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Posts published in March 2011

North Houston sees increased Economic Development activity

NORTHEAST HOUSTON– A new high-tech industry, Neutex Lighting, cut the ribbon on their new offices and manufacturing facility on Vickery Drive last Thursday.
The company develops and manufactures LED and other energy efficient light fixtures. They currently employ about 20 persons in Houston, and expect to add several hundred to the manufacturing staff in the next few months.
Reggie Gray of the North Houston Economic Develooment Council, lauded the move of Neutex, noting that they were taking advantage of the location and strengths of the North Houston area.

As president of the Chamber and the Economic Development Council, he said that his group has responded to almost 30 inquiries from businesses wanting to locate here, since the end of last year.
The ribbon cutting was hosted by John Higgins, president/CEO of Neutex, who said that his company will bring back to this country jobs that had been outsourced overseas. “It only made sense for the company blazing the trail in the advancement of energy usage should be located in the enrgy capital of the world,” remarked Higgins.
East Aldine District and Greenspoint District are two other groups actively pursuing additional economic development for the area. EAD Economic Development director Gretchen Larson reported at the last District workshop in February that two major projects will come online this year. Kennedy Greens Business Park is a 275 acre development on JFK Boulevard, with 5 new businesses committed to buildings so far. Also on JFK will be a new building for Noble Corporation, a major business in the oil and gas field.
Jack Drake reported at a Chamber luncheon last month that SYSCO has built a large distribution facility at I-45 and Beltway 8 on a 1000 acre site in Pinto Business Park, that employs hundreds distributing food throughout the Houston area.

Thompson introduces gambling bills into State Legislature

HOUSTON—With much of the talk around the State Capitol in Austin focusing on the state budget, one state representative is seeking to fill Texas coffers with “gaming money.”
Within the space of a week, State Rep. Senphronia Thompson filed three separate pro-gaming bills.
On March 7, she filed House Bill 2424, which is the enabling legislation for House Joint Resolution 119. The resolution and the accompanying bill are related to “the operation of video gaming by authorized organizations and commercial operators that are licensed to conduct bingo or lease bingo premises.&#8221Under HB 2424, the state would not only benefit from the collection of licensing fees, which range from $50 to $10,000 but would also collected 20% of the gross monies taken in from the gaming devices.
The bill has been sent to the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, on which Thompson serves, for review.

Casinos in Texas
Thompson did not stop with video gaming at bingo parlors.
On March 11 she filed House Bill 3575 and HJR 151, which would allow the “operation of casino gaming in this state by federally recognized Indian tribes on certain land.”
The same day, she added House Bill 3576, which expanded the language of HB3575 to include casino gaming “by licensed operators at horse and greyhound racetracks and licensed locations.”
Thompson’s filing brought an almost immediate response from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas.
“House Bill 3575 and House Joint Resolution 151 by State Representative Senfronia Thompson will give Texans the right to decide for themselves whether gaming should be allowed on Indian lands. Public opinion surveys have consistently shown that voters not only want the right to decide, they are supportive of responsible gaming in Texas,” Carlos Bullock, Tribal Council Chairman Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, said. “Passage of this initiative would raise revenue for critical state services without raising taxes.”
“This bill would stop the annual loss of nearly $3 billion in Texas tourism and gaming revenue flowing into our neighboring states, where gaming is a success. Today only one of Texas’ three federally recognized Indian Tribes is allowed to offer gaming on its lands. Allowing all Indian tribes in Texas the same right to offer gaming on their Tribal lands would correct this inequity, and we thank Representative Thompson for recognizing that fact.”
Casinos force political battle
The battle in the House could come down to party lines. Thompson is a Democrat.
Republicans Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have come out publicly against expanding gambling in Texas. The Republican Party of Texas is also opposing the legislation, saying that it would have a “devastating impact on many Texas families.”
A GOP of Texas poll showed that 71.2% of Texans did not believe Texas should legalize casino gambling and 72% said they did not support using revenues from expanded casino gambling to address the state budget shortfall.
The Texas Gaming Association says a University of Texas/ Texas Tribune survey showed that 81% of people polled were in favor of expanding casino gaming in Texas.
Two other Democrats, Jose Menendez and Rodney Ellis have filed joint resolutions in the State House and Senate respectively, seeking constitutional amendments. The main difference between the Menendez resolution and Thompson’s resolution and bill is that Menendez calls for the legislation to provide money “or the property tax relief fund and additional financial aid for higher education students.”
Austin-based gaming lobbyist Texans for Economic Development says that expanding casino gaming would generate $8.5 billion in economic activity and 75,000 new jobs.
Whether the bills pass, Thompson has already benefited from the gaming issue.
According to documents obtained by the Northeast News between Oct. 29, 2009 and Nov. 11, 2010, Thompson received no less than $13,000 in campaign contributions from groups that would benefit from the bills’ passage. This includes $6,000 from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, $5,000 from the Texas Gaming Association (given two weeks after she was reelected in 2010) and $1,000 from Texans for Economic Development.
Before being enacted, the bills would be put before the voters in November in the form of proposed Constitutional Amendments.

