BAHEP celebrates 40 years of working on behalf of the people of Bay Area Houston
An organization, no matter whether it’s a small business or an international conglomerate, is so much more than its Articles of Incorporation. Once founded, it evolves to become a reflection of its employees, of its Board of Directors or Trustees, and of the clients and communities it serves.
This evolution has been particularly evident for the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership (BAHEP), which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2016. Over the course of four decades, BAHEP has transitioned through four distinct phases. Its Formative Years encompassed 1976 – 1991. The next phase, Building the Foundation, occurred during 1992 – 2001. Regional Leadership followed from 2002 – 2008. Since 2009, BAHEP has been recognized for its Expanding Influence.
Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Mobility Study
From the very beginning, BAHEP has exemplified the words that Abraham Lincoln used in his famous Gettysburg Address. It has been an organization "of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Fittingly, since BAHEP was founded during America’s bicentennial, a look at BAHEP’s history will help to explain why this economic development organization has always been about the region’s people.
Formative Years 1976 – 1991
In late 1975 and early 1976, the Area Promotion Committee of the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce (later renamed the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce) worked on a proposal that would unknowingly have far-reaching, long-term effects. On Feb. 27, 1976, Herb Harman with Rockwell International, chairman of the committee, presented the proposal during a specially called Executive Committee meeting of the chamber.
The objective of the committee had been to consider the feasibility of creating, funding, and implementing an organized area advertising and public relations program on a continuous basis. The committee determined that the best course of action would be to establish an economic development foundation.
Gene Read of Charter Financial Group, the chairman of the chamber’s Trade Development/Area Promotion Division, stated that such a foundation "would be the most important project the chamber could implement as a lasting and beneficial vehicle for area advertising and promotion.”
Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting
The rest, as they say, is history. The charter meeting of the Clear Lake Economic Development Foundation, referred to generally as the Foundation, was held on Aug. 26, 1976. The name was later changed to the Clear Lake Area Economic Development Foundation, or CLAEDF, which was rebranded in 2003 as the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.
The by-laws and Articles of Incorporation of the Clear Lake Economic Development Foundation were filed with the Secretary of State and on Dec. 16, 1976, the Foundation became officially chartered. Although separately chartered, the Foundation was still very much a part of the chamber and would remain so for several more years.
The first meeting of the chamber’s Executive Committee in 1977 saw Jim Wyatt of Houston Lighting & Power Co. as the chamber’s president. At that time, the title of president referred to the volunteer position that led the Executive Committee. The staff member who supervised chamber activities was the executive director. Committee member Dr. Lou Rodriguez of the University of Houston at Clear Lake reported on the work of the Foundation explaining that "the first stage is organization of the Foundation, the second is the fund-raising, and the third is to involve the entire chamber Board of Directors into participation and support.”
The Foundation continued on this proposed course; however, as with many fledgling organizations, it took time to firmly establish its roots in the soil of the Clear Lake region. That changed in the early to mid-1980s. After the downturn of the oil industry, business leaders were concerned that if the aerospace industry suffered a similar fate, the region would be crippled. With a desire to protect the local aerospace industry, while diversifying the business base to include other industries, community leaders began an initiative to create a more traditional, free-standing economic development organization separate from the chamber.
Dr. Thomas M. Stauffer
|In a letter dated Aug. 3, 1983, to the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce from Dr. Thomas M. Stauffer, chancellor at the University of Houston Clear Lake City (1982-1991), later renamed University of Houston-Clear Lake, Stauffer stated, "The Clear Lake Economic Development Foundation should be re-established with the express purpose of promoting advanced technological, general economic, and infrastructure development of the area.” The letter continued, "The University of Houston – Clear Lake is willing to play its part, along with local business leadership, in supporting this venture. We are willing to contribute manpower, space, and project funds over the next twelve months.” |
With this new wind filling its sails, CLAEDF began to build momentum, and, in January 1985, the organization hired its first executive director, Stephen L. Sandstedt. Bob Scott, president of Interfirst Bank / Nassau Bay and CLAEDF president in 1985, had a vision for the future of Clear Lake, and that vision turned out to be prophetic. He said, "The medical niche is an obvious direction for us to pursue. We’re surrounded by excellent medical facilities in the cities of Houston and Galveston, and two fine local hospitals; therefore, the medical industry would be a natural tie for the Clear Lake area.”
