ExxonMobil Setting Up a Separate Second New Campus for Itself — in The Woodlands

Rendering of Proposed Developments at Hughes Landing, The Woodlands, Texas

Yes, ExxonMobil has been constructing an enormous new 20-building corporate campus on 386 acres near the intersection of I-45 and the new Grand Parkway, where it plans to consolidate approximately 17,000 employees from several Houston-area and out-of-state locations. But the oil company is apparently planning a bit of a move in the opposite direction at the same time. It now has plans to lease more than 480,000 sq. ft. in 2 new office buildings in a new separate “satellite campus” 7 miles north. This won’t be a contrasting urban setting for workers seeking something similar to the company’s longtime Downtown Houston tower. It’ll be in Hughes Landing (pictured above), the new mixed-use development on the shores of Lake Woodlands in The Woodlands.

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The buildings are planned to be 12 and 12-and-a-half stories and measure 317,052 and 331,840 sq. ft. respectively; Exxon will lease all of the first building but only half of the second. Both of the new Hughes Landing buildings will have their own separate 11-story parking garage, though from reports it appears ExxonMobil may commandeer only one of them. And the company will get a big break on taxes: Yesterday Montgomery County commissioners decided to give the company 10 property-tax-free years in its new Woodlands space.

The public agreements don’t make clear the exact location of the buildings, but county tax assessor J.R. Moore tells Impact News they’ll be adjacent to CB&I’s offices on Lake Woodlands. That would put them somewhere in the upper right corner of the Hughes Landing site plan shown here:

Map of Hughes Landing, The Woodlands, Texas

Moore says the satellite campus will be for new hires and existing employees in IT, finance, legal, and administration. Why didn’t ExxonMobil simply include space for them in the much larger Springwoods campus? “We don’t like to put all of our eggs in one basket, so to speak,” ExxonMobil’s Mike Alexander told a county judge. “There were a lot of people that felt we should build a facility right across the street from our own (in Springwoods Village). . . . This offers some alternative.”

Images: The Woodlands Development Company

When 386 Acres Is Not Enough

32 Comment

  • I guess maybe Exxon got jealous of Chevron getting tax dollars for their new downtown tower, so they hit up the Montgomery County commissioners for some tax dollars of their own.

  • Why on earth would the county decide to give EXXON MOBIL a tax break??? Who the heck do they think is going to pay for the infrastructure down the road?

  • In other words ….. “Oops!”

  • Exxon Mobil gets a 10 year tax abatement. Good to see the folks in Montgomery County putting their tax dollars to work helping a blighted area develop by lending a hand to a local start up in need of a break in a tough oil and gas market in Texas. If only there was a kickstarter page, I would throw in a few bucks.

  • This is not unexpected. When plans to build The Woodlands facility were announced most familiar with XOM thought it odd that execs, treasury, etc from Irving (“the God Pod”) would all be housed in the same facility with the rest of the org. Now we can see they won’t be.

  • Yeah I’m sure they would have built in The Woodlands if they hadn’t received the tax abatement. It is not like they have a corporate campus anywhere near by. The county did the appropriate thing in order to drive growth in the region. The people hating obviously either hate the burbs, or want that sweet sweet property tax money

  • I view the whole Exxon campus north of Houston as a VERY bad strategic business move. Let’s look at two major macro trends going on right now. First, we have the graying of the energy companies. There is a major generational shift occurring and the energy companies are desperate for young talent. This has resulted in freshly minted petroleum engineers receiving multiple $100k+ offers to choose from. This leads me to my second point of why the Exxon campus is a bad idea. When a company is trying to replenish their ranks with young, highly compensated, educated professionals, being in an exurb is a major negative working against their recruiting efforts. Imagine a freshly minted 23yo engineer out of A&M having to choose between Exxon and Chevron. All other things being equal, would that engineer prefer to be out at the Exxon campus or downtown at Chevron? Sure, the greybeards in management at Exxon love the idea of the new exurban campus because it suits their life perfectly, but it probably isn’t in the life plan of a lot of the young talent they are counting on for their long term success. Below is a WSJ article that touches on this exact phenomenon.

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304281004579222442197428538

  • The Las Colinas campus in Irving campus isn’t moving here. That was announced in the beginning. They also had already announced that the Brookhollow office, US Production, and most of IT weren’t moving to the new campus. Brookhollow has finance/procurement, global services and some IT. Most of the Rankin Road office (IT) knew they weren’t going. These groups will be the ones at the Hughes Landing offices. Nice location. I was expecting them to go to the new low-rise office complex going in on the east side of the freeway.