East Aldine District opens new office to serve community

NORTHEAST– The new offices of the East Aldine District were dedicated and went into use last week, with the first board meeting held on Tuesday night, March 15.
A ribbon cutting was held at 6 p.m. and then the public was invited to attend an open house with refreshments, prior to the first board meeting in the new facility.
Chairman Clyde Bailey explained that with the increase in activities of the District, more space was required than the old offices at the Sheriff’s storefront location could provide.
The new offices are about 4000 square feet, and include a reception space, three offices, a conference room, and a large meeting room. In addition there is a serving kitchen, public toilets, and a copy/coffee room.

Facilities are handicap accessible, and are available for public meetings. Contact the director of services, Richard Cantu, at 713-595-1220 for arrangements.
The East Aldine District was originally established in 2001 by the state legislature, to provide quality of life services to the 50,000 people that live within the 15 square mile area of the district. The financial support comes from a 1 cent sales tax levied on sales within the district, and amounts to revenue of about $3 million dollars each year. Using this money and bond sales as leverage, the district is providing water and sewer infrastructure, public safety, economic development, mobility and transportation projects, parks and green space, grants, leadership training, neighborhood cleanups, and more.
In regular board business, several speakers made presentations. Misty Worrell of ESD#1 thanked the district for support of the Bike Medic Team, and sommented that she liked the new street signs because they were more readable for ambulance drivers on emergency calls.
Patrick LeBlanc of Castlewood Subdivision asked for sewer and water in his neighborhood.

New Ramps open from US59 to Beltway 8 east

Drivers on US59 who want to head east on Beltway 8 will now have a more convenient ramp to use. Last Friday a ceremony was held, opening up two new ramps to connect to the eastbound lanes of the beltway. In about another week, TxDOT said, ramps will also be opened that will allow westbound traffic on the Beltway to exit onto US59 either north or southbound.
TxDOT District Engineer Delvin Dennis hosted the ceremony, and in his remarks indicated the considerable time savings that will benefit drivers.
The project cost $30 million, which was entirely federal ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) monies. The contract was let to Williams Brothers in August 2009, and completed ahead of schedule and below budget.

HOUSTON INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMBER. Drake:Grenspoint-the Market, the Myths, the Milestones

GREENSPOINT– In his evangelical style, Greenspoint President Jack Drake presented to the Houston Intercontinental Chamber a talk entitled “Greenspoint Revealed.”
The occasion was the monthly luncheon of the chamber, held last Thursday, April 3 at the Airport Marriott hotel.
Drake has talked before about the vigor of the Greenspoint District, and this was an update of the activities that have happened in the last year, and some plans and predictions for the future.
Drake started by reviewing the Market that exists around the Greenspoint area. Continued growth of population, employees, and businesses signal economic strength now and in the future, he said. He presented a number of new projects, ranging from parks and bayous, to large warehouse and office prospects. He also mentioned the revitalization of the Greenspoint Mall, as the new 20 screen theater opens next month.

Location both in the county, and in the country, foretell continued market strength, he indicated. This is true for transportation, real estate, and also a national fiber optics network that passes through Greenspoint.
Transportation is a key factor in Greenspoint’s future, he said. He mentioned that the combination of Continental and United make the country’s largest airline, and their reservation center remains in Greenspoint.
High speed rail is in our future, Drake indicated, with a line from Dallas to Houston by 2020. The private corporation that will build it is headquartered in Greenspoint. It will partner with Japan High Speed Rail, a leader for 50 years in this technology. He foresees a HSR line that will take only 70 minutes to reach Dallas, travelling at 215 miles per hour. Former county judge Robert Eckels is president of this corporation, Lone Star High Speed Rail.
Drake made a point of debunking a Myth, that crime is rampant in Greenspoint. In fact, he said, crime is down 42% since 1991, while population has grown 63% and employment in the area has grown by 121%.
He took pride in mentioning some Milestones, such as leading the city in LEED certified buildings, having 10,000 hotel rooms or 17% of the city’s total in Greenspoint.
He said that there was 13 million square feet of office space in Greenspoint, with 80 energy related companies as tenants. The class A office space is almost 100% occupied.
Recently, former Mexican president Vincente Fox visited the offices of Greenspoint District, and also toured a call center on Northborough, which is in a building meant to be an “incubator” for other Hispanic oriented businesses. This is another indication of the diverse businesses that are interested in Greenspoint, Drake said.
Chamber president Jocklyn Keville announced the next luncheon, on April 5th, would focus on the subject of Trans-Border International Police. It is in conjunction with a conference on the subject.

