East Texas Company Gradually Grows To 200 Employees

Small businesses account for most of the jobs in the U.S. but big businesses impact a city's local economy. That's why Longview business leaders were so excited when they heard SYSCO Food Supplier was building a distribution center in their town.  The company said it expects to bring 300 jobs and millions of dollars to the East Texas area.

In a short amount of time, ECCO Drilling CEO Bill Roberts and his business partner have developed their small local company into something rare in Tyler: a company that has 200 employees.  The company ECCO Drilling began just over a year ago in June of 2005 with two people. By next spring Roberts expects to employ 300.

"Our payroll could possibly be $700,000/$800,000 a month by the time we get all of our rigs running," said Roberts. Roberts says the company has grown because the demand for oil and gas in the area has lead to demand for drilling rigs. "I think it has a solid impact on the economy and any area that it's in and it affects right now all of East Texas, because there's a lot of rigs running in East Texas," said Roberts.

Tom Mullins, with the Texas Economic Development Council, says companies such as ECCO Drilling play a huge role in the economy in East Texas.   "We only have about 20 to 25 companies that are 200 employees and up. Everybody else is below that. So, they'd already be considered one of the bigger employees in the area," said Mullins.

He says middle size companies like ECCO Drilling and SYSCO are among the most important in a local economy.  "If you have a lot of companies that are doing well and you lose a few, you can handle that, you can absorb that. Whereas if you have a dependence on one or two large companies and you lose one of them, you are going to be having a major problem in your local economy," said Mullins.

Mullins says the economic effect of growing companies extends to people hundreds of miles away.  For example, the workers at ECCO Drilling come from all over East Texas, south Texas and Louisiana. Roberts says it's not only his company that's seeing such great success. Other oil companies are doing well because of the demand for oil.

Oralia Ortega, Reporting.  ortega@kltv.com