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Regional Economic Outlook: A Matter of Perspective
At the Gulf Coast Economic Development District (GCEDD) meeting on April 7, Jenny Phillip of the Greater Houston Partnership gave a presentation on the state of the regional economy. The central premise of the presentation is the region's recovery is a matter of perspective. The 2014 fall in oil prices led to ripple effects throughout the regional economy. The U.S. rig count is 824 as of March 31, 2017, up from just over 400 in June of 2016, but is nowhere near the more than 1,800 rigs deployed at the end of 2014. The metropolitan Houston net job growth fell from 118,200 in 2014 to 200 in 2015; but the region added 18,700 net jobs in 2016. The energy sector lost 81,100 jobs from December 2014 to December 2016, while the top six non-energy sectors (health care, hospitality, public education, retail trade, financials activities, and entertainment) gained 83,800 jobs. People continue to move to the region, which gained 124,005 residents from July 1, 2015, to July 1, 2016; trailing behind only Dallas-Fort Worth in terms of growth. Thus, the outlook for the region's economy depends on your view of these trends.
Communities Encouraged to Participate in Economic Resilience Surveys
The GCEDD is conducting research on Economic Resilience in the 13 counties in the H-GAC planning region through a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant. GCEDD is seeking local expertise on what economic vulnerabilities are faced by each county and what strategies are being employed to address those concerns. Learn more about the project and provide insight on the region's economic vulnerabilities by participating in a survey for your county. For more information, contact Joshua Owens at 832-681-2613.
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Bringing Back Main Street Roundtables
H-GAC hosted its latest Bringing Back Main Street Roundtable on Tuesday, April 25, in Wharton County to discuss leveraging historic preservation for revitalization. Local municipal officials, historic preservationists, and other community leaders described their process for rehabilitating the Wharton County courthouse, Plaza Theater, railroad depot, and other local buildings. Panelists for the roundtable offered lessons learned and tips for other communities hoping to use historic preservation as a catalyst for future development. The next roundtable will be from 9:30 a.m. to noon Tuesday, July 25. More information, including the address and registration will be available soon. For information on the quarterly roundtables, contact Clint McManus.
Houston Leaders Launch Strategy Office to Bolster Region's Innovation Economy
Greater Houston Partnership launched an Innovation Strategy Office dedicated to supporting Houston's innovation economy and boosting local startup activity. The launch of the Strategy Office represents the first step of a comprehensive strategic plan developed jointly by the Partnership and Accenture, along with members of the startup community, academia, and venture capitalists, in conjunction with the City of Houston's Innovation and Technology Task Force. The primary objective of this strategic plan is to catalyze the formation of highly-innovative startups driven by new technologies and business models that will grow Houston's innovation economy. More information is available from the Greater Houston Partnership's press release about the program.
Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program
The Texas Department of Transportation(TxDOT) Call for Projects under its Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside (TA Set-Aside) Program is open for areas with a population of 200,000 or less. Federal TA Set-Aside funding administered by TxDOT will be for construction activities only. Eligible projects are limited to pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. The deadline to apply is Monday, May 22.
Texas Main Street Designation Application
The Texas Historical Commission is accepting applications from cities interested in becoming designated Main Street Communities. Each year, the Texas Historical Commission may select up to five cities for official Main Street Designation. Communities selected this year will enter the program in January 2018. Main Street is an economic development program focusing on small business development, using reuse of historic properties and historic preservation as primary tools. Optional letters of intent are due Friday, June 2. Full applications are due Monday, July 31. Main Street communities in the region are Bay City, Huntsville, Rosenberg, and Sealy.
Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Actions

The following articles highlight actions underway or available for the region to advance the strategies and actions in the Gulf Coast Economic Development District (GCEDD) Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS).

