Economic Development Digest
Economic Development News
Next Gulf Coast Economic Development District Quarterly Meeting on January 29
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The Gulf Coast Economic Development District’s first quarterly board meeting will be from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Friday, January 29, 2021. Please register in advance for this virtual meeting. Visit the GCEDD webpage for previous meeting minutes, presentations, and information about upcoming GCEDD board meetings.
Join the Bringing Back Main Street Roundtable on January 26
H-GAC will host the first Bringing Back Main Street roundtable of 2021 on Tuesday, January 26 from 9:30 a.m. to noon. This event will be online.
 
This roundtable will feature the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Community Development Block Grant (TxCDBG) programs available to rural communities for a wide variety of downtown revitalization projects. Recent awardees of TxCDBG funds will share their stories.

Registration is required. For more information, contact Cheryl Mergo at 713-993-4520.
FCC Broadband Auction will Bring $362,662,934 in Support of Broadband to Texas Over 10 Years
On December 7, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that millions of rural Americans will gain access to high-speed internet service through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction. In Texas, winning bidders will bring $362,662,934 in support of broadband to 310,962 unserved homes and businesses over the next 10 years. FCC has released a full list of winning bidders and the number of homes and businesses to be served in Texas, organized by county. View a map of winning bidders and read the national press release.
Nonprofits, Schools Can Apply for Free AT&T Wireless Internet
Service and Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots for At-Risk Students
Applications are being accepted for Connected Nation’s AT&T K-12 Connected Learning Program, focusing on closing the homework gap for at-risk students by providing free AT&T wireless internet service and mobile Wi-Fi hotspots to students. Nonprofit organizations and schools that serve at-risk youth are invited to apply. Applications are due January 11, 2021. Awardees will be announced in February 2021. Visit the application website for more eligibility information and answers to frequently asked questions. 
Update on State and Federal Unemployment Benefits from the Texas Workforce Commission
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), created through the federal CARES Act as temporary assistance programs, will end on December 26, 2020. The State of Texas unemployment insurance and State Extended Benefits will continue after CARES Act funding expires for eligible claimants. For more information on eligibility requirements, available benefits, and COVID-19 unemployment programs, visit COVID-19 Resources for Employers or COVID-19 Resources for Job Seekers on the Texas Workforce Commission website. The Texas Tribune has published a comprehensive guide to navigating unemployment benefits in Texas.
October 2020 Gulf Coast Labor Market Analysis
The regional unemployment rate in October fell to 7.7%, which is down from 9.6% in September and up from 3.6% in October 2019. The regional rate of 7.7% is higher than both the statewide rate (6.7%) and the national rate (6.6%). In the Houston-Galveston region, this represents 265,523 individuals without work and looking for a new job. Workforce Solutions reports seasonal employment remains relatively strong despite the COVID-19 pandemic. “October marks the start of temporary increases in payrolls related to the holiday season, and the monthly jobs report reflects this,” said Workforce Solutions Economist Parker Harvey. Read the full report.
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 Development Community Connect Grants
Deadline: December 23, 2020
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for Community Connect Grants for Fiscal Year 2021 to provide broadband service in unserved rural areas. Funds can be used to construct facilities used to deploy broadband services to residents, businesses, and essential community facilities (schools, libraries, fire stations etc.) and to cover the cost of providing broadband service free of charge to community facilities for two years. State and local governments, both for-profit and non-profit organizations, and limited liability companies are eligible to apply for up to $3,000,000. Learn more.

FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance
Deadline: January 29, 2021
The Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) grant program and the new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) pre-disaster mitigation grant program provide states, local communities, tribes and territories funding for eligible mitigation activities. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is the State of Texas applicant for all Flood Mitigation Assistance projects. Sub-applications were due to TWDB for review on December 1, 2020. The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) is the State of Texas application for all Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities projects. Sub-applications were due to TDEM for review on December 1, 2020. Learn more.

TWDB FY2021 Agricultural Water Conservation Grants
Deadline: February 10, 2021
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is now accepting applications for Fiscal Year 2021 Agricultural Water Conservation Grants. Up to $1,200,000 in grant funding is available to eligible political subdivisions and state agencies for agricultural water conservation projects that improve irrigation efficiency, enhance resilience to weather extremes and climate variability, and promote innovation in agriculture. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Cameron Turner at 512-936-6090 or cameron.turner@twdb.texas.gov. 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 (CD) Fund and the Downtown Revitalization and Main Street Programs (DRP/MS). 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.

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.   
 
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.
Upcoming Developments
Lowe’s Co. Inc will open a distribution center next summer in New Caney. The 1.5 million-square-foot center will be located on Gene Campbell Road between FM 1314 and FM 1485 and will employ 200 people. 

Medical manufacturer VGXI Inc. broke ground on its new headquarters last month in Conroe. The 240,000 square-foot manufacturing facility will be located at Deison Technology Park. The facility will open in early 2022.

Allora Northwest Crossing is under construction at 5550 Bingle Road on a 16.8-acre site. The 378-unit apartment community will be complete at the end of 2021.

Autry Park is a planned 14-acre mixed-use development between Allen Parkway and West Dallas Street, bordered by Shepherd Drive. Phase 1 will contain 750 residential units tied together by 50,000 square feet of restaurants and retail. Once complete it will feature over 1,450 residential units, 320,00 square feet of office space and 100,000 square feet of retail around a central green space.

Compiled from information in the Houston Business Journal, Community Impact Newspapers, and the Texas A&M University Real Estate Center.
Upcoming Events
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Gulf Coast Economic Development District | 713-627-3200

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