County approves contract with Panda Biotech

CLAIRE KOWALICK, TIMES RECORD NEWS

The world is watching Wichita Falls yet again for its innovative projects – this time in the realm of industrial hemp.

Wichita County Commissioners approved an agreement Tuesday with Panda Biotech for a hemp-processing facility located in the area.

The contract with the county will allow a 70-percent tax abatement to the company which will decrease over the years. The company will still pay school taxes for Burkburnett ISD. 

The abatement is on the base value of the land and building, which formerly housed a Delphi facility.

Dixie Carter of Panda BioTech talks about the advantages of opening the Texas Plains Hemp Gin in Wichita County following a Commissioners Court hearing Tuesday afternoon.
Dixie Carter of Panda Biotech talks about the advantages of opening the
Texas Plains Hemp Gin in Wichita County following a Commissioners Court hearing on Tuesday afternoon /9.8.20

The total property value is around $5.8 million.

Panda Biotech recently signed the purchase agreement for the property and will be completing more than $56 million in renovation to the facility to turn it into one of the first hemp-processing facilities in the United States.

Panda Biotech President Dixie Carter said after the announcement that Wichita Falls was chosen as the new home of their processing facility, she received calls and messages from industries all over the world who were interested in this burgeoning business.

For more than 80 years, industrial hemp was lumped in the same category as marijuana and was therefore illegal to produce in the United States.

Industrial hemp production and processing was legalized in the last two years through the national Farm Bill and the state of Texas.

Industrial hemp is grown for the stalk and is different than hemp grown for CBD-oil products or marijuana.

Industrial hemp is dry and woody and grows up to 10-15 feet tall, similar to bamboo.

The facility will have two 10-ton per hour hemp gins. One gin is on schedule and will be delivered toward the end of the year. The other will be produced after the first gin arrives. The facility is set to begin production by the beginning of 2022.

To jump start production, Carter said Panda Biotech gave away 60 tons of free hemp seed to potential producers all over Texas.

Together with Texas A&M AgriLife, there will be multiple studies to determine the best weather, soil, water and regional conditions for growing the crop.

Carter said hemp is a product like no other which is environmentally friendly and sustainable from seed, to product, to biodegradation.

The plant in Wichita County will take hemp stalks and decordize them creating a straw-like product called herd. The herd has multiple purposes on its own or can be taken a step further through cottonization.

The hemp would be mixed with a ratio of Pima cotton to create a strong, durable product that can be used for apparel, rope or other purposes.

Carter said for the past 18 months, the company has sent representatives all over the world to confer with farmers, textile manufacturers and other industry leaders to get a feel for the market of industrial hemp.

She said they have amassed the best experts in a variety of backgrounds to make sure this process exceeds everyone’s expectations. The only thing missing was a hemp gin location.

Panda board chairman Bob Carter said there were five words that let them know Wichita Falls was the best choice for the facility.

Carter said when the novel project was presented, Wichita County and city leaders were on board right away and as issues came up, they were “going to figure it out.”

During talks with county leaders and the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce, Carter said he appreciated the local area’s can-do attitude and enthusiasm for the project.

Commissioner Barry Mahler is a strong supporter of the project and said it could be a boom for ailing agriculture producers in the county. There is not one crop grown in the area currently that will turn a profit, he said.

Hemp has a possible yield of two harvests a year, can be grown with 70 percent less water than other crops, requires little pesticide and no herbicide.

Vice President of Operations Blake Carter said industrial hemp can yield three to four tons per acre with a profit of about $150-$200 per acre.

Price per ton of the hemp would be determined by the quality of the product.

Currently, China produces 95 percent of the cottonized hemp in the world.

Dixie Carter said the facility itself will create at least 50 jobs and has the potential for creating more than 700 indirect jobs through producers, transportation and related industries.  

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Midwestern State University adds first Doctoral program

TIMES RECORD NEWS STAFF REPORT | SEPTEMBER 4, 2020

Midwestern State University announced they are adding the university’s first doctoral program.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) approved a request Thursday for MSU to offer a doctoral degree in educational leadership.

“This is a significant accomplishment for Midwestern State University and especially for our dedicated faculty in the West College of Education. We are now able to provide our community of educators with a significant level of academic attainment. The pursuit of an advanced degree in education will enhance the abilities of teachers across our region while also maximizing the talents of MSU professors,” said MSU Texas President Suzanne Shipley. “I am grateful for the creativity and energy required of Dean Matthew Capps and the faculty of the West College of Education to achieve this historic advancement of our university’s role. We look forward to welcoming MSU’s first doctoral students in January 2021.”

MSU Texas Provost and Vice President James Johnston presented the possibility at the August 2019 Board of Regents meeting.

“This is a historic moment for MSU Texas. The addition of terminal degrees aligns with the university’s current strategic plan and is consistent with our mission to provide our students with rigorous undergraduate and graduate education. Our ability to successfully navigate the approval process with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and SACSCOC in the midst of this pandemic is yet another example of the ‘can do’ spirit of this great University,” Johnston said.

