Oil tank company gets sales boost on West Texas boom

When Fox Tank Co. opened in Kerrville, Texas a few years ago, the company planned to hire around 15 employees and figured its new location would land it within a reasonable drive of the Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas fields south of San Antonio.

Now the company, which builds steel oil field tanks, has 62 employees in Kerrville and has picked up the bulk of its customers in the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico.

“It’s really boomed on us,” said vice president Nathan Fox. “We’ve scratched the surface. Nearly everything we build goes west. It’s been a really beneficial development. The Permian is an older play but they’re doing the new technology in the old area. It’s gold rush time.”

And Fox Tank is growing again. It’s adding another production facility on its 24 acres across from the Kerr County Airport that will allow it to grow to more than 100 employees and build 80 tanks a week.

The tanks are roughly 12-15 feet 6 inches in diameter, and 16 to 32 feet tall — basically as large as possible while still being able to drive down the highway on the back of a truck.

“They’re pretty big beasts,” Fox said.

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The company is pursuing certification with the American Petroleum Institute, which will open up more business in the Eagle Ford where major publicly traded companies dominate the market and require it. Smaller operators in the Permian don’t require the certification, although the company already builds to API standards.

Last week, it also announced a specialized training program with Alamo Colleges. The first group of students that go through the Alamo Colleges program in Kerrville will come out as Fox Tank employees.

Jonas Titus, executive director of the Kerr Economic Development Corp., said the community hopes to attract other oil field-related companies as a way to diversify its economy. Although the community is better known for Hill Country tourism, the EDC is working with another prospect now that likes the location.

“You can get to the center of either play in two to three hours, so when a supplier is here they can have significantly lower transportation costs,” Titus said.

And Titus said the lack of oil field work in the immediate vicinity can benefit companies worried about turnover.

“We have available workforce and a workforce that’s working for a lower wage than in the oil field,” Titus said. “They’re the big fish in a little pond. We have the Hill Country quality of life amenity here and the Guadalupe River, and we’re right on the interstate.”

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Fox said wages average a little higher than $16 an hour.

His father, Richard Fox, bought a small tank company in Albany in the ’70s, growing the company through the boom years. When oil busted in the early ‘80s, the family business slowed, too.

Fox left for Kentucky to raise race horses for the next 25 years. But his father, who still runs Fox Tank offices in Albany, lured him back to Texas around 2011 to open the Kerrville location.

“It’s gone full circle,” Fox said. “I’m back to doing what I did every summer in junior high and high school. I’m the third generation in the oil field. My grandfather was a wildcat driller.” His son Andrew Fox works with him as the production manager.“I’m glad we’re able to help bring the boom of the Eagle Ford and the Permian to an area where otherwise there’s not a drop of oil,” Fox said.