This is a story that should make everyone in Ellis County feel proud.
It is a story about redemption and renewal. It’s about our community’s ability to weather adversity and in the long run, not only persevere, but come out the other side stronger than ever before.
On Tuesday I had an opportunity to tour the new Magnablend facility on the former Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) campus in rural Waxahachie.
We all know the story about both entities.
Back in the 1980s, the United States embarked on a quest for scientific discovery at a level not seen since the Apollo missions to put a man on the moon. Ellis County was selected to house this new feat of discovery and engineering that was hoped to unlock the mysteries of the universe.
That all came to a sudden halt in 1993 when Congress pulled the plug on funding, leaving behind a partially completed Superconducting Super Collider facility in the heart of our rich county farmland.
For much of the past 20 years the buildings have sat vacant, neglected and in more recent years, a Mecca for looters and other criminal activity. Nearly every wire and piece of metal that could be stripped from the walls had been stolen.
We also know the story of Waxahachie-based Magnablend and the devastating fire that occurred at its chemical blending facility on Oct. 3, 2011.
In an effort to rebuild – and with a strong desire to keep its manufacturing base here in Ellis County — Magnablend CEO Scott Pendery purchased the 135-acre SSC campus in late 2012.
It was about this time last year when I walked through the campus with Scott. We had to use flashlights to navigate our way through the buildings because every wire had been stripped from the walls during two decades of neglect and abuse.
As we walked between the buildings, I could see the concern on his face knowing the monumental undertaking he committed for his company. But as we walked up the hill that provided a wide view of the five buildings and 135-acre campus, I could see the vision and determination in his eyes of what that facility — and Magnablend — could become.
“It’s going to take a lot of work, but it’s perfect for us and for Ellis County,” he told me last year.
On Tuesday, I, along with officials from the city of Waxahachie and Ellis County, had the chance to tour the campus again and see how Scott’s vision had come to fruition.
The Magnablend SSC facility is a manufacturing showplace — for not just Magnablend, but for Ellis County as well.
As Scott gave his welcome remarks in the lobby of Building 2, he told us how leaders of major international energy and agricultural companies are now coming to Waxahachie on a routine basis to work with Magnablend as they help develop and produce products that are changing the world.
Additionally, the company has invested millions of dollars, not only to remodel the buildings, but to equip those buildings with state-of-the-art safety and environmental equipment and procedures that go above and beyond local, state and federal requirements.
He told us about Magnablend’s commitment to ensuring the safety of its employees and the community. He showed us the layers upon layers upon layers of safety measures in place to prevent accidents, and should one occur, how everything will be contained on site to protect the community. We met with the chemists and Phd’s who test everything that comes into the plant and goes out of the plant.
He also told us how Magnablend has been working with the neighbors during the past year to address their concerns, a process he said will be ongoing to ensure the company’s policy of being a good corporate neighbor.
It was impossible not to notice the buzz of activity from Magnablend workers, whose numbers continue to rise as the Waxahachie-based company continues to grow. The SSC facility now employs approximately 100, with staffing nearing 400 for all of its Ellis County facilities. These are local jobs that have stayed in Ellis County, thanks in large part to Scott’s commitment to keep Magnablend here. And I should point out from my conversation with him last year, he had offers from lots of other cities wanting him to relocate the company.
The new Magnablend SSC facility is a good news story — on a lot of different levels. Looking back on where we’ve been and what we’ve been through as a community, what’s happening now is something we all can take pride in.