The small Texas city of Taylor will soon be home to a multibillion-dollar Samsung facility. The South Korean electronics giant is investing $17 billion in a microchip-making plant, according to press release from the governor’s office.
Taylor Mayor Brandt Rydell tells Texas Standard this project will be the largest economic boon for his town since the International-Great Northern Railroad laid its tracks there in the late 1870s.
Taylor had some stiff competition before Samsung decided on the Central Texas city. Austin and other cities in New York and Arizona were also in contention. Rydell says the city’s attractive incentives definitely swayed Samsung in Taylor’s favor.
Listen to the interview with Rydell in the audio player above or read the transcript below to learn more about what he thinks some of the potential consequences of such a large operation in Taylor will be, especially when it comes to housing affordability.
This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.
Texas Standard: Given your knowledge of the town’s history, how big of a deal will this Samsung facility be in Taylor?
Mayor Rydell: I cannot overstate the magnitude of the decision by Samsung to locate their facility in Taylor. You know, I’ve mentioned that it’s the single most significant, consequential development for our local economy since the International- Great Northern Railroad laid its tracks through this area back in the 1870s. We’re just so excited.
That is huge. I know you were up against places like Austin, as well as some towns in New York and Arizona. How’d you seal the deal?
I think at its most basic, we had what a facility like this really requires: ample land. We [also] needed to have power and water availability. And fortunately, we’re able to deliver on all three of those. In addition to that, even though we’re a small town, we have a team at the city of Taylor, and partners at the federal, state and local and county level, that all came together to really bring this to fruition.
Samsung could have been forgiven if, early on, when Taylor snuck onto their radar – which, at the point that we began discussions with them, I think they were already well into the process with at least half-a-dozen other sites internationally – they would have been forgiven to ponder whether a town like Taylor could step up and meet their needs and be the type of community that they could locate a plant of this nature. But we were able to prove our merit, and I’m just glad it worked out the way it did.
I have to ask you about taxpayer-funded incentives: do you think they put your bid over the top?
I think that certainly had a big piece to play, and Samsung was clear early on that an attractive incentive package was going to be determinative in their decision-making process.
Is there a concern, though, that residents with middle and lower incomes could end up being priced out of Taylor?
It’s been a very real concern. It’s something that we’ve taken to heart and, in fact, we’ve recently undergone a comprehensive plan-adoption process that at its core [is] really focused on things such as housing and inclusive growth. Taylor is not a transitory community like you might see [in] some others; we talk in terms of generations, and Taylor, we’re an old town. Folks have been here for generations and we do not want to create an environment where longtime Taylorites are going to be priced out of our community or people who are looking to move here are going to find it almost impossible to afford to live in Taylor.
And that’s not been a problem that we’ve had in the past. Ten years ago when I would discuss affordable housing in Taylor and the concerns even then that I had looking forward, people would look at me and almost roll their eyes and say, you know, by its very nature, Taylor housing is affordable housing. This is where people move to realize affordable housing, and we understand that dynamic is certainly changing.