Economic Development in the Houston Bay Area
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Legislators take fact-finding tour of the Bay Area Houston/Galveston region

    Economic strength and diversity create a foundation for further growth and limitless possibilities. Bay Area Houston and Galveston exemplify the type of business environment that attracts companies from all over the world.   
    In a state that covers 268,580 square miles, it’s difficult for anyone to fully comprehend what any given region has to offer and the significance of those assets to the State of Texas.  For this reason, five area legislators hosted a fact-finding tour of the region from March 5-7, 2015. Sens. Larry Taylor and Sylvia Garcia and Reps. Greg Bonnen, M.D., Dennis Paul, and Wayne Faircloth were part of the group that included state senators, representatives, their chiefs of staff, legislative aides and guests.    
    The almost 60-member delegation participated in the trip that was coordinated by NASA Johnson Space Center and the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. 
The journey begins
The Bay Area Houston region ranks third as having the largest number of recreational boats in the nation, and many of those can be seen in Kemah. On March 5, the Kemah Boardwalk hosted the travelers for a dinner at the Aquarium. Quality of life is an important deciding factor in any move, whether by a company or a family, and this region’s recreational and entertainment venues are diverse and plentiful. 
It’s all about space
The legislators and their guests were given a personalized tour of NASA Johnson Space Center on Friday, March 6.    
    A tour of the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility included briefings on the International Space Station, the Commercial Crew Program, and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.    
    They visited NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab where astronauts from across the globe train in a pool. No ordinary pool, the NBL tank is 202 feet in length, 102 feet wide, and 40 feet 6 inches deep, and contains 6.2 million gallons of water.    
    The day concluded with a dinner at Space Center Houston where the Houston Airport System presented a program on the future Houston Spaceport. 
Galveston offers much
Galveston is well known for its recreational amenities. The island is also the home of the University of Texas Medical Branch – Galveston. Established in 1891, UTMB has grown from one building, 23 students and 13 faculty members to a modern health science center with more than 70 major buildings, more than 2,500 students and more than 1,000 faculty. The campus was the first stop on the tour where the legislators were given a UTMB overview.    
    A tour and presentation on the Galveston National Lab followed. The GNL provides much needed research space and specialized research capabilities to develop therapies, vaccines, and diagnostic tests for naturally occurring emerging diseases.   
    Closing out the morning tour, the group was given a presentation on Texas A&M University at Galveston by Maj. Gen. Bill McClain, USA (Ret.), special advisor to RADM Robert Smith III, USN (Ret.), TAMUG’s CEO.    
    Dr. Bill Merrell, the George P. Mitchell ’40 Marine Science chair at TAMUG, then gave a brief overview on a hurricane storm surge protection system, a coastal spine, which has come to be known as the Ike Dike concept.  Col. Len Waterworth, TAMUG executive professor in the Department of Maritime Administration, followed with a detailed presentation.    
    Sen. Larry Taylor and Rep. Joe Deshotel co-chair the Texas Joint Interim Committee on Coastal Barrier Systems.    
    BAHEP has been working with Merrell for over four years garnering support for a storm surge protection system. To date, more than 30 cities and organizations have endorsed such a system for the region. 
Time to rodeo
After very long days working at the Capitol in Austin and two more days spent on the tour learning more about the Houston/Galveston region, it was time for everyone to relax and have a bit of fun.   
    On Saturday afternoon, the group headed to NRG Stadium for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. There they were hosted to dinner in the Director’s Club and saw a performance by Alan Jackson, wrapping up a very successful trip. 
Tour has legislative significance
This fact-finding tour was the first biennial tour that will coincide with each Texas legislative session.  The Bay Area Houston/Galveston region’s sizeable economy impacts the entire state. When bills need support to get to the floor of either chamber or when they come up for a vote, it’s crucial that legislators know the economic profile of a region well enough to make informed decisions that will affect all of Texas.

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