TxDOT Texas Freight and International Trade logo
Freight Mobility
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is in the process of updating the Texas Freight Mobility Plan. In support of this effort, TxDOT's Transportation Planning and Programming Division will conduct a series of regional workshops across the state to get feedback from public and private sector stakeholders. The goal is to gain input from freight and logistics stakeholders on freight transportation needs, trends, challenges and opportunities. TxDOT is looking for representation from air cargo, shippers, receivers, rail, ports, trucking, energy manufacturing, retail agriculture, pipelines, freight forwarders, transporters, anyone or organizations involved in freight movement, and the general public throughout the state. The next meeting will be from 8:30-11:00 a.m. Friday, June 16, at Houston TranStar, 6922 Katy Road, Houston. Contact TxDOT Freight Plan and International Trade Section at (512) 486-5059 with any questions.
FedEx and Workforce Solutions
FedEx Ground has begun construction on an 800,000 square-foot facility that will employ 400 people in Cy-Fair. Workforce Solutions will be aiding FedEx in building their labor force for the new facility by
  • Sourcing, recruiting and pre-screening all candidates for their occupations
  • Offering on-the-job training if FedEx hires anyone that is currently unemployed or who may have exhausted their unemployment benefits
  • Offering Work Opportunity Tax Credit - if FedEx hires specific targeted populations (e.g. veterans) FedEx can receive a tax credit at the end of the year
  • Offering skills development and customized training specifically for distribution
  • Creating a registered apprenticeship to build a pipeline for structured recruiting and training
  • Helping with either onsite hiring events or within local offices
If you are interested in how Workforce Solutions can meet your staffing needs, contact Susan Dixon at 713-993-2406
Upcoming Events
State of Houston's Global Economy  - May 22, 2017, Houston

State of Energy - May 31, 2017, Houston

IEDC Economic Future Forum June 4-6, 2017, Little Rock, Arkansas

NADO 2017 National Regional Transportation Conference -  June 28-30, 2017, Denver, Colorado

Texas Rural Challenge
- June 29-30, 2017, Waco
Funding Opportunities
TDA Texas Capital Fund Infrastructure and Real Estate Program
The 2017 application and guide are now available for the Texas Department of Agriculture's (TDA) Texas Capital Fund Infrastructure Development and Real Estate programs. The programs are economic development tools designed to provide financial resources to non-entitlement communities. Funds from the infrastructure program can be used for public infrastructure needed to assist a business that commits to create and/or retain permanent jobs, primarily for low- and moderate- income people. Funds from the real estate program must be used for real estate development to assist a business that commits to create and/or retain permanent jobs, primarily for low- and moderate- income people. The real estate and/or improvements must be owned by the community and leased to the business. These programs encourage new business development and expansions. Applications are due on the 20th of each month.

EDA Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Programs
The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is accepting grant applications to provide investments that support construction, nonconstruction, technical assistance, and revolving loan fund projects under EDA's Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) programs. Grants and cooperative agreements made under these programs are designed to leverage existing regional assets and support the implementation of economic development strategies that advance new ideas and creative approaches to forward economic prosperity in distressed communities. There are no submission deadlines under this opportunity. Proposals and applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis until the publication of a new funding opportunity notice.

H-GAC's Community Enhancement Grants are designed to help municipalities, counties, and non-profit organizations enhance public spaces, such as gateways, parks, waterfronts, and business districts. 

The SBA 504 Loan Program provides long-term business expansion financing for real estate, construction, and equipment purchases.  

The EDA Business Loan Fund assists qualified businesses with low-interest loans.  

The EDA Government Loan Fund assists governments make qualified purchases with low-interest loans.
Upcoming Developments
Sheldon Independent School District has unveiled plans for a new 570,000-square-foot campus on 185 acres off Beltway 8, one mile from Generation Park. The Sheldon ISD is the second fastest growing district in the region, behind Tomball. The population has grown by 24 percent a year, and the district is estimating they will have nearly double the student population by 2025.

The second phase of Pearl Midtown, on the northwest corner of Elgin and Smith, will feature a 40,000 square-foot Whole Foods Market and 264 residential units. It is expected to open in 2019. It is hoped that the new grocery store will attract new residents to Midtown Houston.

University of Houston System has moved forward with plans for a Katy campus after purchasing a 46-acre tract northeast of corner I-10 and the Grand Parkway. The 80,000 square-foot campus, also known as University Center, is projected to open for the 2019 fall semester. Master plans allows an expansion of up to 500,000 square feet.

A 124,000-square-foot Target will opening in October as an anchor to Market Center at Aliana located at the Grand Parkway and Harlem Road in Richmond. A 102,000-square-foot HEB recently opened. The development is expected to provide 438,000 square feet of retail space.

The 10-story Marriot CityPlace has broken ground in Springwoods Village. The 337-room hotel plans to open November 2018. Also coming to Springwoods Village late 2018 is an HP campus. It will employ about 2,400 employees and occupy 378,000 square feet.

Compiled from reports in the Houston Business Journal, Houston Chronicle, and Houston Community Impact Newspaper.
The Economic Development Digest is published quarterly by the
Gulf Coast Economic Development District.  

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