POSTED: Monday, April 29, 2013 - 9:18pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 5:46pm
El Paso, TEXAS (KTSM) — If you haven’t noticed the change, take a look around and you’ll find new buildings, new restaurants and eventually a new ballpark.
There’s one man who's arguably had his hand in most of it.
"The allure to me is that it was a small enough city that I could do some things here that would make a difference," said Paul Foster with Western Refining.
Foster ranked number 408 on the Forbe's billionaire list of the country's richest people. He’s probably best known as the founder of Western Refining in El Paso.
"Do my part and to the extent that I can and improve the city," said Foster.
Foster is from small town Lovington, New Mexico and grew up in the middle of the oil boom.
"My parents weren't poor but we weren't wealthy,” said Foster.
He had plenty of odd jobs as a kid such as a paper boy, grocery bagger and eventually got his start in oil.
"Whether I was laying pipe, or painting tanks or digging ditches or whatever but that was the best job you could get," said Foster.
Foster moved to El Paso in the early 90's and worked for El Paso Refinery, until it went bankrupt. He then got a job in Dallas working for the bank handling that foreclosure. Eventually he left to start his own financial firm in Dallas and eventually bought out the El Paso Refinery bringing him back to the borderland. The El Paso Refinery would eventually be part of the a two-part acquisition, eventually to become Western Refinery.
"They have almost no turn over in any if the businesses I'm involved in because people here want to stay and so I've just enjoyed El Paso," said Foster.
Foster did have his share of bumps in the road. Not everyone was excited to have an oil refinery in their backyard, including the Mayor of El Paso at the time.
"He took his hand back. He would not shake my hand and he walked away and I was like I have some work to do," said Foster.
It's the work and commitment to a cause that's kept him here, he says.
Like renovating historic downtown and helping bring Triple A baseball here.
“I just decided that i was going to concentrate some of my efforts to identifying a part of downtown and doing what I could to redevelop it and improve it," said Foster.
There’s also projects outside of downtown like the Fountains at Farah off I-10.
“The interactive fountains are gonna be where we're gonna have an amphitheater, a lawn for seating to watch concerts," said Contractor Todd McCoy with Centergy.
When completed the project will be one of only a few power lifestyle shopping center.
"Its definitely not anything El Paso's ever had so we think we'll have success there," said Foster.
While the main opening is scheduled for July, some of the stores will open in time for back to school.
Education is another cause close to Foster’s heart.
"To make education available, good quality education to more children from kinder garden to college," said Foster.
Dr. Diana Natalicio, UTEP President, says she admires Paul Foster for his generosity and compassion for higher education.
"He has been just a wonderful partner in his commitment to higher education," said Natalicio.
Foster and Jeff Stevens donated a basketball facility to UTEP, aptly named after the two Western Refining Businessmen. Foster also sits on the UT system board of regents.
"He gives his time, he gives his best thinking and he gives his financial resources. And I think he's unmatched in the way that he does that and so I've always thought so highly of him because he does put his money where his mouth is," said Natalicio.
His donation to education, specifically his $50M gift to the Texas Tech Medical school, now called the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, is unmatched.
"We think that this could be a center for research," said Foster."Having residencies and developing programs to keep doctors here."
El Paso is where Foster plans to stay. He met his wife here,originally from Juarez and loves the border culture.
"The spirit of the people, the energy here,” said Foster.
While many may wonder why, but he plans to continue to foster our future.
"I enjoy what I do. And I think that when it gets to a point to where you don't enjoy it, take a hard look at whether you need to keep doing it," said Foster.