We’re happy to introduce you to Jessica Hill, economic and business development project manager at Entergy Texas. With over 16 years of experience in site selection and economic development, Jessica is an asset whose commitment to customer service will make her a great addition. She has worked extensively with corporate clients throughout North America on facility location searches, workforce access analyses, and competitive incentives packages. As if that weren’t enough, Jessica also offers deep insights on state and local public policy matters as well as market trends affecting businesses involving some of the largest companies in America today.
What’s your role in economic development at Entergy?
Economic development is a mystery to a lot of people, especially when you are doing it for a utility. It’s my responsibility to identify, nurture and assist in the site location of new investment as well as project expansion opportunities. This includes identifying developable sites in the Entergy territory, building relationships with site selectors, prospecting high growth industries that desire the resources we have available and communicating with resource planning in regards to future development needs in order to grow demand.
How did you find your way into economic development?
Like most, economic development found me. My undergraduate degree in sport management landed me my first job with a minor league hockey team in Beaumont. During my time there I started my MBA at Lamar University. A professor recommended me for a position as the Business Development Manager at the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce. The position was obligated to market the US Small Business Administration’s SBA 504 loan program. In that role I gradually assumed more responsibilities for economic development efforts in Beaumont as well as our regional economic development initiative (REDI). I spent eight years with the Chamber before becoming the Executive Director of the Orange County EDC. I served Orange County for six and a half years before joining Entergy.
What makes a successful project?
In my opinion, a successful project is one that brings everyone together. A project that is able to combine the resources of the State and local officials, in partnership with utilities, raw material providers and the community to execute within a timeline that meets everyone’s goals would be a success. It is also important to ensure the project brings value to the community by creating employment opportunities or improvement in quality of life.
What are some major success stories that you’ve been involved in since you started in economic and business development?
My career project would be the Chevron Phillips Chemical and QatarEnergy joint venture, Golden Triangle Polymers Company, that recently announced final investment decision on their site in Orange, TX. The $8.5B investment will create 500 new jobs and 4500 temporary construction jobs. The project spanned 6.5 years and included all the twist and turns of a Hollywood movie. During my time in Orange County, the EDC optioned over 1000 acres of land on CP Chem’s behalf, negotiating purchase prices with a dozen property owners and eventually assigning those options to Chevron Phillips Chemical for final execution and purchase. The project received a full scope incentive package from the local entities, school district and TEF from the State. A County Judge resigned during the process due to his opposition to the project. Two existing projects on the site were flipped to new locations. Entergy was responsible for rerouting a transmission line that bisected the property to the perimeter, and the Sabine River Authority did the same. Orange County has not seen an investment of this magnitude since DuPont built their Sabine River Operations in the late 1950s.Other projects that were impactful on southeast Texas include Jefferson Energy, Optimus Steel, FedEx Ground, OCI Natgasoline and the numerous small businesses who received small business loans.
What advantages does Texas – specifically Southeast Texas have to offer in the area of business growth?
Home to more than 50 Fortune500 headquarters, Texas has every resource a project would need. From ports to highways, rivers and airports, transportation domestically and internationally allows companies to serve all markets. Strong sectors like agriculture and energy have driven Texas’s success for generations, but tech and manufacturing are growing industries adding to the economy. Specifically for Southeast Texas, our proximity to transportation infrastructure through two deep water ports, Interstate 10, three Class I rail carriers and a robust state highway system, allows for access to anywhere in the world. Four institutions of higher education provide a sustainable talent pipeline, and the region’s actual pipeline infrastructure moves hundreds of unique products across Southeast Texas. Local officials support large industry and provide superior leadership to drive economic growth in the area.
What’s your number one goal for 2023?
We have been very fortunate to see multiple projects announce this year in concentrated areas of Southeast Texas. As we move into 2023 I would like to identify more development opportunities in areas of the territory that are emerging markets. I see Anahuac and Hardin County as areas where we can identify potential development sites, recognize infrastructure demands and evaluate industries that match location criteria. Anahuac and Hardin County are growing in population and have land availability, but job creating growth is still on the horizon.