A Germany-based company, Messer, will build a $50 million air separation unit in McGregor’s industrial park powered by its own solar farm, the first such facility in the United States, the company claims.
Messer produces gases used in industries including aerospace, health care, electronics, food and more. Its McGregor plant will occupy 85 acres along Bluebonnet Parkway, near McGuffey Road, in the same 9,600-acre industrial park that a SpaceX rocket-testing facility calls home. SpaceX also is placing there a Raptor 2 engine-assembly plant vital to powering Mars-bound rockets.
Local economic development officials said Messer’s ties to aerospace would suggest it could serve as a supplier to SpaceX, but they had no specific information about such a relationship and Messer did not comment.
The proposed plant hardly is labor intensive, but will create 22 long-term jobs paying an average of $60,000 a year. Messer estimates construction may create another 80 jobs, with completion the second quarter of 2024.
“Their specialty is compressed gases of all kinds,” McGregor Mayor Jim Hering said. “We will convey to them 35 acres, meaning they would hold title to the land, and we’re going to lease another 50 acres to them, which may or may not be used right away. That could become the solar yard.”
Messer will pay McGregor $75 per acre annually under the lease. Hering said the conveyance amounts to McGregor giving the company 35 acres.
Hering said Messer’s announcement may not match SpaceX’s high profile, nor SpaceX’s intention to employ almost 1,000 people locally. And it may fall short of Knauf Insulation’s spending $700 million to build a 600,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in McGregor employing almost 200 people.
“But I don’t want to downplay this,” Hering said. “Any company that chooses to invest $50 million in this city, and proposes paying $60,000 on average, we consider an outstanding corporate citizen. Messer is locating in a (Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone), which means tax dollars it pitches off can pay for improvements within the zone, including those for Knauf. The more industry in TIRZ, the faster we pay off any associated debt.”
McGregor is eyeing possible railroad and infrastructure improvements in its industrial park to serve Knauf and impress prospects.
“On behalf of the City of McGregor, we are excited to welcome Messer to our community,” Hering said in a statement. “Over the years, as we have developed our industrial park, we have become highly selective in what types of people and industries we want to attract and invest our future in.
“Messer checks all of the boxes. They bring cutting edge technology, high quality jobs, and most importantly, first class people.”
Messer’s product list on its website includes argon, carbon dioxide, helium, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen. The gases are provided at whatever volume, purity and pressure the customer desires, and are shipped via railroad car, bulk truck, independent distributors and pipeline.
“It will be trucked out,” said Andrew Smith, executive director for the McGregor Economic Development Corp., commenting on Messer’s primary means of transport. “There will be additional truck traffic, but not an insane amount. I don’t know exact counts off the top of my head.”
He said Messer compresses air into components, creating liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen, for example. He said a company’s focus on fuel often raises safety concerns, but Messer passed McGregor’s vetting process.
“They are hyper-focused on safety, which is one of their founding principles,” Smith said. “They presented a package we are very comfortable with, in terms of not creating a danger to the community.”
He said Messer is not perceived as a threat to air quality.
“Messer plants comply with all applicable federal, state and local regulations and our site in Texas will not be an exception,” Messer Americas spokesperson Amy Ficon said by email. “We do not anticipate any issues in obtaining the required permits prior to the construction phase.”
McLennan County commissioners voted to award Messer a 50% break on personal property taxes over 10 years beginning with property additions to its plant made on or before Jan. 31, 2025, according to documents.
“With our expansion in Texas and the inclusion of solar energy, Messer is focused on sustainability and environmental protection,” Messer Americas President and CEO Jens Luehring said in a press release.
It will be Messer’s first plant powered by a renewable source on the same site, according to the press release.
Ficon said the solar array is designed to meet the plant’s needs during normal operations, though during the hottest days of a Texas summer, it could provide enough power for more than 1,800 residential households.
Messer calls itself “the largest privately held industrial gas business in the world, and a leading industrial and medical gas company in North and South America.”