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Sealy’s uncertain future

After BAE Systems officially lost the Army truck deal, the city of Sealy and the surrounding Austin County are pondering what the effect will be.

The impending loss or transformation of its largest employer will have a staggering effect on Sealy, stripping away jobs and tax revenue and stunning business owners and residents who know the 3,200 plant workers as clients and as neighbors.


BAE is working to find a new contract, but local officials aren’t expecting to see anything as lucrative as the one that’s being lost. “There’s going to be some job loss. We’re hoping to keep 1,500 to 1,800 of those workers,” said Mayor Nick Tirey. “If we could keep 2,000, that would be wonderful.”

At City Hall — where a picture of a sand-colored military truck hangs on the wall, larger than the mayor’s portrait — officials are scrambling to offset their losses.

BAE’s taxes pumped more than $1.2 million into the Sealy school district last year, along with $216,000 to the city, home to about 6,000, and $352,000 to the county, with a population of about 23,000.

I wish them well, and I don’t envy them the task of trying to figure out how to pay for their schools and roads and police and whatnot with a big reduction in that tax revenue. It’ll be interesting to see how State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst and State Sen. Glenn Hegar try to respond to the area’s increased level of need. More to the point, if they do take action to help alleviate Austin County’s situation, it’ll be interesting to see if they then get primaried in 2012 for not being conservative enough.

Speaking of getting help from the government:

David Vrablec, whose grandmother moved to Sealy in the 1960s when it was still a small farming community, believes the town will move toward a more commercial and industrial future — as soon as it shakes itself from its current slump.

“Sealy’s already taken two hits this last year: We’ve lost two car dealerships,” said Vrablec, who works for the Austin County Sheriff’s Office and whose wife works at Bellville General Hospital. “Everybody’s going to be affected, from the flower shop to the hair salon, and eventually the hospital, because no one will have insurance.”

Well, then, I suggest that Dave Vrablec and everyone he knows call up their Congressman and tell him that he really needs to vote for the Democratic health care reform bill when it comes to the floor of the House, as that will help folks like these who have lost their health insurance. It’s pretty much a no-brainer, really, and it might even help make up for his earlier lack of focus.

One last thing:

City officials have high hopes for a proposed 71-acre commercial development along Interstate 10, which they believe will employ residents and attract travelers to shop at big box stores and smaller retailers.

But the last major retail development sits empty on the other side of the highway. Its facades, erected in 1995, are still fresh-looking but almost entirely empty.

That refers to the Sealy Outlet Center, which I was unsurprised to learn as I wrote this post is pretty much dead. I guess if you’re in the Houston area and you’re going to head west to do some bargain hunting, you’ll probably exit the freeway at Katy Mills. There’s no other nearby population center, so this one’s demise wasn’t hard to see coming. I suppose Sealy Outlet Center 2.0 could be badass enough to entice people to drive that extra 20 miles west, but I have my doubts.

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