A building permit has been issued to convert the former the Johnny Carino’s building at 1411 N. Valley Mills Drive into an emergency medical facility called Express ER. It will have a staff of about 25 people, including nurses, technicians and doctors with experience in emergency treatment, spokesman Dr. Dan Akers said.

The permit issued by the city of Waco places the value of the renovation at $1 million, and Akers said he expects the emergency room to open by June 1.

“We are opening this one and another in Harker Heights simultaneously, giving us four in the state, including others in Temple and San Antonio. We’re opening in Georgetown and Austin later this year,” Akers said. “All locations are physician-owned, meaning a faceless corporation is not calling the shots.”

He said partners in the Valley Mills Drive location include three physicians from Waco and another from Austin, and most of them completed their emergency residency training at Scott & White Medical Center in Temple. Akers said he previously owned the Central Texas Urgent Care facility on Hewitt Drive but no longer is associated with it.

Express ER will operate 24/7 and will have the capability to receive patients who otherwise would visit hospital-affiliated emergency rooms.

“We can handle stroke and heart-attack victims,” Akers said. “If there is a need to transfer patients to a local hospital, that will be done.”

He said the partners chose the location on Valley Mills Drive because of its central location and the volume of traffic on the roadway. Other privately operated emergency facilities owned by Premier ER & Urgent Care have opened in Woodway and near University Parks Drive on northbound Interstate 35.

“We’re kind of between those other ER sites because we did not want to build right on top of the others,” Akers said.

Vivian Griffith, an accountant at Hoppenstein Properties, which owns the old Johnny Carino’s site, said Express ER has signed a lease through 2027.

Johnny Carino’s opened in 1997 and closed in July in the wake of a bankruptcy filing by Austin-based Fired Up Inc., the operator of 84 Carino’s locations.

KFC renovations

Fans of KFC, better known to many as Kentucky Fried Chicken, may have noticed the Waco location at Lake Air and Valley Mills drives and the Lacy Lakeview location at 1133 North Loop Drive are undergoing interior and exterior work. The projects could wrap up by the middle of this week.

“We’re making them look better, with painting, new signage, new awnings, new lights outside, new countertops and new drink stations,” said John Young, project superintendent for Summit Properties of Atlanta, Georgia, which is overseeing both projects for Lendlease Group, which is based in Sydney, Australia.

Young said both KFC locations locally are owned by KBP Foods, which is among the largest franchisees of Yum! Brands in the world. Yum! is a Fortune 500 corporation based in Louisville, Kentucky, that operates the licensed brands Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and WingStreet, according to the Yum! website.

Young said he could not discuss how much KBP Foods is spending on the renovations, and the cities of Waco and Lacy Lakeview said their permits do not include estimates.

U-Haul ranks Texas No. 1 for growth

U-Haul has announced Texas was the No. 1 growth state in the nation during 2016.

“That makes for quite a turnaround from 2015, when Texas was a net-loss state and ranked No. 39 on this list,” U-Haul announced in a press release. “The year-over-year arrival of one-way U-Haul truck rentals rose 4 percent last year in Texas, while departures held steady. . . . Migration trends data is compiled from more than 1.7 million one-way U-Haul truck rental transactions that occur annually.

“While migration trends do not correlate directly to population or economic growth, U-Haul growth data is an effective gauge of how well states are attracting and maintaining residents. Arrivals outpaced departures 50.8 to 49.2 percent in Texas last year thanks to locations such as Austin, the No. 2 U.S. growth city in the 50,000-plus population category behind Madison, Wisconsin.”

The press release states the cities of Granbury, McKinney, Richardson, Temple, New Braunfels, Dallas and College Station also experienced increases in arrivals last year.

“Everything in Texas is growing exponentially,” Zane Rowland, U-Haul Company of North East Dallas president, said in the press release. “Our Market is strong. Lots of major companies are moving to Texas because of the tax breaks. Between the low cost of living, the abundance of job opportunities and the ability to start a business, many people want to move to Texas.”

The ranking shows the effect of the state’s business-friendly policies, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in the press release.

“I am proud that Texas continues to be the state of choice for those looking for expanded economic opportunities,” Abbott wrote. “In the Lone Star State, we recognized that increased regulations and higher taxes are barriers to success for businesses, individuals and families.”

Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Missouri round out the top-five growth states on U-Haul’s list, and Illinois, California, Michigan, Georgia and Arizona came in at 50th through 45th.

Whataburger Buffalo Sauce at H-E-B

San Antonio-based H-E-B, the dominant grocery-store chain in Waco, continues to provide shelf space to another Texas-born favorite, Whataburger.

H-E-B and Whataburger have announced they are rolling out 40-ounce bottles of Buffalo Sauce, Fancy Ketchup and Spicy Ketchup at H-E-B stores, “offering customers a new flavor and two long-time fan favorites in a new size,” according to a press release Whataburger sent out last week.

Buffalo Sauce is found on Whataburger’s Buffalo Ranch Chicken Strip Sandwich.

“At Whataburger, we believe in serving great food that’s full of flavor,” Whataburger Vice President of retail Mike Sobel said in the press release. “We love hearing from fans about their favorite menu items and signature sauce pairings and we’re happy to expand our lineup of sauces at H-E-B to help satisfy their cravings.”

H-E-B in years past has collaborated to sell Whataburger-branded mayonnaise, mustard and Whatafries, according to the H-E-B website.

2 Waco companies get $333,554 grant for workforce training

The Texas Workforce Commission has awarded a $333,554 Skills Development Fund grant to two Waco companies for use in training 175 employees.

One of the recipients is Englander dZignPak, which celebrates 50 years in Waco in April and specializes in producing signs, retail displays and packaging. The other is Capstone Mechanical, which provides commercial clients with engineering, plumbing, heating and ventilation services.

Texas State Technical College Provost Adam Hutchison said TSTC will provide the training made possible by the grant.

Englander dZignPak President and CEO Hal Whitaker said the money will help the company improve employees’ safety skills. Capstone President Rick Tullis said receiving the grant allows the company to invest in improving the skills of its labor force, which includes several TSTC graduates.

The Texas Workforce Commission’s Skills Development Fund was created in 1996 and has helped more than 4,200 Texas employers train more than 340,000 workers.

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