GREGORY, Texas — Any day now, the Gulf Coast Growth Ventures plant in Gregory will become fully operational taking natural gas and turning it into two products used in making a wide variety of things from t-shirts to auto parts.
Construction began in 2019, and plant leaders say the process didn't see much of a slowdown despite the COVID-19 pandemic impacting virtually every aspect of life.
The plant is large, and as is the case with lots of local industries, it emits sounds and lights. But the public affairs manager for the joint venture between Exxon and Saudi Arabian oil giant Sabic says it will be a good neighbor to people who live within eye shot of the plant.
“What our community can expect now is very much like what you’re experiencing right now — not terribly loud, not terribly visible," Brandon Maxwell said. "Outside this immediate footprint, you might not even know that we’re here other than being able to see us at a distance."
Several people who can see the plant from their homes disagree.
Lydia Jaramillo lives less than a mile away, and the plant dominates the view from the backyard pool at her home of 11 years. One of her biggest complaints are the plant's lights and flaring at night.
“You no longer can see the beautiful stars," she said. "We live out in the country, and you can’t see the stars."
Two doors down from Jaramillo, Bernadette Howard has similar complaints — including the traffic created by the 6,000 workers required to build the plant.
With that work complete, Maxwell says traffic won't be nearly as big of an issue with only 600 full-time workers required to operate the plant.
Still, Howard is ready to leave the house she's called home since 2008.
“I’ve discussed that with my husband," she said. "Upon his retirement, I’ve kind of mentioned, ‘Can we please move?' I didn’t envision us living next to a plant this close."
Other plant neighbors aren't as bothered. Ricardo Martinez has lived just across FM-2986 from the property where the plant now sits for 20 years.
“Right now, where we live right here, it’s not that bad," he said. "Like you can see here right now, you can’t even hear it.”
Maxwell says the plant's neighbors will hear and see its workers and company leaders giving back to the Gregory-area.
"We’ve implemented a program called our Good Neighbor Program which is designed exactly that — identify ways that Gulf Coast Growth Ventures and our employees can be integral parts of our community and make meaningful impacts."