NEW BRAUNFELS -- Cemex USA, the country's largest cement manufacturer, plans to double the size of its plant here, a move that will add 21 jobs and that represents the largest business investment in Comal County history, according to local officials.
Cemex officials canceled a planned news conference and refused to comment on the expansion of the Balcones Plant, but they have briefed some local officials on the plan.
New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce officials said they believe the news conference was canceled because of leaks of the impending announcement.
The exact amount of investment in the expansion was not released by company officials, but it will add a large amount of tax base and property tax revenue to Comal County and the Comal School District, said County Commissioner Jay Millikin.
The plant's current holdings are valued at more than $50 million by the Comal Appraisal District.
The plant is outside the New Braunfels city limits, but Cemex USA has an agreement to make an annual payment to the city in return for the city's agreement not to annex the plant. That agreement is up for re-negotiation this year, and the added value of the plant likely will increase the amount of payment, local business leaders said.
Millikin said the news is not all good. He's fielded complaints from neighbors about blasting and dust from the Cemex plant since he took office. But there are additional reasons for concern, he said.
"The insidious thing about quarries and the thing most people don't know is the concern for groundwater contamination," Millikin said.
He said the plants' kilns also can add to ground-level ozone pollution, although Cemex officials assured him additional "scrubbers" will be added to the plant's smokestacks so emissions will not increase, even when the plant doubles.
Walter Schulle has lived next to the plant since it opened and said the planned expansion is bad news for him.
"The blasting is like sitting in Iraq, where they're bombing all around you," he said. "They've really been tough to live with."
He said plant officials have been more cooperative in recent months, notifying him by telephone before blasting near his property and replacing his water well, which he said collapsed from the blasting.
Cemex USA operates a dozen plants in the U.S. It recently acquired another company, RMC, making it the largest cement company and ready mix manufacturer in the U.S.
Cemex USA has 11,000 employees. It had revenue of $2 billion a year before the acquisition of RMC.
Its parent company, Cemex, was founded in Mexico in 1906. It operates in 50 countries and is the world's largest ready-mix producer.