Courting the Smiths: We Don’t Care Who You Are, But Please Please Like Us!

What secretive out-of-town company is scouting out a 60-acre tract on the far side of Baytown in the world’s 5th-largest industrial park? The Texas Enterprise Fund and the Greater Houston Partnership likely don’t know either, but both are working hard to get the company to develop its mysterious $200 million facility here, near huge existing Wal-Mart and Home Depot distribution centers.

The HBJ‘s Jennifer Dawson reports that executives from the unknown company have only conducted 6 stealth visits of the property:

Cedar Crossing [Business Park] executives know only that the potential buyer intends to manufacture something large, and that Project 21 is being spearheaded by McCallum Sweeney Consulting, a site-selection company based in Greenville, S.C.

Charles Iupe, general partner of the 15,000-acre industrial park, says he has met with Project 21 executives on several occasions, and they have only given their first names.

During a site visit in February, the incognito executives took a helicopter ride for an aerial view of the location. Before leaving the ground they were required to sign waivers. Each one used “Smith” as a last name.

But surely the brokers must know who these people are . . . ?


“It’s the biggest hush-hush deal I’ve seen in my life,” says [Cushman & Wakefield broker B. Kelley] Parker, a 34-year real estate veteran. “No one knows who they are.”

Lysa Elkins, vice president of marketing for Cedar Crossing, says the visitors typically do not stay long when they’re in town.

Says Elkins: “They come in. They look. They leave.”

On one occasion, industrial park representatives had the opportunity to go out to dinner with the mysterious guests. Elkins says she tried, without success, to ascertain where the people might be from based on their attire.

During dinner, Elkins asked one visitor if she could inquire as to which state she grew up in, and the woman’s answer was, “No.”

Photo and map: Cedar Crossing Business Park

14 Comment

  • Mabye they want to build another Area 51?

  • Having worked on the drainage and utility plan for this massive development, the secrecy is no joke.

    The industrial park is positioned great to expand in the future since land is getting tighter and more expensive on the west side of the bay.

    Also, that Wal-Mart facility (which is not in the picture because is just left of the two large buildings) is HUGE.

    To put it in perspective, it would be like 10 Reliant Centers or George R. Browns to come close and that was phase 1 back when we did the drainage and utility plan. Phase 2 will double the size. Wal-Mart sees Houston as the point of entry of much of it’s goods in the future than Los Angeles. The expansion of the Panama Canal will make the Port of Houston that much more strategic in trade with Asia.

  • I doubt working the docks and warehouses is high on our lists of career choices but it should be pointed out that one of the saving graces of our economy in the Houston area is not only the oil and gas industry but the Port of Houston and the entire Galveston Bay region. Even with the various “tax incentives” these “industrial park” developments are good for the tax base. As well as providing jobs for those who aren’t picky or pretentious.

    You do have to wonder about the secrecy although it’s a make-or-break political year for our governor. Since the Panama Canal was brought up, maybe it’s some Panamanians. No big deal unless our governor threw in Galveston Bay as an incentive. Always a possibility.

  • I’ll second the Wal Mart comments.

    And though this industrial park is already huge, just imagine what it’s going to turn into as 99 is developed farther around. It runs right through that industrial park!

  • Since the Ports of LA and Long Beach instituted the requirement that ships have to be able to plug in whilst docked a chunk of their traffic has already been affected. Much of it at the moment has moved down to the Port of Tijuana. If Houston can get better access to that traffic it will undoubtedly be good for our tax base. For our airborne particulates counts, not so much.

  • It’s an industrial park that is about 6.5 miles across (the distance between Allen’s Landing and the Astrodome, or UH and Hobby Airport).

    It has its own wharves, it’s own freeway (purpose-built for all intents and purposes), is rail-served, and is adjacent to the RWJ Airpark, which has a 5,111-foot runway suitable for general aviation activities.

    It’s not Hillwood’s Alliance Texas. It’ll never be an air cargo epicenter. But it doesn’t need to be. Wharves and railheads aren’t synergistic with air cargo.

    It’s truly amazing, in so many respects. And I envy kjb for getting to work on it.

  • Guess it’s not for Trader Joe’s.

  • Terrorists?

  • Maybe China decided to build their own distribution center and bypass WalMart, Target and the like.

  • miss_msry, you have a point there. The ROC consulate/residence on Montrose is certainly big enough to handle such a colony.

  • Miz Brooke Smith, I think you meant PROC (People’s Republic of China). ROC is the other name for Taiwan (Republic of China). The consulate on Montrose is for the former.

  • Right you are, JL. Thanks.

  • Why would someone want to be so secretive?

  • @Jessie M,

    That’s just the cutthroat nature of business. You don’t want your competitors to know your hand.