Economic Development Digest
Economic Development News
Gulf Coast Economic Development District Quarterly Meeting on January 29
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The Gulf Coast Economic Development District met online for its quarterly board meeting on January 29.

The District welcomed two presenters. Tom Stephenson at Connected Nation spoke of recent work in Walker and Liberty Counties and important takeaways from the recently announced awards from the Federal Communications Commission Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. Juliana Garaizar from Greentown Labs Houston presented an information session on the launch of their new green/cleantech incubator in the Innovation District of Downtown Houston. The meeting concluded with a discussion of the 2020 End-of-Year survey of the GCEDD board and impacts to planning for the year ahead.

Visit the GCEDD webpage for previous meeting minutes, presentations, and information about upcoming GCEDD board meetings. The next quarterly meeting will be April 9 at 10 a.m. on Zoom. Pre-register here.  
December 2020 Gulf Coast Labor Market Analysis 
The regional unemployment rate in December fell to 8.0%, which is down from 8.9% in November and up from 4.4% in November 2019. The regional rate of 8.0% is higher than both the statewide rate (7.1%) and the national rate (6.5%). In the Houston-Galveston region, this represents 276,405 individuals without work and looking for a new job. The primary drivers of December's growth were increases in Trade, Transportation, and Utilities, Leisure and Hospitality, and Education and Health Services sectors. Gains were also recorded in Government, Professional and Business Services, and Other Services sectors. The net increase in jobs over the month was partially offset by losses in Construction, Financial Activities, and Information sectors.  
On the job market front, by December 2020 the Houston area had recovered roughly 60 percent of the 350,000 jobs lost over the preceding March and April. This rate of recovery remains impressive compared to previous downturns where a return to pre-recession employment levels took three to four years. Nonetheless, given the ongoing effects of the pandemic for the foreseeable future, the current recovery rate is likely to improve only moderately with each new jobs report making for a full recovery in three to five years according to various predictions. 
Read the full report
Introducing the Economic Development Toolbox 
At the Bringing Back Main Street roundtable on January 26, H-GAC introduced the new Economic Development Toolbox. The toolbox is an interactive reference guide to the range of policies, incentives and potential partnerships to promote economic development in a target corridor, town center or main street context. User will find resource materials and illustrative examples of each tool’s implementation in cities across the country.  
Click here to view the Toolbox.  
Report: Rural Entrepreneurship in the United States 
Entrepreneurship is a reliable and robust pillar of rural economic development and job creation. A new report by Endeavor Insight with support from Google for Startups draws lessons from successful rural founders to better understand pathways to scale and strategies for overcoming some of the most common challenges rural entrepreneurs face. 
From the Report: “Rural communities have faced unprecedented challenges as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and are in need of new solutions to strengthen their economies. With a focus on entrepreneurial companies that scale in rural settings, the research combines analyses of the broader economic impact of entrepreneurial companies with individual examples of the outsized influence they can have on their communities. Decision makers who wish to support entrepreneurs in rural areas can take specific steps to increase the availability of resources such as mentorship, investment, and talent, especially by taking a regional and holistic approach.” 
Report: Q4 2020 Houston Industrial Market from CBRE 
According to a recent report from CBRE, Houston’s industrial market finished strong with net absorption of 3.9 million square feet. Overall, this brought the 2020 year-to-date absorption to roughly 11.4 million square feet, which is the highest net absorption Houston has seen over the last 10 years. The pipeline of under construction properties retracted during Q4 compared to previous quarters. Q4 brought 1.2 million square feet of project starts, bringing the total number of under construction to 16.9 million square feet. 
Read the full report.  
Report: Q4 2020 Houston Office Market from Transwestern 
According to a recent report from Transwestern, the Houston metro office market saw its most challenging year on record as the global pandemic and collapse in the energy sector led to negative absorption of 6.4 million square feet over the year. Despite an uptick in leasing activity at year’s end, the fourth quarter saw negative absorption of 1.0 million square feet. The market continues to be reshaped by the pandemic and outlook of economic uncertainty over the near term. As such, leasing activity has been heavily weighted to short term renewals and blend and extend activity. 
Read the full report.  
Publication: Broadband Stories from Rural Texas from Texas Rural Funders Features Walker County Broadband Survey 
Texas Rural Funders released a publication on the unique challenges faced by rural communities in dealing with the digital divide. The report leverages stories from leaders across a range of rural communities as they confront access and adoption issues, including efforts to increase speeds and fixed wireless connectivity in Walker County led by Precinct 4 Commissioner Jimmy Henry. The plan ends with a set of key policy recommendations for state and local leaders to consider.  
Read the full report.  
Technical Assistance: Council of Development Finance Agencies 
The Council of Development Finance Agency's (CDFA) Research & Technical Assistance is the nation's first non-profit information and consulting service solely dedicated to development finance. With unparalleled access to the nation's top agencies and professionals in development finance, CDFA helps transform organizations' development finance knowledge, operations, and programs. CDFA offers services to development finance agencies, communities, non-profits, and industry professionals, including: Strategic Planning, Innovation Finance Services, Revolving Loan Fund Services, Program Design and more. CDFA's Research & Technical Assistance is available at competitive, reasonable costs. 
Report: Houston Ranks #5 in the Nation for Minority Entrepreneurship 
Houston ranks No. 5 among the nation’s largest metros when it comes to the percentage of minority-owned startups. The report shows that nearly 5,600 startups in the Houston metro region are minority-owned—or about 30% of all companies less than two years old. Together, these minority businesses employ more than 22,700 workers in the region.  
Read the full report. 
Podcast: Bayou Business Download, Houston’s GDP Growth & What it Tells Us About Our Economy 
In the February 8 edition of the Bayou Business Download, listeners can learn what the region’s gross domestic product or GDP tells us about the trajectory of the local economy. The host is joined by Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of Research at the Greater Houston Partnership. 
Listen to the podcast. 
No-Cost Economic Development Professional Consultations Available through IEDC’s Disaster Recovery Program
The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is placing experienced economic development professionals as volunteers in economic development organizations throughout the region that can use expert input doing various tasks such as: 