  • To all the naysayers and Debbie-Downers that say ExxonMobil should go downtown. If there had been a block of land suitable in inner Houston, that was economical, they would have gone for it. But there is NONE. It would take multiple high-rise office buildings (remember 10,000 people), parking for them, plus additional space for Research. You can’t put a Research facility into a high-rise building. They are testing drilling tools, logging tools, chemical compositions, etc. And security is very important. That’s why this is a closed campus. Visitors must be pre-registered with Security by an employee to enter the campus at all. Can’t have that kind of security between buildings in downtown high-rises. Plus, with the configuration and design of these buildings, the ecological footprint is much less than a high-rise. They are 40% more energy efficient, and water run-off is caught in lakes for recycling and use for the campus landscaping. Can’t have that downtown.

    Back years ago, Exxon owned over 400 acres at the corner of Beltway 8 and I-45. The new campus would probably have been built there if that land had not been sold about the time Friendswood Development was sold. And this new campus is closer in than the Creighton Road (south side of Conroe)property they nearly moved to in 1986.

  • Welfare is only (a) a despicable waste of precious tax money and (b) invidious communism if poor/needy/hungry people receive it. Besides, they’d just waste it on things like food or rent for their families.

  • @meatloaf: Exxon Mobil wanted their 7 figure people in the Woodlands so they would be able to have steak for lunch and zip to work on a jet ski from their island mansions (serious about the former, kidding about the latter except that traffic in The Woodlands is terrible and no exec would want to get on I-45 to get to work every day). Exxon Mobil wanted that development and would have built it without the fun money from the county. And even if Exxon didn’t take it, a long line of energy companies would have. The simple fact is that when Exxon comes before little county officials, they get everything they want because the little county officials want to be able to claim that they landed Exxon.

    @Walt: Good point, except Exxon Mobil is different. If they want an employee, they will get them regardless of what Chevron or anyone else may have to offer. And I am seeing a lot of Exxon employees moving into the Heights who previously lived south or west of the city. They actually like being able to counter commute and are paid more than enough to live well inside the loop.

  • As an XOM stockholder I applaud Montgomery County and their business oriented culture.

  • @tejas: Multiple high rises, 10000 people, lots of security to enter+between high rises. Nope Exxon totally couldn’t do that, but clearly Chevron can, because you are describing exactly what they have bought/are building downtown. I think Walt is exactly right on this point and the inevitable comparisons. I would also like to point out the absurdity of talking about ‘ecological footprints’ when discussing a tremendous campus cut out of the piney woods that 10,000 people will be driving to, often very long ways.

  • The corporate welfare is pathetic. Residents keep getting re-appraised every year, paying higher and higher taxes, water rates go up because there is not enough, more trees get plowed down, and yet our tax dollars go to attracting more companies and traffic to the area – - actually diminishing the overall quality of life. Great deal for the residents.

  • Thank god we have all those freeways circling downtown so companies like Exxon would enjoy easy access for their workers.

  • In spite of all the accolades county officials and local chambers of commerce shower on each other and in spite of the money-counting various participants of the real estate industry are doing, the image of Big Oil continues onward for pragmatists and idealists alike. Would the technically bright but politically unconscious and obsequious young engineer, during his commute into north Houston, ever consider in a waylaying manner the ignominious social & environmental record his employer owns? But then again, who’s to deny the utility, security, and self-confidence salaries of an old but prosperous industry bestow upon recent STEM graduates.

  • I am typical for these types of incentives, but this is kinda of a joke. You use them to get the ball rolling, not will the ball is already rolling downhill. Would torchys tacos give away free food if there was a line out the door with people with money in hand?

  • ” Good point, except Exxon Mobil is different. If they want an employee, they will get them regardless of what Chevron or anyone else may have to offer.”

    Old School, why? Is there some significant salary/benefits discrepancy between ExxonMobil and Chevron? I’m asking out of curiosity.

  • We live in a time where location of a large company is not all that important, we’re a global village now, so countries and even municipalities now have to compete for corporations’ business. The only incentive any municipality has to offer is to lower or waive taxes. Competition in the municipal segment is just as good as in the private sector, look at Detroit, they did not compete and died off.

  • Exxon pays higher salaries than Chevro,n which Chevron counters with performance bonuses. When Chevron’s bonuses pay well, Chevron employees make as much or slightly more than their Exxon counterparts. This is pay at risk though, so it depends on the company’s and individual performance. Chevron employees with stock compensation or in their 401K’s have far outperformed Exxon over the last 5 years.

    From a personal perspective, I think the Exxon campus is a mistake. There is plenty of land to build on closer to, or in downtown. It is not necessary to have all functions together. Chevron keeps various lab functions in Wilcrest and Bellaire, despite having most employees downtown. And as for Exxon in Los Colinas, that writing is on the wall. There was no comment that they’d remain in perpetuity; just for now.

