. The company's new owners, including CEO and president Joseph Scott, are from the Katy area and knew it would be an ideal location to expand their product line.

"We are very well-embedded in the professional sports leagues. We sell to most NFL teams, to virtually any professional sport," Scott said."We're not that ingrained in youth and high school levels yet. Because of the hotbed that Katy is in high school football, it was the ideal location."

Scott said Zoombang will soon begin hiring manufacturing, seamstress and sales positions. The company will determine how many new employees it needs based on its growth and success.

The influx of new companies coming to Katy — Trader Joes opening in LaCenterra, and the expansions of Memorial Hermann, Methodist, Foster Wheeler, Academy, Wood Group Mustang and Conoco — mean the job market in Katy will remain healthy.

"The energy services industry cluster — headquarters, administration, manufacturing, R&D — and health care are likely to be some of the biggest job creators," LaCour said. "There are some distribution centers eyeing the Katy area as well, with our great proximity to I-10 and the new Grand Parkway now open."

Make sure your business has the right coverage. Call G & H Financial Insurance Services at (281) 395-5497 for more information on Katy business insurance.

(Article courtesy: Community Impact Newspaper)
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