Summit provides overview, insights on Texas, Katy area economy

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 6/22/23

Not overtaxing, or regulating, or litigating, while providing a skilled workforce, are at the heart of Texas’ economic success, former Gov. Rick Perry said in a June 16 speech at the first Katy Area Economic Outlook Summit.

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Summit provides overview, insights on Texas, Katy area economy


Not overtaxing, or regulating, or litigating, while providing a skilled workforce, are at the heart of Texas’ economic success, former Gov. Rick Perry said in a June 16 speech at the first Katy Area Economic Outlook Summit.

The Katy Area Chamber of Commerce, the Katy Area Economic Development Council and state Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy, organized the summit, which took place at the Embassy Suites, 16435 Katy Freeway.

A skilled workforce, Perry said, meant accountable public schools.

“This isn’t rocket science,” Perry said. “Implement those things, then get out the way and then let private sector do what the private sector does best.”

Perry said he was first elected in 1985, as a Democrat, to the Texas House of Representatives. He represented a rural, eight-county district. But he said Ronald Reagan, who was president then, made it OK for him and others to switch parties. He did so in 1989 and joked that his move made both Democrats and Republicans happy.

Perry joined the legislature at a time when, as he put it, the Texas economy went off the cliff.

“We were based on oil and gas and real estate money,” Perry said, adding that the Texas economy imploded when the price of oil fell. When that happened, he said, one could stand on the steps of the state Capitol, and could almost see through every office building.

The Texas economy began to recover in the early 1990s, Perry said, but it wasn’t until 2003, when the legislature passed tort reform, things became moving firmly towards his four points of not overtaxing, not overregulating, not litigating, and providing a skilled workforce.

“We said, you know what, we’re going to put things into place to improve the high school graduation rate,” Perry said. “We did things like starting testing. You really can’t intervene unless you test.”

Perry said he heard complaints about student testing, but responded that the students would be tested in real life, every day.

Perry said the state increased the number of charter schools and had the largest teacher incentive pay program during his governorship. By 2011, he said, Texas had gone from 27th in high school graduation rates to second, behind Connecticut.

Perry was elected agriculture commissioner in 1990. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1998. Perry became governor in December 2000 when then-Gov. George W. Bush resigned to be sworn in as president the following month. Perry is the longest-serving governor in the state’s history, serving until 2015.

Between brief welcoming remarks from Comptroller Glenn Hegar, who is from Katy, and Perry’s keynote speech, the summit had breakout sessions for transportation and water.

The transportation session featured brief presentations by Larry McManus, director for business and community development, economic development and tourism in the governor’s office; Sue Theiss, advanced project development director for the Houston district of the Texas Department of Transportation, and Waller County Pct. 4 Commissioner Justin Beckendorff.

In discussing corporate site selection, McManus cited a Site Selection magazine survey that said manufacturing (95%) and distribution/warehouse (73%) were two top factors companies use when selecting a site. In another part of the same survey, McManus said availability of skilled labor and energy availability were important, along with labor costs, proximity to major markets, and state and local incentives.

McManus said 345 potential economic development projects are in the state’s pipeline. This is 78 more projects than 2021, when there were 267, he said.

The top two industries these projects are in are general manufacturing (20%) and advanced manufacturing and technology (19%). Energy (13%) and petroleum refining and chemical products (12%) are the other top two industries, McManus said.

Targeted growth industries and taxes are information technology, advanced manufacturing, petroleum refining and chemical products, biotechnology and life sciences, corporate services, creative, energy, and aerospace, aviation and defense, McManus said.

Already, many companies are moving here. McManus said from 2015 to May of this year, 284 corporations have relocated to Texas, with a net creation of 6,480 jobs. 50% of those companies, he said, relocated from California.

If Texas were a nation, McManus said, it would have the ninth-largest economy in the world based on GDP. This would be higher than Australia, Mexico, Russia and South Korea. Texas has the second largest civilian workforce in the world, he said, with about 14.9 million people. In 2022, he said, the state added about 650,100 new jobs, which led the nation.

Theiss shared project updates for the TxDOT six-county Houston region, which includes Harris, Waller, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Galveston and Montgomery counties. She said the district serves approximately 6.8 million people and has approximately 5.5 million registered vehicles.

The region also continues to grow. Theiss said the population is expected to grow by 66% to 10 million people over the next 25 years. The region, she said, has the fourth-largest economy in the U.S.

For the Katy area, Theiss said three projects are now under construction:

  • Widening I-10 from FM 359 to the Brazos River is to be completed by Spring 2024.
  • Widening FM 1463 from I-10 to FM 1093 is expected to be complete by September 2025.
  • Widening State Highway 99 from I-10 to FM 1093 is expected to be complete by early 2026.

Theiss said five projects are in development:

  • Widening, adding managed lanes and some frontage roads to I-10 from FM 359 to Mason Road. This has been funded.
  • Adding frontage roads to State Highway 99 from I-10 to FM 1093. This has been partially funded.
  • Widening and raising the median and shared use path on U.S. 90 from I-10 to FM 1463. This has not been funded.
  • Widening and constructing a shared use path on FM 529 from State Highway 99 to FM 362. This has not been funded.
  • Constructing Highway 36 a from state Highway 36 south of Needville to US 290/State Highway 6 north near Hempstead. This has not been funded.

Justin Beckendorff spoke of the growth in Waller County—his precinct is in the southern portion of that county—and the need to continually improve the roads there to accommodate the growth.

In the breakout session covering water issues, former state Rep. Bill Callegari, state Rep. Stan Kitzman of Waller County, and Harris County Pct. 4 Commissioner Lesley Briones discussed flood mitigation issues.

Katy Area EDC, Katy Area Chamber of Commerce, Katy Area Economic Outlook Summit