In March 1985, CLAEDF moved to its new offices at 2525 Bay Area Blvd., One Corporate Plaza, which was to be its home for more than 20 years – 20 very eventful years.
During the latter formative years, notable initiatives took place, which were precursors to substantial economic development in the region. The Clear Lake Area Aerospace Task Force was established by the Foundation to facilitate communication between NASA Johnson Space Center and the aerospace contractors. A successful grassroots campaign was organized to rally the entire community and the Texas congressional delegation to re-evaluate the transfer of NASA work packages out of state. This resulted in the space station contract bidders recognizing the need to allocate significant portions of that work to the Clear Lake area.
CLAEDF also organized a technology transfer mechanism between the petrochemical and aerospace communities. The purpose was to identify significant technologies that could be shared by both industrial sectors and then facilitate the exchange of information and ideas.
Excellent leadership succession continued within CLAEDF between 1985 and 1992. Larry Griffin, a retired Air Force colonel, succeeded Sandstedt as executive director in August 1988. Roy Pezoldt took the reins in June 1990 as president and director of CLAEDF. Pezoldt had retired in May 1990 from Friendswood Development Co. after 34 years of service where he was vice president and project manager for Clear Lake City and Bayport. He had an extensive network of contacts in the area and was known as "Mr. Clear Lake” for many years. Pezoldt served as president until June 1992.
CLAEDF / BAHEP Leadership 1985 - Present
January 1985 —
August 1988 —
June 1990 — June 1992
July 1992 —
January 2008 — Present
Building the Foundation 1992 – 2001
July 1992 marked the beginning of a new era for CLAEDF when Jim Reinhartsen became president, a position he held through December 2007. Before joining CLAEDF, he was the general manager of the Grumman Houston Corp., a subsidiary of Grumman Aerospace, where he had worked since 1963. He had served on the CLAEDF board since October 1990. Then CLAEDF Chairman Fred Griffin, long-time Houston developer, noted that Reinhartsen knew many of the smaller petrochemical manufacturers in the area and had the "experience and contacts to help broaden the foundation’s base.”
In the years following Reinhartsen’s arrival, the Foundation:
· Formed Ellington Field Task Force to focus economic efforts on Ellington Field and the aviation industry in the greater Clear Lake area.
· Initiated a new, collaborative venture with the University of Texas Medical Branch so that UTMB, NASA and the Clear Lake business community could benefit from each other.
· Created the SAVE JSC Campaign which retained 7,000 engineering jobs that NASA headquarters had slated to move out of the community. These jobs had a total economic impact of $700 million on the local region.
· Worked through its Aerospace Advisory Council and Keep it Sold Task Force to advocate full funding for the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station.
· Participated in the development of over 90 projects in 1996, 11 of which were wins with an economic impact of $39.5 million. The biggest achievement of the year was the increased diversification of the economy. All 11 of the wins were non-aerospace from worldwide shipping to telecommunications to manufacturing and four were international.
In 1998, the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP) was also created. SATOP is a service designed to provide the private sector, and especially small businesses, with free, rapid technical assistance and the transfer of space technology. Over 3,000 requests have been processed since the program’s inception, and more than 2,500 solutions have been provided to businesses.
Additionally under Reinhartsen’s leadership, CLAEDF’s first five-year strategic plan was developed during 2001 with input from 25 separate focus groups and over 300 individuals.
New Name, New Brand
Regional Leadership 2002 – 2008
On May 14, 2003, the Clear Lake Area Economic Development Foundation officially changed course with the unveiling of its new name – the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership (BAHEP). "As much as we would like to be called Clear Lake, most people don’t have a clue where Clear Lake is,” said Reinhartsen. The designation "Bay Area Houston” would leave little doubt as to location. It was felt that the new identity would help target industries outside of the Houston/Galveston area to instantly recognize the region and consider it for the future of their businesses. The name change set the stage for the region and BAHEP to take its place on the global map.
