Palmer of Texas has long been a leader in manufacturing quality liquid storage solutions and separation equipment for the municipal water, wastewater, petroleum, chemical and food industries. Originally based in Andrews, Texas, co-owner, James Varner, has brought a little bit of Palmer of Texas to Orange.

Varner has been in the fiberglass business for 33 years. He recently got an order for fuel oil tanks that are 21 feet, 6 inches wide by 40 feet tall and holds 2500 barrels of oil. These tanks are almost too big to transport by semi-truck, so Palmer of Texas opened a temporary site here in Orange.

The workers will build ten tanks at their location on Pier Rd. in Orange. From there, they will put the tanks on a barge and send them to Houston. Once in Houston, the tanks will be put on a large ship and sent to the Middle East.

They have orders to make more tanks but they are only allowed to make so many because they have a temporary permit. Varner, however, is trying to set up a permanent location here in Orange.

“We loved to [set up a permanent location in Orange],” James said. “We feel like the business is there and if our permit, we’ll do it. We can get a permit but it takes about a year. We have a limited permit now.”

They have started the application process and are trying to do what they can to shorten the time it takes to get a permanent license.

“As soon as we get that, we’ll come back in and build some more tanks,” James said. “We’ll be able to build as much as we want to and have continuous operations.”

Palmer of Texas in Orange is fully set up and has already begun work on the tanks but they used quite a few of the local vendors to set up shop.

“To set up the plant, we came in and set up accounts with ten different [local] vendors,” Varner said. “We really had to find local vendors for [all the different things it takes to operate a plant].

We just about wore out Home Depot.”

From welding supplies to fire extinguishers, they had to buy just about everything to get things rolling.

“They have all been very, very good [to us],” Varner said.

Right now, it will take about a week to make the first tank. This is because Varner is training a an entirely new crew and everyone is just trying to find the grove of things. Once everyone is organized and fully trained, it will take about four days to make a tank, start to finish.

“We’ll run a short night shift to help with everything that is slow,” Varner said.
Varner said they had a very similar set up in New Orleans last year but he took eight or nine of his workers down there. This time, he only brought one of his workers with him, Joe Datano.

“We’ve hired everybody else and trained them on the spot,” he said. “We sent two people to Andrews for a couple of days, [Dustin Gibbs and Carol “Bubba” Kemp] to give them a general idea of what we do.”

Varner said that they’ve had to train everyone on staff here in Orange and, so far, it’s gone extremely well.

“When I came in to do all of the interviews, I was really quite surprised at the quality of people we were able to get,” Varner said. “That’s really helped. The labor market is, obviously, better down here than it is up in our area. We’re really pleased with the quality of people we’ve hired.”

About Nicole Gibbs

Editor of The Record Newspapers