THINKING ON A GLOBAL SCALE: CORPUS CHRISTI AND THE GLOBAL ENERGY DISCUSSION AND WHERE OTHERS SEE US NOW
Matt Briscoe and Kevin Krauss
Photos: D. Fowlks, Southside Light News
Corpus Christi--The global energy conversation is changing and in a conversation that was once dominated by Saudi's and OPEC, there has always been a looming constant--TEXAS. Around the world, oil and gas experts keep pointing to hints that we here in Texas hold the keys to global energy dominance and one Texas city is right in the middle of it all.
Corpus Christi is a community that is undergoing plenty of change at the present time and much of that change has to do with the booming business surrounding the port. In fact, the city is home to the 3rd largest port in the United States in total revenue tonnage and the numbers are steadily on the rise.
Recent numbers show that through the first 9 month of 2019, the Port of Corpus Christi moved 84.6 million tons worth of product through its gates, which represented a 5% increase over the previous record also set in 2018.
"What we are dealing with here is an emerging global port," says Hans Revillard of Switzerland based energy firm Baer & Karrer. "I think the world is watching and waiting on local geopolitical factors to come together and slowly they are."
Revillard believes that while the world is eyeballing Corpus Christi closely, they are doing so with great caution.
"Yes, we see many great numbers coming from Texas and Corpus Christi specifically, but we also are forced to be cautious," says Revillard.
What he really implies is if Corpus Christi is ready to play on the global pitch with other global forces?
While Corpus Christi is becoming a major transportation and logistics player in the global market conversation, it does not offer much by the way of comparison to the global market.
Global companies like the fact that Corpus Christi is accessible to major maritime traffic lanes and the Port of Corpus Christi leadership is focusing fully on expansion and meeting the global marketplace. But human transportation proves to be a bit more complex.
Air travel, even domestically proves to be a complicated and often lengthy ordeal offering connections in Dallas and Houston. While only being a very short flight, those additional legs can be a big turn off to global travelers who make their lives in other major oil producing regions.
"If you frequently travel globally then you know how terrible short flights of less than 3 hours can be," says energy analyst Tom Kaufmann of Houston. "That is why most overseas firms base their operations in Houston. We are a global city."
Experts in the industry who point the "small city with big dreams" mentality as being the most detrimental factor to Corpus Christi on a global economic scale.
"Corpus Christi has plenty of empty offices available at affordable rates and more than enough resources to meet a global demand but something there is holding up progress," says Kaufmann. "I hate to say it, but while the rest of us are benefitting Corpus is getting the leftovers."
Corpus Christi has the idea. There is a solid relationship in place with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Del Mar College to add to the local workforce, if the city can get that workforce to stay after graduation. Limited entertainment options that appeal to a broader, more global business culture are almost non-existent and the consumer segment tends to represent more of a border town than a global player. Case in point is that Corpus Christi does not even have an Apple Store within 150 miles.
"The Corpus Christi Football Club is doing what it can to be locally centered but globally minded," says Bill Fraiser of energy consultant Fraiser and Fraiser. "On a global scale you have to think more than tacos and baseball and focus more on being open minded to what others from outside of your network might be attracted too."
"I will not consider Corpus Christi for an office just yet because I am not sure if it is on the same page as us," says Jonathan Kurth, of SONA and Associates. "Almost everybody is sitting back watching and waiting."
The time for a global change of heart seems to be right now, but what if it is too late?
Experts warn that Corpus Christi and its local leadership might ought to start thinking bigger than they are or somebody else will creep in the door.
"Major healthcare options, workforce retention, human transportation options and greater investment into themselves and their community is what you need," says Kurth. "Be bold enough to dream big because your port most certainly is and the community and its leadership needs to get on board right now and think bigger and wider."
Kevin Krauss contributed to this article from London.