Kingwood’s Elm Grove Village residents heard great news from Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin at the Lake Houston Chamber’s inaugural virtual lunch-in April 29.

“Commissioners Court unanimously voted to purchase Woodridge Village land in Montgomery County bordering Elm Grove Village,” Martin said. “We will build detention and divert Taylor’s Gully and Ben’s Branch to the Kingwood Diversion Ditch, protecting not only Elm Grove residents but those downstream as well. It’s an old plan from the days when Kingwood was first developed and never utilized.”

- Montgomery land purchased; floodgate plans advance -

Martin joined Humble City Manager Jason Stuebe and Pat Jankowski, vice president of Research for the Greater Houston Partnership, in a virtual panel discussion led by Mark Mitchell, president of the chamber’s Economic Development Partnership.

“These have been three tough years,” Mitchell said beginning the discussion, referencing not only the economic damage inflicted by COVID-19 but Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda too, “but we’re blessed to have such dedicated leadership in our community. It actually began as a good year with almost 6 million square feet of new development in Lake Houston.”

Martin credited several people and organizations for the successful purchase of the Montgomery County land, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle and the court’s Democratic and Republican members, the Elm Grove Association, and many more.

The much-anticipated $43 million flood gates to be built at Lake Houston should be operating by 2022, Martin said. Black and Veatch is the project’s engineering firm. There is a conceptual design and construction will begin in 2021.

“This could have been a 20-year project,” he said, “but we’re moving fast, our single most-important project.”

Stuebe echoed Martin’s enthusiasm for the new flood gates.

“Humble Mayor Merle Aaron often says what’s good for Kingwood is good for Humble,” he said. “We’re between two lakes and were hit hard by flooding, too. What Kingwood and the City of Houston are doing means everything to us, makes us feel better.”

Martin also discussed the $1.4-billion, water-treatment facility under construction to the east of Summerwood.

“Only 17% of the water is used by Houston,” he said. “The remaining is sold to communities around us. We have learned how important water is to our economy as a source of income. We’ll be phasing the new plant in beginning in 2021.”

Stuebe said Humble is wrapping up major infrastructure projects including road, water and utility projects in Humble’s northwest quadrant where 250 single-family homes will be built in Townsen Landing and in the development behind the mall.

Humble also will be home to another 400-home community, Harmony Cove, at Will Clayton Parkway and Old Humble Road across from the Humble Civic Center, as well as to a senior-living facility.

“We have three major players and 1.2 million square feet of space built along the 59 Corridor,” Stuebe said. “None of us know what will happen, but developers are asking us questions and I think we have several ‘shovel-ready’ projects.”

Jankowski gave what he termed a depressing report, calling it a “Double Black-Swan Event,” a theory describing an unpredictable event with severe impact yet obvious in hindsight.

A collapse of the price of oil with a lack of demand signals problems for the Texas economy. Every job sector and every economic indicator shows a huge drop. Houston’s unemployment rate could range up to 17%, maybe more, the most ever.

“We don’t have statistics specific to Houston yet, but I can tell you just shy of a million Texans filed for unemployment between March 7 and April 11 with the greatest number coming from hotels, restaurants and bars, the retail trade and, surprisingly, health care as facilities had to pause their elective surgeries,” Jankowski said.

“There’s a ray of sunshine,” he said optimistically. “By the fourth quarter this year, we’ll see recovery. What will it look like? Depends on how reluctant people are to get back out. I think it will be a ‘U-shaped’ recovery. Our survey says only 12% of businesses can operate remotely, so there is a great need to reopen the economy. There are so many unknowns.”

There was some humor and lightheartedness in the virtual program, too. Martin commented on Stuebe’s bright-pink sports coat. Chamber President Terry Vaughn encouraged viewers to text on the Zoom chatline which local restaurants they had ordered from as they watched the lunch-in.

Jankowski said he looked forward to giving next year’s chamber economic outlook forecast in person at one of Lake Houston’s beautiful country clubs. Sam Schrade, who coordinated the technical aspects of the event from his DNA studios in Humble, ended the lunch-in with a moving montage of photos displaying Lake Houston’s strength despite COVID-19.

Check the Lake Houston Chamber’s website for information on future virtual chamber lunch-ins. A virtual Humble BizCom is set for Thursday, May 21. For more information or to register, visit lakehouston.org.

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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