Baker Hughes set to open new $55 million education and training facility

The Baker Hughes Western Hemisphere Education Center is set to open within the next couple of months in Tomball and is expected to not only bring tens of thousands of employees through the facility each year, but also to net millions of dollars in revenue for the city in its first 10 years.

Tomball is also garnering interest from a number of developers looking to build hotels and further develop the city's east side, an area of town that has remained mostly undeveloped.

"To be able to say that the Baker Hughes Eastern Hemisphere Education Center is in Dubai and its Western Hemisphere Education Center is in Tomball is really something," said Kelly Violette, executive director for the Tomball Economic Development Corporation. "The opening of the new Baker Hughes facility really puts us on a global map both in terms of bringing people here and name recognition around the world."

The $55.8 million Western Hemisphere Education Center campus is at FM 2920 and FM 2978 and will consist of a 72,445-square-foot, three-story education building, a 36,000-square-foot workshop, a 16,730-square-foot laboratory and auditorium, and a 156,000-square-foot yard with two non-producing oil training rigs, Violette said.

The new facility is planned to be a facility for major corporate meetings and activities. It will be an integrated facility to enhance the educational opportunities for both Baker Hughes personnel and its customers, and they will develop skills and competencies needed to support its customers, she said.

The facility expects to hire up to 50 employees with average annual salaries of $40,000 for support personnel and $80,000 for trainers, Violette said.

Trainees at the facility will be offered oil well training on-site. The city made some changes to its well ordinance to allow Baker Hughes, which has a campus in The Woodlands, to put training wells on the property, Tomball City Manager George Shackelford said. The training well does not go into the water and is safe and cased in concrete, he said.

"The well will allow them to do training out there on a 24-hour basis," Shackelford said. "That's live training. It doesn't get any better than that. They are training these people to go out on these wells."

The Baker Hughes education center is expected to bring in 5,500 trainees per month, or 66,000 per year, Violette said. The total net benefit to the city of Tomball is estimated to be $7.8 million in the first 10 years. Violette said the net benefit includes all the direct and indirect benefits to the city, which includes the sales, property, utility and hotel occupancy tax revenues generated from the visitors and the employees, and jobs created by the center. This figure also takes into account any costs the city may incur.

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, Shackelford said. The tax abatement means Baker Hughes does not have to pay property taxes on the building for 10 years.

The land, however, is still taxable. By annexing the Baker Hughes facility within city limits, it allows the city to benefit economically in a number of ways, he said.

"The 66,000 [people] per year coming through that facility is going to have a tremendous impact on the economy," Shackelford said. "They are going to stay here; they are going to eat here and shop here."

By David Pollan
David has been with Community Impact Newspaper since July 2013. He has been the editor for the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition since November 2014 and prior to that he was the editor for the Tomball/Magnolia edition. Before joining Community Impact, David worked for eight years in Denver at various newspapers as a copy editor, reporter, designer and editor. David covers business, transportation, development, education and local government.


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