Texas energy crisis a ‘black eye’ on business-friendly reputation, state’s top accountant says

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nathan Byman runs a small manufacturing company in Austin with a team of 12 employees.

Last Sunday, with no warning or communication from state or local energy officials, Wolfram Manufacturing lost power.

Even after the lights came back on later in the week, Wolfram wasn’t allowed to operate due to an order by the City of Austin and Travis County limiting commercial energy consumption.

“It’s hard to put in words how detrimental this is going to be,” Bynam told KXAN. “There are going to be a lot of folks who are going to be scared to manufacture here.”

Texas leaders have long championed the state as business-friendly and praised companies — like Oracle, HP, and Tesla — that ditched California for the Lone Star State.

But last week’s storm, and the state’s perceived flatfooted preparation, stands to jeopardize that reputation, according to Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, the state’s top accountant.

“Unfortunately, the last few days has been a black eye on the reputation of Texas,” Hegar told state lawmakers on Monday. “The ultimate path of our economy it’s important on what we do this legislative session on this issue to restore confidence in businesses and people who want to come to the state for economic opportunity.”

Chip manufacturers like Samsung and NXP, some of the City of Austin’s largest energy consumers, remained closed for production on Monday in the wake of last week’s winter storm crisis, even as power was restored to nearly every residential home in the city.

The pause to production could cost some manufacturers in Austin millions, acccording to the Austin Business Journal.

On Monday afternoon, a Samsung spokesperson said power had been restored to Samsung Austin Semiconductor and efforts were being made to resume operations as soon as possible.

Steven Pedigo, a professor at the University of Texas Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and an economic development expert, said the business community isn’t only concerned about the grid, but also exponential growth left unaddressed by state leaders.

“That’s the challenge that we face today, that if we’re not willing to address our housing, our transit, our infrastructure, all those types of things now, man, the growth starts to control us,” Pedigo said.

KXAN politics reporter John Engel will have a full report tonight at 6 p.m.

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