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German company breaks ground at new US branch headquarters in Waller County

June 30, 2018 GMT

George Washington was a young member of Virginia’s colonial legislature in 1758 when the company that would eventually become MAN Diesel & Turbo was created in Germany.

On June 26, representatives from that same company broke ground at its new U.S. subsidiary headquarters located on a wide-open stretch of prairie in Waller County. The new facility will be the first project built in the 650-acre Twinwood Business Park and will combine office space for more than 140 employees along with repair shops for company products like reciprocating engines for marine propulsion and turbo machinery for the oil and gas industry.

MAN is a German acronym for Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nurnberg or Engineering Works Augsburg-Nuremberg. The Waller County project, more than 100,000 square feet, is expected to open in 2019 and will combine operations previously located at sites in Houston and Deer Park.

Company officials also used the groundbreaking of their U.S. subsidiary’s headquarters to announce their worldwide name change to MAN Energy Solutions.

“We knew we were outgrowing our existing facilities. We knew we’d be a lot more productive if we were together,” said Tony Ruegger, managing director of the company’s U.S. operations.

MAN Energy Solution Vice President Florian Papenburg said the company is happy to consolidate its U.S. operations in Waller County, which he said had a “pro business philosophy.”

“It took us a couple of years in order to develop this project. There was a great deal done in a short time period,” Papenburg said. “We finally will combine all our service shops. We’ll bring diesel and turbo together under one roof. We will increase our capabilities by 50 percent.”

The average annual paycheck for jobs at MAN Energy Solution’s new U.S. headquarters is $100,000 — almost twice the Texas average, said Waller County Judge Trey Duhon.

“We cannot be more excited to have (them) here and to be the first project here in Twinwood. I honestly can’t think of a better company to get it kicked off,” Duhon said. “We’re not just seeking projects, we’re looking for community partners.”

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar, who previously represented the Waller County area in the Texas State Senate, said manufacturing - like that done by MAN Energy Solutions - contributed about $225 billion to the $1.7 trillion Texas economy.

“Yes, in the U.S. manufacturing jobs have decreased. But the jobs that you have are higher paying,” Hegar said. “It’s good for the local economy and it’s good for the state economy.”

More than 637,000 man hours will have been expended by the time the project along Woods Road in Brookshire is complete, said Keith Dalton, president of the KDW design and construction company.

“We build facilities for companies and people that make things. That’s really our niche,” Dalton said. “When you work for someone who physically produces a product - that’s a world of difference. We will literally use every tool in our tool bag to deliver this facility.”

MAN Energy Solutions looked at other locations before finally settling on Waller County as the headquarters for their U.S. operations. Brookshire was close enough to their clients in Houston but far enough away for offer the company space to expand. Also, the price was right, Ruegger said.

“If you spend less for the land, you can build a bigger facility and you can buy more machine tools,” he said. “We’re going to be the founding tenant of what could be another huge planned community like The Woodlands.”

While MAN Diesel & Turbo was known for its heavy engines - it once employed Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the motor that bears his name - company officials say the new name reflects their strategic alignment toward a greater emphasis on sustainable technologies.

“System technologies that help our customers to increase the efficiency of their plants and reduce emissions are already a significant part of our business and also lead the way to a carbon-neutral future,” said MAN Energy Solutions chairman Uwe Lauber. “We will resolutely continue on this path of growth and increasingly become a supplier of complete solutions.”

mike.glenn@chron.com