Construction activity in South Texas has fallen off, mirroring other parts of the country.

“We are seeing stuff that we were chasing and thought would definitely be going this year pushed back into March of next year,” says Marty Massey, vice president of operations for Skanska USA Building in Harlingen.

Skanska is working on the $22-million Texas A&M University Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco, set to wrap up in December, and a $25-million, 110,000-sq-ft Texas Dept. of Public Safety headquarters building, also in Weslaco.

Rene Capistran, South Texas president for SpawGlass in Harlingen, adds that activity is slower than last year, but the company continues to work off its backlog, including federal projects.

SpawGlass started two jobs this year funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: a $10-million outpatient health clinic in Brownsville and an $18-million multimodal bus terminal and related infrastructure work for the city of Brownsville.

“There has been a slowdown, especially in the private market,” Capistran says. “There is no lending by the financial institutions, and that limits the amount of activity.”

Perry A. Vaughn, executive director of the Rio Grande Valley chapter of the AGC in Harlingen, says the national economic downturn took longer to reach South Texas than other parts of the United States because the Mexican economy remained strong for a longer period, but now the violence in Mexico has impacted the area economically.

“We have seen a substantial reduction in bridge traffic,” he adds.

Still, Mexican investment in Texas benefits the local community, Vaughn says. For instance, Mexican investors are planning to build a couple of condominium projects on San Padre Island.

Bill Ewing Jr., president and CEO of Ewing Construction of Corpus Christi, says there is still some work available, and things are starting to turn around. Ewing Construction received a design-build contract from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Jacksonville, Fla., for a rotor-blade processing facility in Corpus Christi. The $10.3-million project will add 46,885 sq ft to an existing rotor-blade repair facility and also refurbish the building. Work is scheduled for completion in 2011.

Ewing recently finished several K-12 school projects, including the replacement Lotspeich and San Pedro elementary schools—each at $7.5 million and 51,295 sq ft—for the Robstown Independent School District. The company is currently working on some private, industrial and university jobs.

Jennifer Storm, executive director of the South Texas Chapter of Associated General Contractors in Corpus Christi, says she has noticed a slight uptick in Corpus Christi construction permits.

Private work

Ewing Construction broke ground in the spring on the 53,000-sq-ft Hampton Pointe Manor, an assisted-living facility and Alzheimer’s care center in Missouri City, Texas, for Outer Marker Properties of Atlanta and Wallace Bajjali Development Partners of Sugar Land. The developers received a $10.35-million loan from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Dept. to partially fund the project, which is scheduled to open in July 2011.

For WSP Holdings of China, Ewing is renovating an existing warehouse into a pipe-fabrication facility. The $20-million project is located near the Houston Ship Canal.

“We are looking forward to whenever it makes a turn. And I think we still have sometime before we see that.”

SpawGlass continues to work on projects for HUB Grocery of San Antonio throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

Bass Pro Shops plans to build one of its outdoor stores in Harlingen. A contractor had not been announced at press time.

Santana Textiles Corp. of Brazil anticipates starting construction this year on a $180-million, 300,000-sq-ft denim-manufacturing plant in Edinburg.

Caterpillar of Peoria, Ill., plans an expansion in Victoria, Texas, adding a 600,000-sq-ft hydraulic excavator manufacturing facility, scheduled for completion in mid-2012.


International Power of London and the South Texas Electric Cooperative plan a $1.4-billion expansion to the Coleto Creek Unit One at its Goliad County power station. The 650-megawatt Unit Two is in the permitting phase, with commissioning scheduled for 2015.