    In the end, Exxon does what what Exxon wants. They don’t care what their rank and file employees think or what the impacts of their decisions are. Were it not for their new campus we’d not be building the Exxon expressway from Katy to their front door.

  • @Tony, are you jealous of the comfortable lifestyle provided by oil and gas companies? It sounds like you’re on your high horse lamenting that ills that come along with oil and natural gas extraction. I presume you drive a vehicle, enjoy having electricity, use a variety of items that contain plastic, etc. Until you’re willing to give this all up and return to the dark ages, please stop berating those in the industry for seeking a meaningful employment that provides for them and their families. You speak as if no other industry has its problems — even “clean” wind energy kills scores of fowl each year. I agree that the tax abatement isn’t necessary, but county officials deluded themselves into thinking it’s a great deal.

  • As an XOM employee impacted by this, I can add a few things.

    The IT folks have been told for some time that they were not welcome at the new campus because they wanted to build it lean with the expectation that over time, headcount would decline. Leasing office space nearby just goes to show the thought process, because in about ten years XOM will likely pull those people out and move them on to the campus, so Montgommery is getting screwed.

    We were told that the new campus is being designed for people in 8th grade now to satisfy what they will want from an employer when they start working. The problem here is they are designing it for where the 8th grader is growing up, and not where s/he wants to be. As was pointed out earlier, not a lot of freshly minted college grads want to move to the burbs and hang out with their coworkers in a company town. The company is already having trouble recruiting people because of this and other reasons, so it will be curious to see how this plays out.

    With the majority of employees living within the 610 loop and Katy, this will just annoy that many more people and help drive the on-going exodus of people who don’t want to hang out in some office park 20 miles north of civilization.

    Let the execs have fun patting themselves on the back for making the money company by unloading existing real estate (Fairfax allow pulled in several hundred million) which is covering the bill to for the new campus. Throw in the chemicals HQ in Katy, the 800 Bell building, the URC complex near Greenway, and other smaller locations throughout Houston (Greenspoint, Brookhollow) and building the campus is actually cash-positive.

    From the people on my team who has discussed this, we personally think the campus is bullsh…

  • @Annoyed I think the idea of college kids not working at a company that is out in the burns is completely blown out of proportion. I am a Tamu senior the Exxon booth is packed at all times during both the geosciences and engineering career fair. I have yet to hear any graduate student say the words ”you know I got an Internship at Exxon but I don’t want to be located in the burbs”. Yeah Exxon won’t get every bearded hippie who wears Toms and talks about his brother’s indie band, but they along with Chevron BP and Shell will get the best of the best regardless of location. Oh and every oil company is ”having trouble finding talent and recruiting”

  • Fernando: yours is the standard myopic but understandably apologist response. My comment merely points to the image the traditional energy industry has among the young population at large and to what degrees the reasons creating that image get the consideration of people who weigh the pros & cons of joining its workforce. No one who’s even slightly pragmatic denies the economic pervasiveness of oil & gas, our reliance on the products of the industry, or the utility & comfort high salaries provide. But in fair turn, and in spite of the budgets Big Oil alots to its public relations and lobbying departments, no one who’s aware of why it owns a dubious reputation can also conscientiously deny the negative impacts it has on the environmental, social, and political record here in the states and, particularly, in developing countries. Exxon, Chevron, et. al. use their enormous scale well and are good at what they do: making unfathomable amounts of money getting fossil fuels out of the ground and converting them into products for a dependent world. Again, the benefits of that are easy to sense as that money spreads across the economy and Exxon’s happy that you choose to harp on only the attributes palpable to narrow visions of “meaningful living.” Simpletons do so for the finance industry as well.

  • You can’t blame Exxon for asking for money and you can’t blame a local jurisdiction for seriously considering giving it to them. It’d be stupid not to. This kind of thing happens all the time among big, well-branded, creditworthy companies in STEM industries when they do site selection. They play one entity off of another and see who is the highest bidder. In this case, it could’ve easily stayed in Greenspoint (Houston & Harris County), or it could’ve gone north. It is not a given that they would end up in The Woodlands.

    From the company’s perspective, it’s free money. From the locality’s perspective, it’s a lock on all the sales tax revenue from when people go out eating and shopping and on a decent bit of demand to fill houses and apartments. There are also indirect benefits, such as the wealthier shopkeeper that also probably lives nearby, or that the submarket becomes a stronger regional destination for corporate relocation or for shopping; so there is a kind of snowball effect. And that’s real! It is. And it can be worth paying for in fiscal terms. Not always, but sometimes.

