Officials from Baker Hughes, the city of Tomball and Harris County gathered May 15 for the grand opening of Baker Hughes' Western Hemisphere Education Center at the corner of FM 2920 and FM 2978 in Tomball.

The 100-acre, $55.8 million education center features a 90,000-square-foot classroom building, a 162,000-square-foot training yard and a 53,000-square-foot workshop. The center will be used as a cross-training facility designed to train Baker Hughes employees from all product lines, according to Baker Hughes officials.

"We have been looking forward to this building's official opening for a very long time," Baker Hughes CEO Martin Craighead said. "It's a very special place and we feel proudly about the talent of the people here and the importance placed on education."

Craighead said training, continuing education and safety are the cornerstone principles at Baker Hughes. The training that will take place at the education center encompasses classroom learning, hands-on mechanical and electrical training in the workshop labs, and field operations training at the on-site rigs and wells, he said.

"The oil and gas industry is constantly and rapidly changing," Craighead said. "There is a constant state of learning that needs to take place and we need the infrastructure—like this education center—to do that."

Craighead, stressing the importance of giving back to the city of Tomball and continuing to build a strong relationship with the community, donated $10,000 to the Tomball Scholarship Foundation. The money will be used for scholarships for graduating seniors looking to further their education at a Lone Star College campus.

Tomball Mayor Gretchen Fagan said the opening of the education center gives Tomball a global presence and could bring an estimated $8 million in revenue to the city over the next 10 years. The Baker Hughes education center is expected to bring in 5,500 trainees per month, or about 66,000 per year. The traffic generated through Tomball will benefit the city through sales, property, utility and hotel occupancy tax revenues, Fagan said.

The city of Tomball annexed the 100-acre site where the campus is located into the city limits and provided Baker Hughes with a tax abatement for 10 years for the building and improvements, City Manager George Shackelford said. Baker Hughes does not have to pay property taxes on the building or any improvements to the land for 10 years, but still pays taxes on the land itself.

"A phenomenal boost to the local economy is what we are seeing with the advent of Baker Hughes in Tomball," said Jack Cagle, Harris County Precinct 4 commissioner.