The new Ed.D. program will specialize in public school administration and will be open to individuals who hold a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, instructional technology, adult and higher education, and education administration.

The MSU Texas Ed.D. program is designed to prepare students for executive leadership positions in education.

MSU Texas said the new program ensures that highly qualified candidates from the north and west-central Texas areas are available and competitive for top leadership positions in the field of education.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE

Burn Shop opens location in Downtown Wichita Falls

Torin Halsey | Wichita Falls Times Record News

In 2019, Keith and Ivonne Wineinger decided to move their metal fabrication business from Kamay to downtown Wichita Falls. Their business was outgrowing its space and there was no room for expansion.

 They purchased a 7,500 square foot building in the 800 block of Ohio Street and began demolition and renovation of the structure. It would give them approximately seven times more space. That process was expected to take three to four months.

Their most popular products are associated with grills and barbecuing. Custom grill grates, presses and barbecue accessories are sold both locally and nationally as well as internationally.

Making the move downtown was helped along by Downtown Wichita Falls Development.

“We do all kinds of support services for businesses in downtown. Starting with help scouting locations, to helping with incentive packages, 4B was a big part of The Burn Shop, we helped with that plan,” Jana Schmader, executive director of Downtown Wichita Falls Development, said. “The final inspections, any kind of liaison work between the city and the business owner. And then, eventually, big grand opening and marketing, press, any of that. We’ve had little touches along the way.”

READ THE FULL STORY HERE.

Conn’s HomePlus to open doors in Wichita Falls in August

CLAIRE KOWALICK | TIMES RECORD NEWS | 7.28.20

A new retailer is set to open its doors in Wichita Falls in August.

Conn’s HomePlus, a specialty retailer of furniture, mattresses, home appliances, and consumer electronics, announced Tuesday that they will be open to the public Friday, August 14, in their 40,000-square foot showroom.

The Texas-based retailer has 143 stores in 14 states and the Wichita Falls’ location will the 72nd operating unit in the state.

Conn’s has stores in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Conn’s representatives say said they are excited to be part of several new stores, commercial development and other economic activities in Wichita Falls.  

“We are committed to playing a key role in the continued economic growth of our great home state,” said Norm Miller, Conn’s HomePlus Chairman and CEO. “The Wichita Falls location allows us to serve a new community and we look forward to connecting with the people who call this city home.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT TIMES RECORD NEWS.

Conn’s started out more than 128 years ago as a small plumbing and heating company in Beaumont, Texas. Today, Conn’s is one of the top consumer goods retailers in the country, with more than $1 billion in revenue and more than 4,500 employees across the southern United States. Our mission is to make it possible for everyone to purchase quality, long-lasting products for their home.

Pamlico Air provides tour to Wichita Falls officials

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Wichitans are finally seeing the old Stanley Tools building put to good use after Pamlico Air opened their doors in Wichita Falls a few months ago.

On Tuesday, city and county officials and others were able to get a tour of the new 180,000 square foot facility.

Pamlico Air CEO Travis Stephenson said this plant will be one of two anchors for the company, even as they expand with more facilities.

“This is where the most volume will be, where the most equipment, the most people,” Pamlico Air CFO Scott Lampe said.

After sitting vacant more than a decade, the old Stanley Tools building is now home to over 100 new jobs in Wichita Falls.

“Sitting up there and you think nobody is every going to want it, for them to come in and purchase it, redo it, drop millions of dollars in it, then automatically start producing product and hire 100 employees, 100 citizens is pretty neat,” Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana said.

The new company that manufactures air filters and air filtration products and equipment are ready to be in the falls for the long run and the city economy will benefit from new businesses like Pamlico Air.

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Pamlico Air brings over a hundred jobs to Wichita Falls

“We’ve made a pretty big bed with our investment here with the city,” Stephenson said. “For this to be one of our anchor spots that we may even reach a little bit farther than we normally would.”

“This is not just oil and gas manufacturing or aerospace manufacturing, which those two were our bread and butter for 50 years, air filters it’s a different industry, industrial hemp it’s a different industry, and so as one struggles, another one comes up,” Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Henry Florsheim said.

The first few months in town could not have been better, with Stephenson saying all the help from the city and county sped up the process by six months.

Plant manager Michael Parsons moved to Wichita Falls in January in preparation for the opening and couldn’t be more thankful for the response so far.

“We really lucked out in hiring because we’ve got our floor crew and they went from not being able to build anything to being able to build like champions,” Parsons said. “So, I’m really proud of them, I’m proud of the community for standing behind us and getting it started.”

Pamlico Air plans to add more machines soon that would result in double the jobs for the city.

And none of this could have been possible without the group of local investors who owned the old Stanley Tools building donating the facility to the city’s 4-A board.