The ink was barely dry on the name change paperwork when BAHEP prepared a business plan that included the recruitment of military and compatible commercial businesses to Ellington Field. BAHEP’s Ellington Field Task Force, formed in 1993, had been working to expand to military presence at Ellington Field which successfully resulted in Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison brokering a deal with the Department of Defense to move 2,300 Army, Navy and Marine Corps Reserve troops from a location near the Texas Medical Center to Ellington.
During 2004, BAHEP also collaborated with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to ensure that NASA Johnson Space Center, always a high priority for the organization, would continue to be the home of future human space flight programs.
BAHEP continued to expand its reach regionally by playing a pivotal role in two major expansion projects in 2004: Kuraray announced a $150 million expansion project in Pasadena, and Kaneka broke ground on a new plant in Bayport.
In 2013, BAHEP President Bob Mitchell, second from right,
participated in a ground breaking ceremony for the
KURARAY POVAL™ plant located in Pasadena, Texas.
The following year, Ellington Field Task Force concluded two years of hard work so that Ellington Field would retain the F-16 aircraft until at least 2007. Ellington Field would be receiving the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle command program bringing in an estimated 400 jobs.
Additionally in 2005, BAHEP’s Citizens for Space Exploration (formerly National Keep it Sold) took 100 travelers to Washington, D.C., where they met with congressional offices. The group participated in the defeat of an amendment proposed to cut $200 million from NASA’s exploration budget. Congress later overwhelmingly approved NASA’s 2006 budget.
Much like raising children, in economic development it sometimes takes years to see the fruits of one’s labor. This was the case with Project Lifesaver, a prospect that BAHEP began working in late 2007 when BAHEP arranged a tour of the old Coast Guard facility with Congressman Nick Lampson. That successful first meeting led to a relocation feasibility study and mandatory alternative site evaluation. After besting locations from New Orleans to Corpus Christi, the successful winning location was announced at Ellington on Aug. 12, 2011. The final product, the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston building, was completed in early 2013. The building is four stories tall, contains 117,000 square feet and cost approximately $55 million. The building houses a 24-hour operational work-force of approximately 300 who assist the Coast Guard and port partners in response efforts throughout Texas and southwest Louisiana.
Bob Mitchell joined the organization in June 2001 to oversee the statewide implementation of the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP). Key elements of Mitchell’s work experience were gained during 15 years as an executive for Grumman Aerospace Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, where he directed all production, engineering and material operations for the Houston facility.
Due to his leadership and highly successful program management with SATOP, Mitchell was increasingly asked in 2006 to represent Reinhartsen in many initiatives and social functions. In 2007 he was assigned responsibility for BAHEP’s day-to-day operations, and, in the fall of that year, was named president-elect of BAHEP. He assumed the presidency on Jan. 1, 2008.
Mayors Press Conference Following Hurricane Ike
That year proved to be a watershed moment for BAHEP, literally and figuratively, when Hurricane Ike caused widespread devastation on Sept. 13, 2008. BAHEP took immediate action to assist member cities in recovery efforts. With the assistance of Griffin Communications Group, BAHEP called a Mayors Press Conference where mayors of BAHEP’s member cities and other officials, in a televised event, were able to inform citizens of the status of each city. BAHEP also worked closely with FEMA to arrange briefings for local government officials and affected citizens. BAHEP assisted its member cities in applying for EDA grants and hosted a meeting between Bay Area Houston mayors, regional leaders and FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison, as well.
Following Hurricane Ike in September 2008, BAHEP facilitated a meeting
between Bay Area Houston mayors and regional leaders and
FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison.
Hurricane Ike changed the landscape of the region and also the way in which people would look at protection from future storms. It also redefined BAHEP’s role in regional leadership to encompass much more than marketing the area to primary businesses.
Expanding Influence 2009 – Present
BAHEP’s International Maritime Advisory Committee (IMAC) was formed in 2008 to support, advise, and advocate on matters relating to the region’s maritime industry, ports, and supporting intermodal transportation infrastructure and to review and make recommendations on strategic and policy level decisions.
BAHEP, through IMAC, led the formation of the Bay Area Coastal Protection Alliance, a coalition providing leadership to advance storm surge protection models to protect the region from devastating hurricanes. One such model, termed the Ike Dike concept or coastal spine, was proposed by Dr. William Merrell of Texas A&M University at Galveston.
