One of the world’s largest producers of firefighting and fire safety equipment will soon call Bee County home.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based NAFFCO signed a 50-year lease agreement with the Bee Development Authority (BDA) to build its first U.S. manufacturing facility at the Chase Field Industrial and Air Complex just outside of Beeville.

The BDA, along with the Bee Area Partnership (BAP), announced the agreement in a release on April 28.

Khalid Al Khatib, the CEO of NAFFCO, and Orlando Vasquez, the chairman of both the BAP and BDA, signed the lease on April 27 at a signing ceremony hosted by the company at its headquarters in Dubai, UAE.

NAFFCO is among the world’s leading producers and suppliers of firefighting equipment, trucks and vehicles, fire protection systems, HDPE pipe and fittings, fire alarms, and security.

The company has a roster of more than 15,000 employees, which includes more than 2,000 engineers.

It also has more than 6 million square feet of manufacturing facilities and exports to more than 100 countries worldwide.

“This is a great opportunity for NAFFCO to be in the United States; it’s a win-win relationship, and our vision is to be one of the main key players in fire safety, health and security,” said Khatib, who founded the company in 1991. “This will create many jobs within the Beeville community and in other states as well.”

Vasquez added, “This agreement will significantly impact our community for years to come. We could not have finalized this agreement without the commitment and dedication of community leaders in Beeville and Bee County. We look forward to continuing our support of NAFFCO operations as they grow their presence in the U.S. while providing hundreds of good paying jobs and meaningful tax revenues to Bee County.”

Vasquez was part of a nine-person contingent from Bee County and Texas to visit Dubai, UAE, to sign the agreement with NAFFCO.

He was joined by Bee County Judge Trace Morrill, III; city of Beeville Mayor Frank Dominguez; BAP CEO/President Randy Seitz; BDA Executive Director Jaime Arrisola; BDA board member Pete Patel; BAP Vice-Chairman and Christus Spohn Beeville Hospital President Genifer Rucker; BAP board member Roxanne Casas; Jose Pereida, a representative from U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela’s office; and Stephanie Moreno, the former county judge who is now the general counsel for the BDA.

Seitz said it would be a “conservative” estimate to say that the company will bring between 300-400 jobs to the county.

NAFFCO, Seitz said, has already started the process of making arrangements to build out the facility at Chase Field.

The company will produce fire trucks, ambulances, steel pipe, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe and fire pumps at the facility.

Originally, Seitz said, the company was planning on manufacturing only the pipe and the pumps at the facility but then decided to add the production of fire trucks and ambulances to the plans because of the central location of the plant for shipment throughout the United States and into South America.

The BDA and BAP, Seitz said, have been working on the deal with NAFFCO since November 2020.

The company was also considering a site near Daytona Beach, Florida, but ultimately chose Bee County because of the facilities and the people, Vasquez said Khatib told him.

NAFFCO representatives visited Bee County and Chase Field on four different occasions during the process, Seitz added.

As part of the lease agreement with the BDA, the company will occupy Hangar VT-25, Hangar VT-26 and the paint booth and accompanying warehouse facility, which will give the company approximately 250,000 square feet of space.

“It’s mind blowing when you start thinking about the opportunities,” Seitz said about the impact the company could have on Bee County as well as surrounding counties.

The company, according to Vasquez, plans to be operating in some capacity by the end of 2021, and could be at full operating capacity within two to three years.

“You’re talking about three to five months for the equipment to be delivered, then another couple of months for it to be wired and installed,” Seitz added.

The process of setting up the facility, Vasquez said, will begin with a capital investment of approximately $15-20 million on the company’s part.

•kkeller@mysoutex.com•

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Kevin J. Keller is the content director for Coastal Bend Publishing and the editor of the Beeville Bee-Picayune. He can be reached by email at sports@mysoutex.com or by phone at 361-343-5223, or you can follow him on Twitter @beepicsports.