  • Attracting inward investment
  • Business outreach, retention and recovery 
  • Community outreach, finance, flood control and mitigation
  • Grant writing, strategic planning, and training/education

Thanks to U.S. Economic Development Administration funding, the volunteers—who can work remotely—are completely free of charge to communities in the region.

For more information, contact Cheryl Mergo.
Funding Opportunities
USDA Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) 
Deadline: March 22, 2021 
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grants are awarded to help non-profit housing and community development organizations, low-income rural communities and federally recognized tribes support housing, community facilities and community and economic development projects in rural areas. Awards range from $50,000 to $250,000. Match funds required in amounts equal to the amount of the grant. USDA is hosting a webinar for potential applicants on February 18 at 1 p.m. – Register here. If you have difficulty accessing the full announcement, please contact Shirley Stevenson, Community Programs Specialist  [email protected]
Learn more.  

TDA Community Development Block Grant (TxCDBG) Funding Opportunities
Deadline: May 3, 2021
The Texas Department of Agriculture’s Community Development Block Grant Program (TxCDBG) helps small cities and rural communities provide housing and expand economic opportunities for persons of low- to moderate-income. TxCDBG funds utility infrastructure, disaster response, and unique local economic development projects. Applications are now open for the Community Development Fund and the Downtown Revitalization and Main Street Programs. Learn more.

DOC RESTORE Act Direct Component—Construction AND Non-Construction Activities, Gulf Coast Restoration  
Deadline: December 31, 2021 
U.S. Department of Commerce has extended the deadline for Gulf Coast Restoration projects. This announcement applies only to the Direct Component, and is only for applications for eligible non-construction activities, including projects with or without a non-federal share for another federally funded project. This announcement also includes planning assistance needed to prepare the Multiyear Implementation Plan (Multiyear Plan) required by the RESTORE Act. Learn more. 

EDA Public Works Grants
Deadline: Ongoing
U.S. Economic Development Administration supports development in economically distressed areas of the United States by fostering job creation and attracting private investment. These Public Works Grants help communities build the infrastructure they need to support job growth and private investment. If you have an economic development infrastructure need in your community, contact Jillian Donatto at 631-897-3817. Learn more.   