BAHEP has engaged with Merrell and others at TAMUG to give numerous presentations to organizations throughout the region on the absolute necessity for a storm surge protection system for the upper Texas Gulf Coast. As of mid 2016, approximately 50 cities and organizations have passed resolutions in support of a coastal spine, including the Harris County Mayors’ and Councils’ Association and the East Harris County Manufacturers Association, a professional organization that includes more than 130 manufacturing companies.
Additionally, IMAC collaborated with the Port of Houston Authority Maritime Academy Curriculum Committee to develop a high school maritime curriculum for Pasadena Independent School District. IMAC later facilitated the development of maritime education curricula for additional school districts and area community colleges.
On Feb. 19, 2015, Harold Whitaker, president of the Galveston County Consolidated Drainage
District (GCCDD) Board of Directors, presented a check in the amount of $150,000 to the Bay Area Coastal
Protection Alliance (BACPA) to further the studies and research needed to find a solution for storm surge protection
for the Houston region. In 2016, the GCCDD presented BACPA with an additional $100,000!
BAHEP continued to expand its sphere of influence by coordinating several meetings with Sen. John Cornyn and Congressman Pete Olson and Bay Area Houston aerospace executives in order for them to express their concerns about the future of the nation’s human space flight program. The organization led 29 initiatives related to the Augustine Committee that was commissioned by President Obama to make recommendations on the future of human space flight. This included a national letter writing campaign.
When the FY 2011 federal budget virtually eliminated NASA’s Constellation Program, BAHEP exhibited leadership on a national scale. Its activities included: 34 speaking engagements, four trips to Washington, 111 appearances in print and electronic media, 57 interviews on broadcast media, the creation of 15 documents, sending outreach letters to 60 economic development organizations and chambers across America, a weekly conference call for 29 consecutive weeks with federal elected officials and the Mayor of Houston’s office to develop a strategy and maintain a consistent message. BAHEP’s GoBoldly campaign sent almost 62,000 letters from 50 states and a dozen countries to congressional representatives and the administration in support of NASA’s human space flight exploration program.
The following year, in 2011, BAHEP worked in conjunction with NASA contractors and Workforce Solutions to organize the Aerospace Transition Center to meet the challenges created by the retirement of the space shuttles and cancellation of the Constellation Program. BAHEP also conducted four events with Rice University focusing on workforce retention for the region, entrepreneurship, and charting pathways forward which could springboard from the space program.
Subsequent years saw BAHEP continuing and accelerating work with the Association of Chemical Industry of Texas, the Port of Houston Authority and the Houston Airport System. Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the Houston Airport System asked BAHEP to host the Houston Pavilion at Norway’s Offshore North Sea Conference in 2012.
That same year also presented BAHEP an amazing opportunity to facilitate a relationship between the medical, oil & gas and aerospace industries. Early in 2012, BAHEP invited Dr. Alan Lumsden, medical director of the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center at the Methodist Hospital, to address regional aerospace leaders about Pumps & Pipes, a one-of-a-kind collaborative between medicine and oil & gas, two of Houston’s largest industries. This initiative is designed to explore crossover ideas and technologies with the potential to revolutionize key sectors of the local economy.
Subsequently, BAHEP members visited the Heart & Vascular Center to learn more about Pumps & Pipes and to tour the facility, which included viewing a live open heart surgery. As a result, the Pumps & Pipes organization invited Houston’s aerospace industry to join this collaborative effort. The aerospace community’s participation in Pumps & Pipes is paying dividends to the Bay Area Houston region as new innovative product designs and business initiatives are created. The previous two-legged stool, comprised only of medicine and oil & gas, became a stable, three-legged stool with the inclusion of the local aerospace industry with its 3,100 federal employees and 11,000 private sector employees!
Dr. Ellen Ochoa, director, NASA Johnson Space Center, speaks during a
Pumps & Pipes event held at the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Lab.
BAHEP provided national leadership during the 2013 crisis when the federal government entered a shutdown from Oct. 1-16 and curtailed most routine operations. As a result of this, NASA JSC closed except for 100 federal and a very limited number of contractor employees needed to support the space station. BAHEP quickly called a meeting of aerospace executives to determine a common message to disseminate to the media. BAHEP developed a white paper that was seen across the nation and referenced by Aviation Week and USA Today, and, fortunately, the government shutdown ended soon thereafter.
