A year-and-a-half’s worth of delays are over.
Representatives from Brazil-based Santana Textiles say they are looking forward to 2010 as a year of recovery in the U.S., and as the eventual staging year for operations of their first facility in North America.
Santana is currently soliciting bids for construction of their proposed 500,000-square-foot complex, which will be completed in four phases over the next five years. The company is slated to invest $170 million in Edinburg and employ 800 workers.
The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, along with officials from Santana, held a roundtable with reporters last week to talk about phase I of their upcoming facility. From its onset, the plant will produce 1.3 million yards of denim per month, enough for more than one million jeans, which will be distributed to high-profile jeans manufacturers like Levis and American Eagle, according to Santana.
Edinburg’s plant will be Santana’s sixth, and most technologically advanced facility to date, according to the EDC. The company currently has four plants in Brazil and one in Argentina. The company will work with FibeRio, located within UTPA’s Rapid Response Manufacturing Center (RRMC), to research and potentially develop new materials as Santana’s plant begins production.
“Technology is important, and it’s the reason we are here,” Santana CEO Roberto Cantu told reporters at the meeting. “The Rapid Response Center has a very interesting department (FibeRio) working with nano-technology. We saw a lot of opportunities to work together and find new technologies, including those for our business, which is of course denim … maybe we can use some of this technology here. I have never seen this, and it’s very professional.”
Santana’s plant will be a “living” entity complete with it’s own water treatment facility to be located onsite of the complex, according to Cantu. The facility will include state-of-the-art air filtration, along with technology for humidity controlled production of denim, he said. The facility will also be regulated under the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to control the plant’s particles per square meter for the safety of employees.
“One of the interesting things about cotton production is how technical it actually is. In the factory, one of the biggest things they can do is control humidity because the higher the humidity, the less resistant the thread is,” said Pedro Salazar, EEDC executive director. “When you’re running it through a machine if the thread breaks, then you have to stop the machine and put it together and that creates an imperfection in the material. So there are all these little technical things they have to do to try to keep the production going and keeping the quality there.”
In July 2008, Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced plans to invest $1.65 million through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) to assist Santana in building the denim manufacturing plant in Edinburg. But a significant size increase of the plant, by more than 200,000 square feet, coupled with an economic recession in 2008 left city officials and Santana representatives scrambling to finance the project in four phases.
The project had been delayed for nearly a year and half before high-level discussions with Perry in Austin last month finalized the project for construction. Meetings with the governor focused on production details, global economics, market share, labor costs, transportation costs, and economic stability, according to attendees present at the meeting. Among those in the series of meetings were Santana representatives, Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia, Texas Economic Development Bank CFO Michael Chrobak, Michael Bryant, an assistant general counsel in the governor’s office, and Jerry Haddican, state Sen. Juan Hinojosa’s Austin office.
“When we announced with the governor (Perry) and former mayor Joe Ochoa, it was the very beginning of the project and that moment the economical situation was very different. As everybody knows, the economic conditions were the reasons we spent a little more time to start the plan,” Cantu said. “To be honest, we took this year as an experience because after the problem in the U.S. … we think this year is the reason for recovery. And next year, when our production is ready, that will be the grow up year for the U.S. That means our production and our sales can be much better than the are today. Our expectations are very good.”
Construction should begin no later than Feb. 18, albeit with little fanfare as an official groundbreaking isn’t planned for phase I of the upcoming facility, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.
“Once they get that (bid), they are going to go ahead and make an evaluation at that point. I don’t know if they are going to have a groundbreaking. I think who ever they hire, they’re just going to go on and start moving dirt. I think everybody just wants to get it going, and I think they are going to do that,” said City manager Ramiro Garza.