USDA Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program
Deadline: Ongoing
U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development provides funding to construct, enlarge, or improve essential community facilities in rural areas. Rural communities can use these funds to build or modernize schools, health care clinics, libraries, and public safety facilities. Learn more.
USDA Business & Industry CARES Act Guaranteed Loan Program
Deadline: Ongoing
U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development is offering loan guarantees to lenders for their loans to rural businesses and agricultural producers to supplement their working capital to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the economic impacts of the coronavirus. Learn more.
EPA Brownfield Grants
Deadline: Ongoing
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has grants available for cleaning up brownfields in your community. Brownfields are properties that have been contaminated by pollutants or hazardous waste. The EPA offers Area-Wide Planning Grants, Assessment Grants, Revolving Loan Fund Grants, Cleanup Grants, Multipurpose Grants, and Job Training Grants. Learn more.
Regional Economic Trends
H-GAC has compiled regional economic indicators for the 13-county region, including monthly and yearly changes in unemployment rates, single and multi-family permits, and sales tax receipts. Download the PDF.

For more regional economic data visit:
Upcoming Developments
The Arbor at Wayforest broke ground last month in the Greenspoint area, replacing housing lost to Hurricane Harvey. The $35 million multifamily project will begin leasing in 2022. 
Amazon Logistics plans to open a new 180,000-square-foot delivery station located in La Marque, Texas. The new delivery station will power Amazon’s last-mile delivery capabilities to speed up deliveries for customers around Galveston County. The facility is planned to open in late 2021.  
Pelican Builders' luxury mid-rise condominium project Westmore broke ground January 28 with a small ceremony at the Upper Kirby site. The Westmore, at 2323 W. Main Street, Houston, will have 33 residences ranging from 1,560 to 1,800 square feet and starting at $960,000. The building's four penthouses average 2,500 square feet and can be sold for $1.7 million. 

Pittsburgh-based Gecko Robotics, developers of wall-scaling robots and predictive maintenance software for industrial inspections, will expand its Houston location to 20,000 square feet this year.  
A new community totaling more than 700 homes is expected to get underway in 2022, following the purchase of 221 acres of land along FM 1488 in Magnolia by Empire Continental Land, a division of Empire Communities. The new community is planned near FM 1488 and Iron Ore Road, west of FM 1774. 
An office tower will be adjacent to Discovery Green at 1550 Lamar Street. The project will be the first component of Discovery West, a mixed-use development near Discovery Green park. 1550 on the Green will feature 375,000 square feet over 28 stories. It will also include 7,000 square feet of ground retail. The office project is expected to be complete in 2023. 
32-story condominium project is planned for Laneways, the mixed-use development in Midtown. Fitzroy Residences will include a 200-key Kimpton Hotel Restaurant and 191 residential units. 
Construction on Phase 1 of the Woodforest Professional Plaza is now complete. The 50,481-square-foot, two-story medical office, Woodforest Medical Plaza, is located at 750 Fish Creek Thoroughfare. Phase 2 will include a 10,000-square-foot building and Phase 3 will feature a 42,000-square-foot medical and professional office building. 
Construction on The Residences at Metropark will begin later this year and will include 324 units. The apartment project is the next phase of Metropark Square, a mixed-use development in Shenandoah. The 70-acre development opened in 2019 with 175,00 square feet of retail, restaurant, and entertainment space. 
Compiled from information in the Houston Business Journal, Community Impact Newspapers, Houston Bisnow, and 
Upcoming Events

Feb 11 | Houston Destination Making | Bisnow Houston 
Feb 17 | Data as the Foundation for Broadband Planning | Broadband USA 
Feb 18 | The Future of Houston Health Care | Bisnow Digital Summit 
Mar 18 | Kinder Institute Forum: Richard Florida | Kinder Institute  
Mar 25 | Houston Region Economic Update & Forecast | Economic Alliance Houston Port Region 
Feb 22-26| 2021 Legislative Conference | TEDC 
April 22-23 | Save the Date: Outlook for Texas Land Markets Conference | TAMU Real Estate Research Center 
Sept 27-30 | 2021 National Brownfields Training Conference | EPA & ICMA 
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