development. This concept doesn’t get
discussed much around the dinner table, but it affects each and every one of us
in a multitude of ways. Precisely defined, economic development refers to the
sustained, concerted actions of policymakers and communities to improve the
standard of living and economic health of a specified area. Jobs, good schools
and health care, availability of quality food and merchandise, and reliable
infrastructure are all dependent upon these sound economic development principles.
"Most people get pretty excited when they hear about a favorite
restaurant being built near their neighborhood or a company moving into the
region that will create good jobs. However, they don’t really know about the
‘behind the scenes’ effort it takes to make that happen. We do, because we work
at it every day,” stated Bob Mitchell, BAHEP president.
BAHEP’s priorities during the recent 84th Texas legislative session
represented a microcosm of the organization’s economic development efforts
throughout the year. During the session, BAHEP worked with state legislators in
support of education and workforce development, the Texas recreation marine
industry job initiative, Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, storm surge
protection, transportation funding, the state franchise tax, the Spaceport
Development Corporation, the Spaceport Trust Fund Expansion, the Texas
Aerospace Scholars, the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program, and more.
"During the session, it was not unusual to be on the phone with one of our
representatives at any given hour of the day or night. We have great support in
Austin, and they know what’s important to our region,” Mitchell commented. Many
of BAHEP’s staff and members met with those legislators prior to and during the
session and provided important testimony before many committees in Austin to
support key initiatives.
There’s a stock phrase that pops up from
time to time. It goes something like, "Well, it’s great that you saved the
world and brought 1,000 jobs to the region, but what have you done for me
lately?” Economic development, it seems, is a 24/7/365 job.
Just during this quarter of 2015, the Citizens for Space Exploration
group, led by BAHEP, conducted a record 376 congressional office meetings in
Washington, D.C., in support of human space exploration. BAHEP’s Ellington
Field Task Force is continuing its collaboration with Ellington Field Joint
Reserve Base to retain as many jobs in Houston as possible. Showcasing the
opportunity for growth that Bay Area Houston offers, BAHEP hosted delegations
from The Netherlands, Germany and India, as well as site consultants who advise
client companies on their next expansion location.
The organization’s marketing team is currently working to bring 32
companies / projects to the region that include manufacturing, health care,
retail, mixed-use development and recreation. Through the Bay Area Houston
Advanced Technology Consortium, formed by BAHEP, military veterans, displaced
aerospace workers and other unemployed are receiving cyber security and
communications training through a Wagner-Peyser grant from the state of Texas.
While all of this activity falls under the classic definition of
economic development, people, in general, have a difficult time relating to how
this helps them on a personal level. It’s not easy to see the benefit of this
activity "at 30,000 feet” when you’re more concerned about paying the mortgage
and getting the kids ready for the start of a new school year.
In July 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the
Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12) which called on the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other agencies, to make a
number of changes to the way the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was
Key provisions of the legislation required the NFIP to raise rates to
reflect changing risk tolerances, make the program more financially stable, and
change how the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) updates impact policyholders.
Home insurance rates began to skyrocket. Home values were set to
decrease. Homes were becoming more difficult, if not impossible, to sell. BAHEP
met with local mayors, county, state and federal officials to formulate a plan.
It joined forces with a national coalition, because BW-12 would have
affected homeowners all across the country. In January 2014, BAHEP met with
others in Washington to state their case before Congress. In March 2014, the president signed H.R.
3370, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, into law,
repealing much of what was wrong with Biggert-Waters.
Locally, the repeal of BW-12 saved homeowners an average jump in flood
insurance premiums of $625 per household per year. Those who lived nearer water
have saved considerably more. Conservatively, but for BAHEP’s success,
homeowners in one of the organization’s member cities, Friendswood, would have paid
out almost $5 million more dollars to the National Flood Insurance Program each
year, in perpetuity!
An economic impact study, The Effect of
Changes in Flood Insurance Premiums on Economic Activity in a Sub-Region of
Harris County Precinct 2, was completed on the behalf of
Harris County and prepared by Norex Engineering and Quanticon, LLC. It analyzed the effect of BW‐12
on the constituents of Harris County. The following is a summary of the study’s
- Loss of real estate value - $270,269,940
- Loss of annual Ad Valorem Tax -
$5,829,712, includes $3,264,639 in school taxes
- Reduction in annual business volume -
$43,127,257, immediate loss - $12,249,147
- Annual reduction in personal income -
The BW-12 example makes economic
development very personal for a whole lot of people.
The hundreds and potentially thousands of dollars saved by individual
homeowners and businesses have surely made their way into retail and
entertainment venues throughout the region.
The taxes paid on purchases have benefitted BAHEP’s 14 member cities, as
well as cities across the country, making it very personal for them, too.
development. Sometimes the issues and the politics get interwoven and very
complicated. The bottom line is not complicated, however. It’s just people
helping people to live the best lives possible.