Warmly receptive. Those two words aptly describe the atmosphere in the Atlantis Ballroom of the Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake on an additionally warm June afternoon when Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner presented an update on the City of Houston to a sizeable luncheon gathering of the members of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership.
Houston Council Member Dave Martin (District E) introduced the mayor and noted some major accomplishments during the mayor’s 17-month tenure, including the signing of Houston’s pension reform bill into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in May. Turner previously stated that the bill had to pass to prevent an additional $134 million from being added to the city’s expected Fiscal Year 2018 budget shortfall of $120 million. Up to 2,200 city employees, including police officers and firefighters, would face being laid off if the bill didn’t pass, the mayor had stated.
Martin also reported that Turner landed the World Petroleum Congress convention in 2020, which hasn’t been held in the United States for over 30 years. He said that Turner flew over to Bahrain, gave a 15-20 minute speech, got back on the plane and flew back to Houston. "That’s leadership, and that’s dedication,” Martin declared.
When Turner took the podium, he spoke of the pension bill saying, "Quite frankly, the pension deal is major not just for the City of Houston but for the region. When you’re facing $8.2 billion of unfunded liability, and it’s costing you one million dollars a day, you can’t have a strong region if the core is not strong. I want to thank the employees of the City of Houston for agreeing to reduce their future retirement benefits by $2.8 billion. It’s not easy, and you’re not going to please everybody, but you can’t engage in shared sacrifice without somebody giving up something.”
Emphasized vibrancy of region
The mayor spoke about more than the "city proper.” He stressed throughout his speech the importance of all of the surrounding communities and their respective organizations working together to achieve greatness.
Turner spoke glowingly of the Bay Area Houston region noting its economic strength. He said, "BAHEP covers a vibrant region of 13 communities, spanning across two counties – not just Houston. The economy of the Houston region does not stop at city borders.
"Houston’s Bay Area is rich with business activity with a leading presence in numerous sectors that are at the core of Houston’s economic wellbeing: aerospace, specialty chemical, healthcare/life sciences, maritime and recreation and tourism.
"With the petrochemical corridor at one end, with the tourism facilities of Galveston at another, and new medical and aerospace corridors arising in its center, Bay Area Houston is one of the bright spots of the Houston region.”
The mayor also spoke of BAHEP’s impact saying, "BAHEP is a regional champion and has all of our backs. From smart business programs to policy advocacy, to long-term thinking and strategy positioning the region for future success, safety and economic sustainability, we are proud and grateful for the work they do.”
Houston region’s economy thriving
Turner made note of the amazing growth experienced in Houston during the past couple of years. He reported that Houston is doing so well, in fact, that fDi magazine named Houston one of the top three American Cities of the Future. To the delight of the audience, he also reported, "About two to three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times stated that New York City is in Houston’s rearview mirror.”
The main drivers of Houston’s economy are energy, the ports, real estate, and medicine, which are all moving in a positive direction. If Houston were a national economy, Turner said, it would be the 23rd largest in the world. He added, "In a time of some global uncertainty, our trade numbers are improving. In the first quarter of 2017, our trade numbers grew by over 21.1 percent of the previous year. Mexico, China, Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Colombia are our top 10 trading partners, accounting for 51.4 percent of our total trade, which was over $162 billion in 2016.”
Population and jobs have seen major growth, as well, with over 390,000 people moving to Houston in the last four years. "And Houston, already home to about 3 million jobs, is not done creating more,” the mayor assured. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, 18,700 jobs were created last April, representing one of the best Aprils in the past 35 years, he said.
Aerospace and aviation connect Houston to world
Turner spoke of the significance of aerospace and aviation to the Houston region stating, "At the end of the day, Houston can achieve broadly in a number of fields, but we are only as successful as our ability to connect to the rest of the country and the world. Houston is particularly blessed in this regard to have strategically grown our air connectivity around the world and by our three airports, two of which rest within the Bay Area Houston region.”
Nearly 13 million passengers passed through William P. Hobby Airport in 2016 – a 45 percent increase in last decade. International flights added more than 800,000 passengers in 2016, according to Turner. Significantly, Hobby was awarded a four-star rating by Skytrax making it one of just three airports in the nation with a four-star rating.
A new, five-gate international concourse opened at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in October 2015 along with a 3,000-space parking garage to accommodate the increased passenger load.
The mayor also spoke ofEllington Airport, which has also shown amazing growth as it celebrates its 100th anniversary. Ground was recently broken for a new, state-of-the-art air traffic control tower, and Lone Star Flight Museum is scheduled to open on Sept. 1. Two years ago, Ellington became the tenth licensed commercial spaceport in the nation. It has 53,000 square feet of foot general office and a manufacturing high bay facility to house aerospace tenants, Turner stated.
He also noted that the Smithsonian Affiliate Museum at Space Center Houston has been able to generate over 925 jobs and $36 million in personal income for greater Houston.
Must partner together
Turner concluded his remarks stating, "Houston benefits when all sectors of the city benefit. Time is out for being territorial. Houston and the region are competing against other cities across the globe. If we are to compete and do well, as a region, we have to partner together to put forth our best presentation. That’s why we were successful in Bahrain. "The City of Houston is a partner with all of the mayors in our region, recognizing that all of our assets must be marketed, protected, and enhanced. The cities around the globe will look at Houston as a destination point. I promise you that if we work as a team, then New York City stays in our rearview mirror.”
City of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner delivers a well-received lunchtime
address to members of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership at
the Hilton Houston NASA Clear Lake. (Photo courtesy of Guidry News Service)
Mayor Sylvester Turner shares a laugh and a handshake with Wayne Sabo, city manager,
City of Webster, with William T. Harris, president/CEO, Space Center Houston, joining
in the fun.