PLANO, Texas, and NEW ORLEANS — Local officials and executives from Capital One Financial Corp. recently broke ground on the company's new corporate campus in Plano's Legacy business park. Capital One said the new campus will house its auto finance and banking offices.  

Additionally, Capital One sponsored a study that focused on the recovery process undertaken in the Gulf Coast region stemming from the damage caused hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 

Construction on the two, 150,000-square-foot buildings began in February. The company said it currently employs 2,500 people in the Dallas/Fort Worth area between its retail bank and auto finance corporation. Officials said they plan to start consolidating 1,000 employees at the new location by early 2008. 

According to reports, the property takes up about 25 acres on the northwest corner of Preston and Hedgcoxe in Plano's Legacy Business Park. 

"Capital One has the option to purchase, as additional, 25 acres included in the site plan as future business needs warrant," explained Ryan Schneider, the new president of Capital One Auto Finance. "We will be moving 1,000 associates to the new facilities beginning the first quarter of 2008 from existing sites. At this point, we do not know how many new job opportunities this will create. 

"The new facility creates a campus environment for multiple Capital One businesses in a desirable market, provides more room to grow, improves efficiencies and supports its dynamic team-oriented culture," Schneider added. "We are still assessing what amenities will be provided at the site. We do plan to offer an environment that supports the company's efforts to attract and retain top talent." 

Officials pointed out that Capital One Auto Finance has been had its headquarters in Plano since its inception in 1987. 

Recovery Continues in the Hurricane-Ravaged Gulf Coast

Employment statistics, sales tax collections, large construction projects and other key economic indicators point to an accelerating recovery — and even growth — in many Gulf Coast communities damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

However, massive home damage caused by Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters, widespread lack of flood insurance and the continued delays in transferring grant assistance to homeowners are slowing recovery in metropolitan New Orleans.

These results were reported in "Advancing in the Aftermath IV: Tracking the Recovery from Katrina and Rita," the fourth and final installment of a study by economist Loren Scott, professor emeritus of economics at Louisiana State University and president of Loren C. Scott & Associates Inc., and sponsored by Capital One.

Economic growth driven by construction and manufacturing in Pascagoula, Miss., and Lake Charles, La., continues to parallel the aggressive recovery patterns that most regions encounter following a major natural disaster, his study showed.

In fact, employment, school enrollment and airport traffic in Lake Charles, and employment and port traffic in Pascagoula, have reached or surpassed pre-storm levels, according to the report.

"Following a natural disaster, employment initially falls, then all of the private insurance and federal rebuilding money is pumped into the economy, and the construction sector leads the economy out of the slump," Scott said. "This is occurring in Lake Charles, Pascagoula and now Biloxi-Gulfport (Miss.)."

In heavily damaged Biloxi-Gulfport, the local economy added approximately 1,250 jobs per month during the last half of 2006 because of new construction projects and reopened land-based casinos, he explained.

Meanwhile, home renovation and construction along the Mississippi Gulf Coast also benefited from 11,827 homeowners receiving federal assistance grants by January 2007.

By contrast, the distribution of available funds progresses slowly in New Orleans.

Employment trends are among 12 key economic variables tracked in Scott's study. Total employment in the New Orleans area was increasing slowly but was still down 163,100 jobs compared to August 2005. Local employment at area refineries and chemical plants has reached pre-Katrina levels, with the transportation equipment sector following close behind.

Overall, the report found that large industries and manufacturers, including shipbuilding operations and ports, have recovered faster than small businesses.

"In Biloxi-Gulfport, Lake Charles and Pascagoula, the construction and manufacturing sectors are leading these areas back from the brink," Scott said.

Scott also said that the extension of the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act until Dec. 21, 2010, will allow companies to complete their projects across the storm-damaged areas in time to receive the act's benefits.

Major construction projects in the Greater New Orleans area could emerge as a major factor in the region's long-term recovery, according to Scott. He pointed to several large projects that are underway or are in the planning stages in the area as key indicators for growth.

These projects include the $803 million I-10 bridge between New Orleans East and Slidell; the $705 million widening of the Huey P. Long Bridge; a $3.2 billion refinery expansion in Garyville, La.; a $1 billion liquefied natural gas port near the mouth of the Mississippi River; and a number of residential, commercial and medical property developments earmarked for downtown New Orleans.

With the economic study, officials said they hoped to provide a benchmark for the recovery of the hurricane-impacted regions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

The full report is available at

Editor's Note: To learn more about Capital One Auto Finance's new president and what he sees for the future of the company, please stay tuned to SubPrime Auto Finance News.