By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
When pipe manufacturer Big Tuna was looking for a new location to call home, three components were critical: a reliable supply of natural gas, the right weather, and a location near major customers in New Mexico, West Texas, Wyoming, and Colorado. Las Cruces filled the bill perfectly, and Las Cruces Utilities was able to provide the natural gas Big Tuna requires.
Big Tuna’s product: glass-reinforced epoxy pipe, similar to fiberglass, used in oil, gas and mining operations, explained Mike Watters, director of operations for Big Tuna USA. “To manufacture this type of pipe, Big Tuna must have a low humidity climate that stays relatively warm during the winter months. And, we must have a reliable supply of natural gas to run the 520-foot oven that reaches 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit to speed up the setting of the pipe.”
Ensuring that Las Cruces could handle Big Tuna’s natural gas needs was a straightforward process. “It was very easy to work with Las Cruces Utilities (LCU),” said Watters. “Early on we engaged with the State of New Mexico and the City of Las Cruces for building permits, and LCU found ways to help support us with natural gas delivery that works for our needs.”
LCU Director, Dr. Jorge Garcia, P.E., said that part of LCU’s mission is to make sure to have an infrastructure that can support the growth of companies in the city.
“Different types of manufacturing have specific needs, some may work with our existing infrastructure and some we can figure out how to make work with our engineers and planners,” Garcia said. “LCU takes its role in economic development seriously in making sure companies have what they need and that they see Las Cruces as a viable headquarters for their operations.”
The new home for Big Tuna is on west Amador Avenue. Watters expects to see the first rounds of pipe production in Las Cruces by September. By the end of this year Big Tuna says, “20 workers - machine operators, material handlers, and general labor employees – will be in place. In 2021, the company expects to add 15 to 20 more positions.”
LCU can be reached at 575/528-3500 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
LCU gas associates assist a local contractor boring underneath west Amador Avenue to install a new gas main to pipe natural gas to Big Tuna - a manufacturing company producing specialized pipes for oil, gas, and mining industries. (Photo by LCU’s Pete Duran)
Note: This story was recently published in the Las Cruces Bulletin.