Eversole bribery trial begins

HARRIS COUNTY– Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Eversole’s federal bribery trial began last week with the selection of jurors.
The U. S. Attorney for Houston, Jose Angel Moreno, in December, unsealed a federal grand jury indictment against Eversole and businessman Michael Surface.
The 31-page indictment lists conspiracy, receiving a bribe, and filing false income tax statements against Eversole. It lists conspiracy and paying a bribe against Surface.
In total, Eversole is charged in four counts.
Eversole and Surface have both plead not guilty.

The charges stem from a corruption investigation that has been ongoing for several years, and of which Eversole said he was aware. He commented to several media representatives last year that he expected to be indicted.
Eversole is charged in the detailed indictment, with receiving such things as vacations, clothing, antique firearms, and financial support for his home mortgage from Surface, and in return voting to award Surface and several of his companies with lucrative county contracts. He also appointed Surface to the Sports Authority Board, and even conspired to retire in favor of Surface assuming his commissioner’s seat, according to the indictment.
Among the alleged gifts are a $63,000 cashiers check from Surface, which prosecutors say Eversole used to but land for his home, $17,000 in landscaping and $23,000 in antique firearms.
Eversole’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, stated that the two men have been friends for over 25 years, and the dealings were personal and not related to county business or favors.
In the prosecution’s opening statement, given on March 8, they said that Eversole traded favorable votes in commissioners’ court for money and gifts.
Eversole has countered that there is no proof that he committed a crime.
If convicted, Eversole faces up to 21 years in prison and $700,000.
In 2009, the Texas Ethics Commission fined Eversole $75,000 for violation campaign finance laws. At the time it was the largest fine that the ethics commission had ever levied.
Eversole has served as county commission for six terms. Last November he won the sixth term against no opposition.
Surface’s trial is expected to be held in October.

East Aldine District makes Strategic Partner Awards

The East Aldine District made their annual Strategic Partner Awards last Friday night, to thank those community leaders, businesses and organizations that have contributed to the goals of the District.
Hosted by Chairman Clyde Bailey, and emceed by Executive Director David Hawes, the awards dinner at the Greenspoint Club was well attended by the community.
To start the evening, Hawes reviewed the mission statement of the District, and then enumerated the accomplishments during 2010 in the various areas of the Service plan.
Hawes also spoke of the goals for 2011, which had been reviewed and approved earlier in the day by the EAMD board.
In addition, Hawes reviewed the financial history of the District since its inception in 2002, growing from first year income of $800,000 to a projected budget for 2011 of over $3,000,000.

All income comes from a 1 cent sales tax authorized by residents in 2001.
The highlight of the evening was the awards and thanks presented to those who have helped the District achieve its goals in 2010.
Receiving awards from the District were Volunteer of the Year Virginia Bazan, and Chairman’s Award to State Senator Mario Gallegos.
Strategic Partner Awards were presented as follows:
Community & Youth Services to Aldine Optimist Club, Steve Mead and Jan Winn;
Public Safety to Harris County ESD-1;
Public Health to Harris County Health Education & Promotion Division;
Governmental to State Representative Armando Walle;
Education to Aldine ISD, represented by Superintendent Wanda Bamberg and many of the AISD board who were present;
Business to H-E-B supermarket at Aldine Westfield.
Hawes also recognized his staff for the grood work and support that they give the District.

Blackwell, Stubblefield named Aldine ISD’s top principals

MacArthur Senior High School principal Nancy Blackwell and Stephens Elementary School principal Raymond Stubblefield were recently named Aldine ISD’s top principals by their peers.
Blackwell was named the district’s Secondary Principal of the Year, while Stubblefield was named AISD’s Elementary/Intermediate Principal of the Year. The two were voted as the district’s top two principals in balloting by other principals across the district.
Blackwell has been an educator for 36 years. She began her career as a teacher at Orange Grove Elementary School. During her tenure in Aldine, she has served as principal at Worsham Elementary School (four years), and Hambrick Middle School (nine years) before being named the principal at MacArthur Senior High School six years ago.

Stubblefield has been an educator for 21 years. He began his career as a middle school/intermediate social studies teacher before serving as an assistant principal at Johnson Elementary School, Parker Intermediate School and MacArthur Ninth Grade School. He also served a program director for three years before being named the principal at Mendel Elementary School. Six years ago he was named the principal of Stephens Elementary School.
Blackwell and Stubblefield will be honored at the Employee Awards Banquet in May.