Kevin Fincher named CEO of Austin Regional Manufacturers Association

One of the region’s most-powerful advocacy groups for the growing manufacturing economy in Central Texas has gone within for its new leader.

Kevin Fincher, who for nearly three decades has worked with companies in the sphere as a public accountant, will take over as the CEO of the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association on Jan. 2. Fincher, who is a founding ARMA board member and its current treasurer, succeeds Ed Latson, who left ARMA to take over Opportunity Austin in late October.

Fincher also spent the last seven years as a partner at international firm RSM US LLP.

Tom Hibbs, director of operations at TECO-Westinghouse in Georgetown and the chair-elect of the ARMA board, said it was clear in the interview process that Fincher had “a more comprehensive and strategic view” of where they needed to go and where he wanted to take it. That included topics like how artificial intelligence is going to impact manufacturers and engaging with more educational institutions to build up the workforce. Austin Business Journal

Waterfall of projects, major investment slated for Hutto, Texas Megasite

For years, information regarding efforts to build out Hutto’s Megasite — a 1,400-acre assemblage of land along what many economic development experts consider the most-desirable stretch of highway in the country — has trickled through. But over the coming weeks and months, it’s poised to be more of a waterfall.

The land along U.S. Route 79, some of it owned by the city, has historically caught the attention of huge companies, from Tesla Inc. nearly a decade ago to Applied Materials Inc. more recently. While Tesla picked Nevada instead of Central Texas for the project it was scoping out at the time — it later put a factory and its headquarters in the Austin area — and the Applied Materials project has yet to materialize, other companies are preparing to start pouring billions of dollars into the area.

City officials last week approved a pair of purchase-and-sale agreements for more than 150 acres in the megasite for “Project Flex” and “Project Sequel,” after approving another agreement earlier this year. And another agreement could get Hutto’s blessing later this month. Austin Business Journal

Humanity’s Future or an Unwelcome Interloper: SpaceX’s Starbase Transforms a Corner of Texas

BROWNSVILLE, Texas—Elon Musk’s space company is blasting off the world’s most powerful rockets in this corner of Texas—and remaking it along the way.

Supporters say SpaceX’s Starbase represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the course of Brownsville and the Rio Grande Valley, which has long struggled with poverty.

Others say Starbase is damaging the environment and hindering their usual ways of life, including easy visits to Boca Chica Beach.

Pretty much everyone agrees on one thing: Starbase is disruptive.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, has said the company employed more than 1,800 people at Starbase, jobs that supported thousands of others, and that it was proud to be an active part of the community. It didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“There are certain things that happen in a community that are considered generational or transformational. This is definitely one of them,” said Eddie Treviño Jr., the top elected official for Cameron County, which hosts Starbase.

Starbase exists so SpaceX can manufacture and launch Starships, vehicles that underpin the company’s future and Musk’s plan to send people to Mars. The Wall Street Journal

5 things to know about Elon Musk’s growing empire outside Austin

Out beyond the new Tesla Gigafactory, Elon Musk’s crews at SpaceX and The Boring Co. are trading land between the businesses, dealing with environmental concerns and ramping up to hire and build even more.

Musk and his companies have a reputation for being pretty tight-lipped — Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) even disbanded its media relations department in 2020 — which means some mystery remains around what exactly the companies are up to in Central Texas. But property records, other public documents and social media posts from the companies and Musk himself help shine a light.

Here are five things to know about the billionaire’s dealings on the east side of the metro — aside from Tesla’s electric vehicle plant and headquarters, which is the fastest-growing business the Austin area has ever seen.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has taken over more land in the billionaire’s growing hub along Farm to Market Road 1209 in Bastrop County as Musk’s other company – tunneling startup The Boring Co. – transferred 73 acres to the space and rocket pioneer in October, according to Bastrop County property records. Austin Business Journal

Multinational firm plans to double San Antonio workforce

Up to 200 new clean energy jobs are coming to San Antonio courtesy of a federal grant.

Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), a multinational sustainable building company, has been awarded a $33 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains to help increase domestic production of electric heat pumps, the company wrote in a news release.

Johnson will use the grant to expand its manufacturing sites in Wichita, Kansas, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and San Antonio to scale production of its York line of heat pumps, creating approximately 1,000 new jobs – including up to 200 new jobs in San Antonio.

