Hints of economic health do not always reveal themselves in obvious ways.

Take, for example, news last week about trends in Greater Waco that reflect conditions around the state and nation, much of it revealed during a meeting of several business leaders at First National Bank of Central Texas.

Hal Whitaker, chief financial officer for Waco-based Englander dZignPak, a maker of corrugated products, said business remains brisk for point-of-purchase displays it produces for major retailers. They represent 65 percent of Englander’s business, with corrugated boxes capturing the balance, Whitaker said during a discussion of the latest Greater Waco Economic Index findings by Amarillo-based economist Karr Ingham.

“Demand for our boxes and POPs is a leading economic indicator, and we see no slowdown,” Whitaker said.

Englander celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and has four locations serving the Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin-San Antonio and Waco markets, plus an operation in Bentonville, Arkansas, the hometown of Walmart.

The Englander website states the company and its 225 employees can fill orders for retail displays, packaging and signage, which means when products are sold, shipped and marketed, Englander gets involved.

Meanwhile, Jed Walker, with Waco-based Walker Partners, said his clients, both public and private, “are moving forward cautiously, but moving forward” in today’s economy, in which material and labor costs are surging in response to increased demand and almost full employment nationwide.

Walker Partners provides engineering and surveying services for communities wanting to build streets and for developers dreaming about new retailing power centers. The company, with locations in Austin, Killeen, Bryan-College Station and Waco, got involved in putting Baylor University’s McLane Stadium on the map.

So Jed Walker has his finger in a lot of pies and on the pulse of Central Texas.

Also, on the manufacturing front, a reminder that Caterpillar, the maker of heavy equipment used worldwide, announced in February it would close its Work Tools complex on Texas Central Parkway, eliminating about 200 jobs and contract positions. Local operations would shift to Wamego, Kansas.

The site includes buildings 128,000 and 74,000 square feet in size.

But sources have said privately that Caterpillar may find a new use for the buildings. Caterpillar officials have not made any announcement but have said discussions are underway regarding the plant’s future and suggested good news could soon appear on the horizon.

But, again, no official announcement has been made.

On the tourism front, Waco Pedal Tours is having a second vehicle built to haul tourists around downtown from its headquarters at Seventh Street and Washington Avenue. The company, launched in December 2017, makes available a 14-seat pedal-powered vehicle for $35 per person.

Z’s at the Curry

The old Curry Office Supply building at 611 Washington Ave. has a fresh look thanks to new owners Greg and Suzanna May. A store called Pretty in Pink Flamingo Boutique, operated by daughter Savannah May, opened this summer on the first floor.

A new bar upstairs set to open Tuesday, Z’s at the Curry, features a multi-piece back bar and a hulking main bar that Greg May retrieved from a former Old West saloon in Butte Falls, Oregon, dispatching a staffer there by plane and truck to carry out the task.

Check out the bar’s Facebook page to watch Greg May hopping aboard an industrial-sized forklift to hoist the furniture to the second story.

The entirety of the Curry building transformation “has taken a few years off my life,” Greg May said during a tour of the place Friday.

The Mays sought to preserve much of the old building’s architectural feel, even displaying the original “Curry” sign and framing it with backlighting.

The bar, lounge and patio will accommodate almost 150 people, and afford a grand view of downtown. It is near the McLennan County Courthouse, prompting the Mays to adopt legalese in naming their specialty drinks. Patrons may notice The Judge, The Jury and I Object on the list of offerings.

Greg May said he secured a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that will allow visitors to walk between Pretty in Pink Flamingo Boutique and Z’s at the Curry, drink in hand, enjoying the ambiance.

An opening at 7 p.m. Tuesday will introduce the building’s new fully formed operations.

Garrison Brothers Distillery, based in Hye, will host a whiskey tasting from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday as part of Z’s opening.

Gas prices

Gas prices continue to plunge, the charge for regular unleaded slipping a cent between Friday and Saturday to an average of $2.02 in Greater Waco. That compares with the national average of $2.42, according to gasbuddy.com.

The local price is down 6 cents from a week ago, 32 cents from a month ago and 15 cents from the same day last year, GasBuddy reported.

Murphy USA, Sam’s Club and Huggy Bear Food Mart were charging $1.93 a gallon for regular unleaded Saturday, the cheapest in the area.

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