    The problem, obviously, is that economic development incentives usually only shuffle around the benefits of economic development from one place to another and distort natural comparative advantages of a particular location. The aggregate effect does not lend itself to greater productivity; in fact, it probably reduces productivity quite a bit. On the other hand, a local jurisdiction has every incentive to play the game.

    So I don’t blame Exxon and I don’t blame Montgomery County. I don’t blame the State because they have to play the same game against Michigan and California and every other state. I blame the bums in the U.S. congress that won’t place a ban on this ridiculous bullshit.

  • so what’s the general percentage increase XOM will pay over CVX in salary? for me to wake up and get on one of the most dangerous and overcrowded roads in the entire country day in and day out would require at least a 15% pay increase over what others would offer to compensate for another hour of drive time on the road every day. don’t know what it is about 45, but the drivers on that road really are more belligerent and violent than elsewhere in town. i’ve never bothered to consider any of the companies located up around greenway and the northern beltway assuming that they’re not going to adequately compensate for the impact on commuting up there.

  • “I blame the bums in the U.S. congress that won’t place a ban on this ridiculous bullshit.”

    I understand where you’re coming from, but it would be a serious overreach of federal power to tell a state or municipality what it could or could not do as far as taxation. Don’t think that would hold up in court.

  • I’m also an XOM employee, and I’m looking forward to the new campus (full disclosure:  I already live in The Woodlands).  Either choice of campus locations – downtown vs suburbs – has positives and negatives of course.  In my opinion, urban campuses are best suited to industries like tech, which rely on innovation from the young and hip.  In contrast, the peak contributing time for many energy industry technical jobs is 10-20 yrs experience, after years of training.  By this time, most employees have families and are already living in the suburbs.  Perhaps XOM is targeting these employees more so than the young and inexperienced.  Let’s follow up on this in a decade to see who’s retention of these key employees is higher, Chevron (downtown) vs Exxon (suburbs).       

  • @ Mike: The impacts of these programs certainly cross state boundaries. Just two days ago it was revealed that St. Louis County, MO would offer $1.8 billion in tax breaks to Boeing if it located a production facility there. This is IN ADDITION TO $1.7 billion being offered by the State of Missouri. They’re competing with 12 other states for the plant. So yeah, I think that the commerce clause should easily be held to apply. And if I’m wrong, then I’d like to suggest a constitutional amendment as an alternative.

  • @Tony, myopic? Please…I’ve worked in several different industries from tech to retail to finance and now energy. Does the energy industry have negative consequences? Sure, it does. It’s a dangerous industry, spills/leaks/etc. occur. Do we like that it happens? No. Nevertheless, it’s silly to cry wolf about the ills of the industry and write off working for them. As you likely take a long drive to wherever you work in a vehicle that consumes byproducts of the industry on a daily basis, please stop being a hypocrite. Pick any industry — each has its own problems.

  • I agree with LongTall. The idea that young people won’t work out in The Woodlands is overblown. I know someone from Anadarko and they say it is not an issue at all.

    In fact, if you plan to stay with a company for the long haul, I’d much rather commute early in my career than later when (like the majority of people) you get married, have kids, and move to the ‘burbs. With kids, you are more time constrained, trying to make kids baseball games, school events, etc. That’s when I want a short commute. Not to mention, there are a lot more things to consider about taking a job than just location.

    Or, maybe an inexperienced worker can work at Chevron first, and then later work for Exxon if location to the burbs becomes important to them. In that case, it’s a win for Exxon.

  • “Good point, except Exxon Mobil is different. If they want an employee, they will get them regardless of what Chevron or anyone else may have to offer.”

    False. I recruit at A&M for my department at “another” oil and gas company here in The Woodlands and I can tell you that I have scored top students who were sitting on Exxon offers waiting for us; I’ve never lost a candidate we were pursuing to Exxon. Our interns who haven’t received full-time offers have gone on to Exxon, though. Our salary offer was higher, and on top of that we have generous bonus plans whereas Exxon doesn’t (until you reach executive status). And we start the kids at 4 weeks of vacation and give them every other Friday off. And do things like Zac Brown Band at our Christmas parties. I digress…

    A lot of hating on The Woodlands! Believe it or not, there is a thriving community of young professionals with money to burn. Just hang out at Bar Louie on the Waterway any night of the week. The apartment complexes are filled with young professionals. Is it downtown? No. But it’s thriving, and there are more and more entertainment/nightlife options by the day. I’ve been working in The Woodlands since my early 20s and I wouldn’t trade working here for anything.

    Just wait until Shell announces a satellite office at the new Johnson Dev. Co. development at Camp Strake. Especially once Southwest begins flying out of the Conroe Airport. Nice little inexpensive hub to house the Gulfstreams without the security mess and traffic of driving to IAH for domestic flights to Midland/Marcellus/Vernal.