Water continued to play a major role in BAHEP’s work. Many, many people in the region were justifiably concerned over the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Act of 2012. A study commissioned by Harris County found that changes in flood insurance premiums on economic activity in the study area would result in the loss of real estate value in excess of $270,000,000, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. In August 2013, BAHEP hosted over 50 representatives from cities within Brazoria, Harris and Galveston counties for an urgent discussion about actions that needed to be taken. BAHEP continued collaboration with national organizations and had on-going discussions with elected officials at all levels of government. In March 2014, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 was signed into law, making significant changes reversing BW-12, which was a major win not only for BAHEP and the region but also for the nation.
BAHEP’s large conference room was filled over capacity to accommodate more
than 50 representatives from cities within Brazoria, Galveston and Harris counties
for an urgent discussion about the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Act of 2012.
BAHEP was a vital participant in initial developmental meetings regarding the inaugural SpaceCom Conference that was held at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center in November 2015 and continued to be engaged throughout the process. The hugely successful event hosted 1,700 attendees from 23 countries and 37 states and featured 100 exhibitors.
In June 2015, the Houston Airport System was awarded a license from the Federal Aviation Administration, making Ellington Airport the 10th commercial spaceport in the United States and one of two such spaceports in the state of Texas. The license makes Ellington Airport a potential launch and landing site for suborbital, reusable launch vehicles.
Committed partners to the program include the Houston Airport System, NASA, the Sierra Nevada Corp., the City of Houston, Rice Space Institute, Texas A&M Aerospace Technology, University of Houston College of Architecture, U.K.-based Catapult Satellite Applications, and Intuitive Machines, as well as Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. BAHEP assisted the Houston Airport System in the early planning and future implementation of its Houston Spaceport development plan.
Conceptual artwork of Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport
The Houston Airport System was also awarded a $3.1 million Texas Military Preparedness Commission Defense Economic Assistance Adjustment Grant (DEAAG) to assist in building a new air traffic control tower at Ellington Airport. The grant, plus matching funds from the City of Houston and the Federal Aviation Administration, provides the $7.1 million needed to complete construction of the control tower.
Six hundred years ago Geoffrey Chaucer wrote, "Time and tide wait for no man.” Neither does economic development. BAHEP is expanding its influence regionally, across Texas, nationally and internationally by working on tourism and transportation; the impact of the 2016 Water Resources Development Act on Texas ports; providing the leadership to support a fully-funded NASA budget; hosting international trade delegations; monitoring the Biggert-Waters flood insurance program, which is due for congressional reauthorization in 2017; and storm surge protection for the upper Texas Gulf Coast.
The maritime industry is a huge economic driver
for the Bay Area Houston region.
Austin Legislative Trip 2013
BAHEP will also continue its advocacy efforts in regard to education and workforce development. Since 2009, members of BAHEP, the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and industry partners have traveled to Austin during each meeting of the Texas legislature to advocate for economic development priorities. The priorities, contained in a legislative agenda which BAHEP prepares several months in advance of the session, cover a wide range of important topics. For the 84th Legislative Session in 2015, those topics included education, commercial space, transportation, small business needs, storm surge protection, maritime jobs, and Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base.
The Clear Lake Area Economic Development Foundation was just an inspiration, a proposal from the Area Promotion Committee of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce 40 years ago. The initiative took flight, at first slowly, until the mid 1980s when support from "the people” affirmed the purpose and the future of the organization. Now, the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership has become a standard of economic development in action.
BAHEP President Bob Mitchell explained, "The entire BAHEP team does many things very well. Our pursuit of economic development opportunities to recruit, retain, expand and create businesses and to build new industry clusters has been outstanding. But, I think where BAHEP’s legacy will rest is in its ability to bring people to the table to accomplish things many thought impossible. We have acted as a facilitator countless times among elected officials, individuals, groups, and organizations.
"We’ve been very successful, but none of it would ever have been possible without the people who have made BAHEP what it is today. Our chairmen, boards and past presidents, our members, staff, the community, our founders from the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce – they are all a part of the history and the future of this remarkable organization.”