With the Super Bowl behind us, how many Texans would have enjoyed football’s biggest week even more had it not been for the traffic hassles to get to Houston? Just imagine if travelers had an alternative that’s fast, safe, reliable and productive.
For me, I already see that on the horizon: a high-speed train connecting Houston and North Texas, with a midway stop in the Brazos Valley, whisking passengers between the state’s top metro areas in 90 minutes and generating economic benefits for all communities along the route.
I’m proud to participate in this important project as an investor and now as a member of Texas Central’s board of directors. I know firsthand that what makes this development truly unique is its sophisticated business model — one led by free-market principles, backed by discerning investors like me.
As a native Texan and career entrepreneur, countless business plans, deals and “next big things” have crossed my desk over the years. Our state’s pro-business climate is a magnet for economic growth and it has helped make a success of many of those businesses. After scrutinizing Texas Central’s plan to finance and deliver this project and meet the pent-up demand for better travel alternatives, I decided to back this project based on the vast potential of this remarkable high-speed train system to serve generations to come.
In addition to my personal decision to invest, many other Texas families and individuals conducted their own due diligence on the project and decided they, too, wanted to be a part of something great. The initial $75 million of financing was all from Texas entrepreneurs and families, meaning that we see the project’s value and want to be a part of the first U.S. high-speed train project.
This project is moving forward, driven by a commitment not to take federal or state grants to build, a decision that benefits both Texas and U.S. taxpayers. Our business-minded leaders in Austin and Washington are looking to sectors outside of government to help find ways to improve our infrastructure quickly and smartly. This project provides a real opportunity to thoughtfully and meaningfully meet the economic and mobility needs of our growing state.
We need a turnaround for what’s been a tough haul, as Houston Chronicle recently reported out of Jewett, in Leon County. The Page One Houston Chronicle story noted that the energy bust had cost the county hundreds of jobs, the coal mine’s recent closing eliminated another 250, and the steel mill has slashed hours and pay of its employees.
The high-speed train project — which goes through Leon County — will be a thriving economic engine for the Lone Star State. It will directly create 10,000 jobs during each year of construction, with nearly 1,000 permanent, highly trained positions once operational.
Over 25 years, the project is expected to pump more than $36 billion directly into state and local economies. These benefits will be in the form of direct spending, increased employment and new economic activity generated by the project all along the route.
Texas’ high-speed train will be the single largest infrastructure project in Texas’ history with a 25-year economic impact equal to 180 Super Bowls. In addition, Texas Central expects to pay more than $2.5 billion in taxes over the next 25 years, going to counties, cities, schools, hospital districts and other taxing entities along the 10-county route.
Texas companies will benefit directly from construction work, such as building the system and maintenance facilities, supplying materials and providing long-term support for our state’s newest industry. Other businesses will benefit indirectly as the project boosts development around the passenger stations and attracts more people to local restaurants, hotels and retail shops.
The free market has a proven record of successfully improving infrastructure to the public’s benefit. This is why leaders from both political parties and at all levels of government have recognized that to meet today’s infrastructure challenges, private expertise and capital will be crucial. That’s especially important in a growing state like Texas that faces increasing transportation demands.
Republican Speaker of Texas House, Joe Straus, said it best:
“Our economy prospers when government stays out of the way. Low taxes and reasonable regulations … these are the Texas model.”
“We believe that it’s the private sector that creates opportunities, not the government, and certainly not the Legislature. But we can encourage economic growth by setting and acting on the right priorities. If someone wants to invest in Texas — if they want to create jobs and opportunities in this state — we should welcome them. This state should invite economic activity … not turn it away.”
The need for a project of this magnitude is undeniable, and the business acumen of the project’s investors and leadership will help make it a success. The bullet train is the next great deal for Texas, demonstrating how the free market can and should play an integral part in addressing America’s enormous infrastructure opportunities, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
We look forward to working with state and local leaders, continuing the project’s forward momentum, and showing the nation — and the rest of the world — how Texas does things the right way, and for the public good.
Drayton McLane Jr. is the chairman of the McLane Group and member of the board of directors for Texas Central