Once-open spaces now manufacturing park in Waller

When you think of Waller County, bucolic images probably pop into your mind.

"The first time I came to Waller, all I saw was prairie, ponds and cows drinking water," said Daikin Industries, Ltd. chief executive officer Takeshi Ebisu. He saw open spaces large enough to build a four-million square foot state-of-the-art HVAC manufacturing plant, but he also observed state and local governments friendly to business to allow his company to come and build the massive facility. The company had to build the infrastructure -- not just the gas, electricity and roads, but the human infrastructure as well.

"They do. need to be locally-grown  and we've been surprised by the workforce we've beaten able to attract," said Kari Durham, director of public information for the Daikin Texas Technology Park. "Part of it is building that and part of it is making sure we are a great employer." 

Daikin Industries trains many workers on site, but its also forming a partnership with the Waller Independent School District and area community colleges to train the workforce. It's closing down facilities in Houston and Tennessee and consolidating operations in Waller. It will offer 2,000 more positions on top of that. Eventually, 5,000 people will work at the facility and some robots.

The entry level jobs start at around $12 an hour and are needed in the town. The unemployment level there surpasses the national average.The theory is that these manufacturing jobs will create or attract other jobs to the area.

Some of that could be a tough sell. Why? The notoriously-congested U.S. Highway 290.

"We hope that they are going to expand 290 so we can commute better." said Ebisu with a laugh.