Wildcat PPE, the third largest nonretail major employer in The Woodlands area, had to furlough a large segment of its workforce due to contract issues at the federal level last week, announced Gil Staley, CEO of The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership, as part of his presentation at an April 14 conference.

The company employs 2,415, according to The Woodlands Area EDP's early 2021 report presented by Staley at the Economic Outlook Conference held by The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce.

Changes in the balance of industries among the largest major nonretail employers in The Woodlands area in 2020 include continued growth in the health care sector and the emergence of manufacturer Wildcat PPE as the third largest major nonretail employer in the region, Staley said.

Without the loss of those jobs, the overall gain in The Woodlands was the lowest gain in the 20 years the EDP has been tracking those numbers, Staley said. However, four mid-size employers increased their employee count to more than 100, adding them to the major employer column.

Staley said the Wildcat jobs are expected to return.

"[Wildcat PPE] built their business around government contracts," Staley said. "Guess what happened: We had a change in leadership. Any time you have a change in administration you’re going to have changes in different department heads, they’re going to evaluate every single contract. Contracts stopped."

Staley said the company's infrastructure will allow it to bring the employees back when the contracts are resolved.

However, taken alongside a lack of major workforce growth in the region last year, the temporary workforce reduction of 2,314 employees puts the region in the negative for job growth until it is resolved, he said.

"It’s not as bad as I was willing to deliver ... they’re working on it as we speak," Staley said, noting that U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, has been working to move the process along at the federal level.

Among the major nonretail employers in The Woodlands area compiled in early 2021, Conroe ISD was the largest, with 4,487 employees in the education sector, he said in his presentation. Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center was second, with 2,927 employees in health care. Wildcat PPE was third, with 2,415 in manufacturing, making hospital gowns and other personal protection equipment.

Rounding out the top five major nonretail employers were Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital and CHI St. Luke’s Health-The Woodlands Hospital, and ExxonMobil was sixth in the energy sector with 1,527 employees.

The remaining top 10 includes two more health care companies, a professional and business services company, Alight Solutions, and another education institution—Lone Star College-Montgomery.