Article by: Taylor Tompkins
But the idea captured by the miniature walls is a Texas-sized proposal in response to a uniquely Texas bill.
The model is the Shiner business' proposal for a more than 46,000-square-foot incarnation of the Texas Bullion Depository. The depository is a product of House Bill 483, which introduced a public-private partnership for the only state-owned depository for precious metals such as silver and gold.
"This is a facility that's got to be for Texans by Texans in Texas," said Tarek Saab, chief operating officer of Texas Precious Metals.
If Texas Precious Metals is awarded the contract for the depository, it would be an economic boon for the city and county as well as the company.
"This company - We've been around since 1898," Jason Kaspar, chief executive officer of Texas Precious Metals, said of the parent company, Kaspar Companies. "I'm fifth-generation. I think (getting the contract) will solidify us as a company for another 100 years."
There would be at least 50 new jobs and a new property tax source if the Texas Precious Metals proposal was chosen and the depository built in Shiner.
The state depository is the brainchild of state Representative Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, whose original bill didn't pass in the 2013 session.
Capriglione said Friday companies from as far as Asia and Switzerland have expressed an interest in moving their gold to Texas once the depository is built.
Texas is "just situated absolutely perfectly to be a commodity trading center," Capriglione said, and the bullion depository is the first step.
More than a dozen companies, including Texas Precious Metals, responded to a request for information issued by the Texas Comptroller's office in fall.
The request for proposals is currently being drafted, according to the office's spokesperson, Chris Bryan.
Texas Precious Metals, one of seven businesses owned by parent Kaspar Companies, is ready to roll out its idea for a $20 million depository site complete with reinforced concrete walls, a retaining wall surrounding the perimeter of the property and decorative windows mounted on concrete.
The company is offering a one-stop shop for the buying, selling, managing, shipping and storage of precious metals in their proposal.
State Senator Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said she envisioned a way to get Texas' private citizens and public institutions to store their gold in their home state when she sponsored the bill.
"I'm interested in the physical storage of gold," Kolkhorst said. "There are some interested in the physical monetization. My goal here is, at a simple approach, that I want physically to know that if I have gold and I wanted to go see it, I could."
In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars in gold stored in New York by public institutions, the depository would hold the metals of private citizens, whose portfolios are increasingly including gold, Kolkhorst said.
The depository is good for gold owners because their metal is insured and more secure than in a safe at home, said Trenton Nichols, general counsel for Kaspar Companies.
And Kolkhorst wants that protection for gold and silver owners.
"I'm a very practical, methodical person," Kolkhorst said. "I want to see Fort Knox built in a way - a modern Fort Knox."
Biometric scans of retinas and fingers as well as keycards, audio alarms, door and window sensors, stationary panic buttons and surveillance cameras are all outlined for use in the company's plan.
Their version of a fortified facility wouldn't have to be located in Shiner, the company leaders said, but there are benefits of building the 10-acre project close to home.
"One of the benefits of Shiner versus another location is the land," Kaspar said. "Obviously, we already own the land here. Shiner is a good location because you're an hour and a half from the Austin airport, hour and a half from San Antonio. You're about two hours from the Houston airport. You're in the middle of everywhere, centralized."
Owning the land would help to keep costs of the project down, they said, which is important in a project that will only be regulated by the government, not subsidized.
An international company has expressed interest in the project, saying it wouldn't have to build a new location for the depository.
But Saab said that goes against the legislation.
"What is the purpose of making legislation for the construction of a Texas Bullion Depository if the state of Texas is just going to have an account at Brinks?" Saab said. "It seems to defeat the purpose."
While one depository in a central location was what Capriglione said he envisioned when he wrote the bill, he's open to the idea of multiple locations.
But whether or not a life-sized version of the Texas Precious Metals model will ever be built is a decision for the comptroller's office.
Because this depository is the first of its kind, there is no public timeline for the proposal and decision process, Bryan said.
"We're literally asking folks to trust us with their treasure," Bryan said. "We've taken the attitude of measure twice, cut once in this undertaking."
Texas Precious Metals would be willing to start the project as soon as possible if it is chosen and estimate the depository would take about 18 months to build, Kaspar said.
As for Capriglione, he's watching and waiting, just like the rest of Texas.
"I'm just anxiously awaiting opening day," he said.