The new hires would effectively double Johnson’s existing workforce at its San Antonio facility, says Katie McGinty, vice president and chief sustainability and external relations officer of Johnson Controls.

“We’re certainly driving for at least 100, and maybe up to 200,” McGinty said in an interview with the Business Journal. “To put that in perspective, … our current team is about 220 employees. So, this is a major investment in San Antonio and into the world-class capabilities we have at that facility.” San Antonio Business Journal

Mexico “rejects” Texas’ proposal to allow state police to deport undocumented immigrants

The Mexican government on Wednesday responded to the Texas Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 4 — which creates a state crime for entering the state illegally from Mexico and allows state and local authorities to deport undocumented immigrants — saying it “categorically rejects” Texas’ latest proposal to arrest and deport immigrants to Mexico.

“The Government of Mexico reiterates its rejection of any measure that contemplates the involuntary return of migrants without respect for due process,” says the statement from Mexico’s secretary of foreign relations.

It added that Mexico, “recognizes the sovereign right of any country to decide the public policies that should be implemented in its territory,” but Mexico also has a right to defend the estimated 10 million people of Mexican origin in Texas and “establish its own immigration policies in its territory.”

“The Government of Mexico categorically rejects any measure that allows state or local authorities to detain and return nationals or foreigners to Mexican territory,” the statement says. Texas Tribune

The Great Migration brought thousands of people to Texas. Here’s where they came from.

The pandemic sparked a Great Migration that put millions of Americans — and considerable wealth — on the move, and Texas had the second-highest amount of new citizens calling the Lone Star state home.

New data from the American Community Survey shows Texas added just over 668,000 new residents with a net migration over 174,000.

Texas added the most new residents from California (102,442), while it lost the most residents (42,279) to the Golden State. Texans also moved to Florida in droves, with over 38,000 residents moving to the southwest.

It’s important to note the state-to-state migration data represents estimates rather than the exact number of moves, so there is a margin of error. Additionally, the data doesn’t cover immigration from other countries.

While experts say the Great Migration has slowed, it’s still having a substantial impact on local economies even as remote-work availability is lessening. That’s particularly true when it comes to housing and workforce development. San Antonio Business Journal

Sound of GAF Energy’s $100M factory operating north of Austin like ‘music,’ exec says

When Ralph Robinett stands inside the new 450,000-square-foot GAF Energy LLC manufacturing site in Georgetown, the sound of humans and machinery making parts for the solar roofing industry is “music to his ears.”

About 15 months ago, the site was a greenfield. But last month, GAF obtained a certificate of occupancy for what is now a $100 million facility at 110 SE Inner Loop. About 75 employees have been coming to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day as they prepare to start shipping the first solar shingles produced at the site by the end of the year.

“Every factory has a heartbeat. It has a little bit of an arrhythmia the first few days. But after a couple of weeks, you can start to feel it and see it,” said Robinett, who is the company’s senior vice president of manufacturing and supply chain. “It’s feeling very real now, which is great to see after coming together over the last 14, 15 months.” Austin Business Journal

Big-name developers shape high-rise plans for downtown Fort Worth

With a crop of new towers in the offing, downtown Fort Worth is on the cusp of a new era.

Multiple companies have made moves to purchase land for future high-rise development, signaling bullishness in the fast-growing city anchoring the west side of the Metroplex. Those developers cite the city’s growing population and strong leadership as some of the reasons for these moves.

Among them, Dallas-based Hillwood recently purchased a block in the heart of downtown. Bounded by Sixth and Seventh streets to the north and south and Calhoun and Jones streets to the east and west, the property could be transformed for numerous uses and has high-rise zoning. Dallas Business Journal

Longtime economic development leader is taking over the Greater San Marcos, Texas Partnership

The Greater San Marcos Partnership has announced that Mike Kamerlander, who for years has led economic development efforts in Lockhart, will take over as president and CEO of the economic development group for Hays and Caldwell counties on Nov. 15.

Kamerlander, who has more than a decade of experience in the economic development realm, is filling the role after Jason Giulietti was ousted in May. Will Conley — a principal for engineering firm American Structurepoint Inc., a former Hays County commissioner, former GSMP board chairman and founding member of GSMP — had been serving as interim director. Austin Business Journal