Velocita not coming to Rockdale

Land puchase deal with Alcoa for ‘green’ community falls through
Reporter Editor

Velocita isn’t bringing 5,000 jobs and a “green” community development to Rockdale.

Doug Hutchison, Velocita CEO, told a small, disappointed group of civic, business and school leaders at the Chamber of Commerce Tuesday afternoon the company was unable to reach a deal with Alcoa to purchase 11,000 acres at the former Rockdale operations.

Hutchison said Velocita is now looking at an alternate site in the Austin metro area.

Velocita’s ambitious vision was for a community with “next generation” worldclass research, technology, agriculture, recreation and housing facilities.

It was envisioned as a Rockdale-sized town with 5,000 jobs, world-class research facilities, $2-billion in tax base value and $315 million in base annual payroll.

‘BETWEEN GIANTS’—Hutchison said the complex, and contentious relationship between Alcoa and Luminant was a key factor in the purchase falling through.

He said Alcoa and Luminant have power contracts, representing hundreds of million of dollars, over the next 30 years.

“That relationship is going to dictate a lot of what can be done out there,” he said. “We don’t know how that would affect access to lakes, roads.”

“ We’re not going to be able to buy a site and then go 30 years with no income,” Hutchison said.

“We’re (Velocita) the little guy between two giants,” he added.

“To put in what we would have to put in (at the Alcoa site), we’ll have a better chance going to the (alternate site) I-35 corridor,” he said.

‘NOT RIGHT’—Hutchison said there was “no right or wrong” in the negotiations between Velocita and Alcoa.

He alluded to the strained relations between A lcoa and Luminant, which included a highprofile trial in 20th District Court this summer, ending in victory for Luminant.

“Alcoa and Luminant made their own nest,” Hutchison said. “Who’s going to be paying the price is the community. That’s not right.”

PROSPECTS—Hutchison, a former director of a Texas Main Street project, said he continues to believe Rockdale is in a prime location for a high tech, next generation development.

“ You’re in between the two universities ( Texas and Texas A&M), you’ve got the roadways and rails,” he said.

Hutchison said at least one Velocita client has looked at Rockdale during the process and said he would try to “help bring them here.”

“ Sustainable agriculture is going to be huge,” he said. “Texas A& M is planning a bio-farm. Agriculture and aquaculture, feeding people full-time, are the wave of the future. ”

“We really wanted to be in a small-town location,” he said. “You’ve got a great community here.”

“It’s just that the economics (of the Alcoa deal), the way they are now, wouldn’t work,” Hutchison said.

“We have a lot more flexibility at the other site,” he said.

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2010-12-23 digital edition

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