The largest employer in the city of Kyle will be taking up shop in what was only a few years ago a sheep farm.
The Kyle City Council, along with Hays County Commissioner Mark Jones, the Greater San Marcos Partnership and others on Tuesday welcomed SmileDirectClub, which manufactures teeth aligners, to a new facility at the Hays Logistics Center on Vista Ridge.
Under the terms of an incentive package approved by both the Kyle council and the Commissioners Court, the company will hire 439 people in its first year of operation, bringing that number to 643 during its second year and achieving a final payroll of 850 employees in its third year.
All the jobs will meet a “minimum pay requirement” of around $40,000 a year and will all be generated locally. Additionally, the business received a $2,215,000 grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund through the office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
“This has been a long time coming,” Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchell said, giving a nod to the “team effort” that led up to the announcement. “If not the biggest, this is one of the largest job announcements in our city.”
“This is a big event for not just the city but the whole region, Hays County in particular,” Jones said. “That this many people can work without a commute to Austin is huge.” Jones called the business an “industry disruptor” that is joining like-minded others along the “Innovation Corridor” stretching from Austin to San Antonio. “It will have a significant economic impact.”
Diana Torres, the city’s director of Economic Development, said the firm represents a capital investment of $37 million and that under the terms of the economic incentive agreement, SmileDirectClub will get a 50 percent rebate on taxes over eight years. The city of Kyle, she said, put forth an incentive estimated at $659,799 and should receive a benefit of $5,234,235 over eight years. The county’s investment, estimated at $474,922, will result in a benefit of $1,781,183. The Hays CISD did not offer incentives but will benefit to the estimated tune of $1,544,009, also over an eight-year time frame.
Jones noted that the school district helped make the development possible by granting a Triple Freeport Exemption, as did the city and county. Generally speaking, the exemption applies to goods that are stored at a facility.
The incentives will kick in as soon as the business is granted a certificate of occupancy, Torres said.
Mitchell noted that in addition to the jobs, SmileDirectClub is expected to provide internships to students in the Hays CISD. “They can learn valuable skills right there,” something that helps bring to fruition the concept of live, work and play. “It’s more than an overused phrase,” he said. “This could not have happened without years of advocacy and groundwork and strategic planning.”
Dan Baker, head of Global Supply Chain for SmileDirectClub, said it was a “privilege” to be bringing more than 800 professional jobs to Kyle. “We chose Kyle and the Great Austin area because of the caliber of the workforce,” which he called “skilled and committed” and praised the “culture all based around innovation, collaboration and inclusion.”
Baker said the company’s “aggressive timeline” calls to start production in February 2020. “We expect to give millions of people around the world the opportunity to have the smile of their dreams through affordable and convenient teeth straitening … We are bringing our latest generation of technology to this facility, pioneering the way for an even better product for our customers.”
Kyle Mayor Pro Tem Dex Ellision noted that currently, 80 percent of Kyle residents don’t work in the city, and must commute to Austin or elsewhere on a daily basis. “It’s going to keep jobs here in the city and that’s huge economically and for the overall performance of our city.”
He said such an opportunity “had been a focus of the city of Kyle and Hays County for a long time.”
“They are not bringing anybody in from outside,” Jones said, calling the company “an opportunity for residents to get high paying jobs and not travel. That’s a win-win.”
The Greater San Marcos Partnership, which is a public/private economic development initiative for Hays and Caldwell counties, helped to negotiate the incentives. Atlanta and other cities in the Southeast had also tried to recruit the company, which Mitchell characterized as adding to the sustainability of the local economy.
Regarding commercial development, Mitchell said “the question the council faces is ‘what kind of jobs are going to come and if we are not involved, what else could potentially come?’ Without recruitment, a company would come here, but what kind of company, and how would that affect sustainable growth? We came to the conclusion SmileDirectClub was the best possible deal we could have put together for the community. This is not going to be a distribution center with 50 minimum-wage jobs. This is a massive, high wage-earning type of facility that will have a huge impact on our quality of life.”