Two large AEP Texas service centers under construction in Cameron County are expected to be up and running within a few months. “The Rio Grande Valley continues to be one of the fastest growing areas within our service footprint,” said Judith E. Talavera, AEP Texas president and CEO. “Building these new service centers will give our employees and the community improved, more resilient facilities that will allow us to continue addressing the future growth of the area.”
A $23.7-million San Benito project to build an 87,900-square-foot center on 40 acres of land along Business 77 near the former municipal airport will house 110 employees under one roof from various departments such as customer service, fleet operations, transmission and distribution operations, according to company officials.
“More importantly, this new home will allow for a family environment that will help promote unity,” spokesman Daniel Lucio Jr. said. “The ability to consolidate our departments will allow us to walk down a hall instead of driving down the street for results.”
A few miles away near Los Fresnos, a smaller service center is also under construction. This $12.3-million facility will house 20 employees in the 32,350-square-foot building going up on 15 acres at FM 510 and FM 1847.
The San Benito project is on schedule to be completed in late May or early June, Lucio said. The service center in Los Fresnos will follow with an estimated completion time of late June or early July. “The centers will provide AEP Texas the room it will require for future growth,” he said. “We are blessed to be living in one of the fastest growing areas in the United States and we must be prepared to respond to this growth.”
The larger of the two projects, the San Benito facility will replace an existing service center in Harlingen. “We have needed a new service center for a long time in this area, and this is a great step forward to allow us to continue to provide reliable electric service to our customers,” Talavera said. “We look forward to relocating to San Benito and enhancing our relationship with that city, as well as continuing our great long-standing relationship with the city of Harlingen, where our existing service center has been located for many years.”
Tom Coad, AEP Texas vice president of distribution operations, noted that the San Benito and Los Fresnos centers are major upgrades. “These sites provide multiple entry points to our service centers and will allow more employees on the east end of the Rio Grande Valley to work in one of two locations versus being scattered across the area,” he said. “This will be extremely valuable for storm restoration purposes while offering the possibility of future expansion as the Valley grows.”
The centers will incorporate state-of-the-art technology and equipment to service the electricity needs of South Texas, most importantly in the event of major power disruptions due to storms or other disasters, Lucio said. “Our service centers will house more equipment due to the amount of space we will have. Emergency response will improve. Our service center will be able to withstand a category 5 hurricane, meaning that our employees can work at the service center during a storm and prepare for the daunting task of rebuilding and restoring power.”
Once complete, the San Benito center will be designated as U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Certified.
AEP Texas is also constructing a new service center in Corpus Christi. Construction costs for that facility total $21 million. The center will be a 94,000-square-foot facility on 22 acres, and will house approximately 150 employees. The completion date for the Corpus Christi project is September of this year.